David Ortiz just had one of the greatest World Series performances by a hitter that we’ve seen, hitting .688, reaching base three or more times in five games and generally scaring the heck out of the Cardinals.
Here are 25 of the best offensive performances in World Series history, chosen for a variety of reasons, including records and clutch games. WPA is win probability added, a metric that measures how each plate appearance influenced the batter’s chance of winning the game.
Frank Baker, Athletics, 1911
.375/.400/.708, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, .747 WPA (6 games)
In an era where home runs were scarce, Baker’s two blasts earned him a lasting nickname: Home Run Baker. And they were two big home runs. In Game 2, he hit a two-run homer off Rube Marquard in the sixth that gave the A’s a 3-1 win. In Game 3, his blast off Christy Mathewson tied the game 1-1 in the ninth and the A’s would win in 11 innings (Baker had a single in the winning rally). He added two more runs scored in the Game 6 clincher.
Hank Gowdy, Braves, 1914
.545/.688/1.273, 1 HR, 1 3B, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 5 BB, .556 WPA (4 games)
The team’s catcher, Gowdy went 3-for-3 in Game 1 and 3-for-4 with a home run in the 10th inning as the Miracle Braves swept the powerful A’s.
Babe Ruth, Yankees, 1928
.625/.647/1.375, 3 HR, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 9 R, .414 WPA (4 games)
The Cardinals had walked Ruth 11 times in the 1926 Series but decided to pitch to him this time, and paid the price. Ruth went 3-for-4, 2-for-3, 2-for-4 and then 3-for-5 with three home runs in Game 4.
Lou Gehrig, Yankees, 1928
.545/.706/1.727, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 6 BB, .991 WPA (4 games)
In his World Series career, Gehrig played in 34 games and hit .361 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs. The Yankees won six of the seven World Series he played in.
Pepper Martin, Cardinals, 1931
.500/.538/.792, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 SB, .735 WPA (7 games)
When I was a kid, this performance was always written about in the World Series books I’d read. Part of the story was Martin — a 27-year-old rookie — stealing five bases on Mickey Cochrane, at a time when players didn’t attempt many steals (he had 16 in the regular season). His big game was Game 5, when he went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and four RBIs in a 5-1 win. In Game 7, he walked and stole second in the first inning, with Cochrane’s error allowing a runner on third to score. The Cardinals won 4-2.
Charlie Keller, Yankees, 1939
.438/.471/1.188, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, .984 WPA (4 games)
An underrated player who was on a Hall of Fame trajectory until a bad back shortened his career, Keller did a lot of damage as the Yankees swept the Reds for their fourth straight title.
Duke Snider, Dodgers, 1952
.345/.387/.828, 2 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, .919 WPA (7 games, lost)
Snider had put the Dodgers up 3 games to 2 with a home run and go-ahead double in the 11th inning. But the Yankees won the next two games, because that’s what the Yankees did in those days. Snider’s last at-bat was in the seventh inning, bases loaded and one out, Dodgers down 4-2. He popped out to third.
Yogi Berra, Yankees, 1956
.360/.448/.800, 3 HR, 10 RBI, .424 WPA (7 games)
Berra had one of the great Game 7 performances: He hit two-run homers in the first and third innings to stake the Yankees to a 4-0 lead and would finish 2-for-3 with two intentional walks in a 9-0 shutout over the Dodgers.
Bobby Richardson, Yankees, 1960
.367/.387/.667, 1 HR, 5 XBH, 12 RBI, 8 R, -.088 WPA (7 games, lost)
This was the Series where the Yankees won three blowouts, but the Pirates won four close ones. Richardson set the record with 12 RBIs, but you can see that his WPA was actually negative. He did most of his damage in the blowouts, including six RBIs in a 10-0 win in Game 3. In 1964, Richardson had 13 hits, still tied for the Series record.
Lou Brock, Cardinals, 1967
.414/.452/.655, 4 XBH, 3 RBI, 8 R, 7 SB, .514 WPA (7 games)
Brock had another big Series in 1968, hitting .464 and again stealing seven bases, although the Cardinals lost that one. Against the Red Sox in ’67, he was a terror on the bases, going 7-for-7 on steals. In Game 7, he went 2-for-4 with a walk and stole three bases in a 7-2 victory.
