by Kurtis Seaboldt
Not long after the Cleveland Indians ended the season of the Boston Red Sox with their ALDS sweep, someone on Twitter asked me who I thought was the best postseason hitter in baseball history. The question was clearly inspired by the final game in the amazing career of Boston’s David Ortiz, perhaps the most famous October hero.
I looked at some numbers before saying that I would give it to Ortiz but the brief exercise got me thinking about an all-time postseason team. So, here it is.
C – Thurman Munson (Yankees) His .357 BA, .496 SLG and .874 OPS are the highest for any catcher with at least 100 AB’s. He hit .529 in the Yankees’ loss to the Reds in the 1976 World Series.
1B – Lou Gehrig (Yankees) Yes, I know. Two positions, two Yankees. But Gehrig’s numbers are so good. His slash line in 119 career AB’s: .361/.483/.731/1.214.
2B – Chase Utley (Phillies, Dodgers) Utley’s 10 home runs are the most by a second baseman as are his seven home runs in the World Series. He and Reggie Jackson are the only two players to hit five home runs in a single World Series.
3B – George Brett (Royals) One of three third basemen to hit at least 10 postseason home runs and he did it in fewer AB’s (166) than Chipper Jones (303) and Alex Rodriguez (216). His .337 BA is second only to Pablo Sandoval (.351) among third basemen with at last 150 AB’s. He hit three home runs in Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS at Yankee Stadium and I haven’t even mentioned Goose Gossage.
SS