Brooks Robinson, Orioles, 1970
.429/.429/.810, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R, .686 WPA (5 games)
This is the World Series where Robinson made several memorable plays in the field to help beat the Big Red Machine. But he also had a big series at the plate, including a 4-for-4 Game 4 (although the O’s lost that one 6-5).
Roberto Clemente, Pirates, 1971
.414/.452/.759, 5 XBH, 2 HR, 4 RBI, .425 WPA (7 games)
Clemente had played in the 1960 World Series as a young player and returned 11 years later as a grizzled veteran of 37. He had 12 hits, showed off his strong arm and had a home run in a 2-1 win in Game 7. Everyone finally realized how great he was.
Gene Tenace, A’s, 1972
.348/.400/.913, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 1.065 WPA (7 games)
Tenace would go on to a fine career, but was an obscure part-time player in 1972 when he had a monster World Series as the A’s beat the Reds. In Game 1, he homered twice and drove in all three runs in a 3-2 win. In Game 4, he singled in the ninth as the A’s scored twice to win 3-2. He hit a three-run homer in Game 5, although the Reds rallied to win 5-4. In Game 7, he singled in a run in the first and doubled in the tying run in the sixth and then scored the go-ahead run in a 3-2 victory. (Six of the games were decided by one run.) Tenace drove in nine of Oakland’s 16 runs. Talk about a one-man show.
Reggie Jackson, Yankees, 1977
.450/.552/1.250, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 10 R, .564 WPA (6 games)
Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reggie capped off his Mr. October performance with three swings in Game 6 — all home runs.
Willie Stargell, Pirates, 1979
.400/.375/.833, 4 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, .341 WPA (7 games)
Stargell’s 25 total bases is tied with Jackson’s 1977 total for the most ever in a World Series. Check out what he did in Game 7: 4-for-5, two doubles, a home run, a run and two RBIs as the Pirates beat the Orioles 4-1.
Johnny Bench, Reds, 1976
.533/.533/1.133, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, .405 WPA (4 games)
Most of Bench’s damage came in the clincher: Two home runs, five runs batted in as the Reds finished off the Yankees.
Billy Hatcher, Reds, 1990
.750/.800/1.250, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 6 R, .563 WPA (4 games)
Hatcher’s .750 average remains the World Series record (Ortiz’s .688 is second). Hatcher went 3-for-3 in Game 1 and 4-for-4 in Game 2.
Lenny Dykstra, Phillies, 1993
.348/.500/.913, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R, 7 BB, 4 SB, .631 WPA (6 games, lost)
Dykstra did everything except pitch in relief in this series. His three-run homer off Dave Stewart in the sixth inning of Game 6 appeared to send it to a Game 7 …
Paul Molitor, Blue Jays, 1993
.500/.571/1.000, 6 XBH, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 10 R, .839 WPA (6 games)
Molitor signed with Toronto hoping to finally win a World Series, and he did, while also winning MVP honors. In Game 6, he went 3-for-5 with a triple, home run and single that preceded Joe Carter’s home run.
Barry Bonds, Giants, 2002
.471/.700/1.294, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, 13 BB, .560 WPA (7 games, lost)
How feared was Bonds? The Angels intentionally walked him seven times. Alas, in Game 7, Bonds never came to bat with a runner on base and went 1-for-3 with a walk. The Giants would finally win a World Series after he had retired.
Chase Utley, Phillies, 2009
.286/.400/1.048, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 7 R, .217 WPA (6 games, lost)
Utley tied Reggie’s record of five home runs, and like Reggie, did it in six games. He homered twice in Game 1 and twice again in Game 5, both Phillies’ victories, but the Yankees won in six.
Hideki Matsui, Yankees, 2009
.615/.643/1.385, 3 HR, 8 RBI, .628 WPA (6 games)
Matsui’s eight-RBI performance was remarkable in part because he only started three of the six games, pinch-hitting in three non-DH games. His Game 6 was one of the best World Series games ever: 3-for-4, a double, home run and six RBIs in a 7-3 win.
Lance Berkman, Cardinals, 2011
.423/.516/.577, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 9 R, 5 BB, 1.002 WPA (7 games)
Check that out WPA. He drove in two runs in a 3-2 win in the opener. Then came the final two games. In Game 6, he had one of the most clutch World Series games you can imagine in that wild 10-9 Cardinals victory: 3-for-5 with a walk, homer, four runs and three RBIs. In the bottom of the ninth, he walked ahead of David Freese’s game-tying, two-run triple. In the 10th, down to their final out, Berkman singled in the tying run. In Game 7, he scored two runs. His Game 6 performance ranks fourth on the all-time single-game WPA list. Of course, it was overshadowed by …
David Freese, Cardinals, 2011
.348/.464/.696, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 1.086 WPA (7 games)
Freese’s .964 WPA in Game 6 — he hit the triple in the ninth and then the walk-off homer — is the highest in World Series history, with Kirk Gibson second for his pinch-hit heroics in 1988. In Game 7, the Rangers had scored twice in the top of the first, but Freese doubled home two runs with two outs in the bottom of the inning and the Cardinals went on to a 6-2 win.
David Ortiz, Red Sox, 2013
.688/.760/1.188, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R, 8 BB, .943 WPA (6 games)
Ortiz tied Bonds’ mark of reaching base three-plus time in five games. The Red Sox hit just .211 in the series — .169 minus Ortiz’s numbers. He walked four times in Game 6 — and scored twice — as the Cardinals just stopped trying to get him out. That strategy didn’t work, either.
10 World Series performances, with “clutch” playing an important role:
10. Billy Hatcher, Reds, 1990. Hey, the guy hit .750 as the Reds stunned the A’s.
9. Pepper Martin, Cardinals, 1931. Rattled the A’s with his baserunning, hit .500.
8. Lance Berkman, Cardinals, 2011. Overshadowed by his teammate.
7. Paul Molitor, Blue Jays, 1993. Hit .500, monster game in the clincher.
6. Reggie Jackson, Yankees, 1977. Three home runs in Game 6.
5. Barry Bonds, Giants, 2002. Imagine what he would have done if the Angels had actually pitched to him.
4. Lou Gehrig, Yankees, 1928. Destroyed the Cardinals in a four-game sweep.
3. Gene Tenace, A’s, 1972. Extra points for clutch hitting and carrying the Oakland offense.
2. David Ortiz, Red Sox, 2013. Great triple-slash line and high WPA score.
1. David Freese, Cardinals, 2011. OK, hit just .348, but had the greatest clutch game in World Series history.
With nearly 200 Free Agents on the market this winter, there’s oodles of Hot Stove speculation, especially since The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs and both the Phillies and Yankees dropped out in the first round.
Looking at the list, here are a few FA’s that I feel the Sox should give consideration and in the order most of the experts have them ranked.
C.J. Wilson, SP: Wilson is the top pitcher in the market and deservedly so. He’s won 15 games the last two seasons as part of the Texas Rangers machine but fell apart in this years playoff run. The talent pool for starters is thin and Wilson will probably command a greater price tag than the $82 million or so both John Lackey and A.J. Burnett received, and that would be a lot for a guy who’d project as the 3rd or 4th starter. Inquire but move on. (Signed by LA Angels @ Winter Meetings)
Roy Oswalt, SP: Oswalt, as he did in Philadelphia, could fill the #4 hole in the Sox rotation, but as the Phillies already established by declining his option, it won’t be for silly money. Chances are he could return to Philly, but the Rangers (he’s established in the Lone Star State) and probably Yankees will inquire with some real interest.
David Ortiz, DH/1B: Big Papi would be foolish to leave his folk-hero status in Beantown but this is a business and easily his last chance at the big paycheck. Aside from the Scarlet Hose, I feel the Angels and Rangers could be real contenders for his services while Toronto, Seattle, Minnesota and Cleveland test the waters. The ‘Bombers could send out a phone call or two just to p!ss of Sox fans. (Accepted arbitration from Boston)
Mark Buehrle, SP: Many ‘in the know’ have mentioned St. Louis as a possibility while others believe he’ll stay put in Chicago. He’s a good talent and calming presence worth a look. Since Texas, Miami, possibly the Angels and probably Yankees will be looking, we should too. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: Cherington has said he’d love to bring back both Ortiz and Papelbon for deals that make sense to everyone… however Pap’ is the best closer on the market and will be of interest to Philadelphia, possibly Miami (a showboat presence for a showboat manager) and any other team who can both spend big and be a contender. If he’s not in Boston, look in the Phillies bullpen. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/13)
Ryan Madson, RP: Philly could be looking to keep him as he might be an alternative to Papelbon or a Heath Bell. Madson has progressed nicely over the past few seasons and depending on what Boston plans to do with Daniel Bard or Aceves (convert them or make one closer in waiting), with or without Pap’, Ryan should be on the radar. (Signed by Cincinnati 1/11/12)
Grady Sizemore, OF: Sizemore is not the Indians slugger from just a few scant years ago, but he is still only 29 and worth a look. A year removed from microfracture surgery most believe Grady should be eased back in to a starring role, getting 70 to 80 starts as a OF/DH platoon. Rushing back to be the Cleveland slugger and star outfielder may have been what caused his several setbacks. He could be worth a one or two-year deal to a big market team with room for him in such a situation. Both he and Josh Willingham present better alternatives to Carlos Beltran (whom I omitted from this list). (Signed by Cleveland 11/29)
Heath Bell, RP: All signs point to Bell staying put in San Diego but he’s definitely worth the effort of a phone call or two should the Papelbon contract drag out or just not materialize. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Josh Willingham, OF: Willingham played in Oakland whose stadium, the O.co, is massive and still put out 15 homers and a respectable slugging percentage. Now, put that right-handed bat in Fenway and watch his numbers flourish. He could platoon well in RF and present a viable option to Carlos Beltran. (Signed by Minnesota 12/14)
Paul Maholm, SP: A left-hander on the market is going to get attention no matter what (see Darren Oliver and soon to be returning Jamie Moyer), so at 29 Maholm could be worth a look. He finished the season with a shoulder problem sending him to the DL, but his consistency to cause grounders could be a great lefty complement to Lester in the rotation. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/10/12)
Jonathan Broxton, RP: He’s a reclamation project coming back from non-reconstructive elbow surgery, but then again the Sox love those low-risk high-reward incentive laden contract players. With the way the bullpen collapsed in September, call him. (Signed by KC Royals 11/29)
Kerry Wood, RP: Wood has salvaged his career as a late-inning specialist (if only Brad Penny would follow his lead) and put the gloom of lost potential in the past. The Sox considered him at the trade deadline the last two seasons, so there’s no reason not to consider him now. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/13/2012)
Jim Thome, DH: Thome could present a poor man’s solution to David Ortiz should Big Papi take his talents elsewhere. Thome is a legendary clubhouse presence and could still hit a few of those HOF home runs at Fenway’s friendly confines. I expect he’ll return to Cleveland (if the Indians ‘do the right thing’) but anyone in the AL who can’t land Ortiz or Beltran may come calling. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/5)
Hideki Matsui, DH/OF: Like Thome, Godzilla could find a late career flourish in Fenway as Big Papi’s replacement. He’s still a threat in the middle of the line-up and my gut tells me he’ll continue the pilgrimage north (LA to Oakland) to Seattle and play alongside Ichiro for the Japanese owned Mariners.
Takashi Saito, RP: He’s older but still a workable component to a bullpen. Plus, we’ve had him before. Worth the look. (Signed by Arizona 12/12)
Jason Varitek, C: ‘Tek appeared to adapt well to his new role of mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season. As a tag team, their numbers were comparable to many others at catcher in the league, especially during the mid-months when the Sox were the best team in all of baseball. Ryan Lavarnway is still at least a half-season from a steady role on the big club, and while some have called for any old veteran to back-up ‘Salty, I say stick with what works. Let him continue to groom Jarrod, then work more with Lavarnway and transition from mentor to his next life as an MLB coach and future manager. His silence during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ and ‘Pitcher-gate’ (after all, he is The Captain) is the only reason I could see him not being offered a return. As many Yankees fans have noted in regards to FA Jorge Posada, I can’t see ‘Tek in another uniform.
Tim Wakefield, SP/RP: Like Varitek, The Time Lord is a proven veteran commodity for the Sox. He can pitch from wherever he is asked to and can flash that knuckleball on many an occasion. He’s 6 wins away from tying both Clemens and Young for all time on the Red Sox wins list, and could easily get there with a solid rebound year. While he too was silent during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ as well as ‘Pitcher-gate’, he’s an established veteran that could assist the new manager in the rotation, bullpen and clubhouse. Though, like in the case of ‘Tek, it may just be sentimentality.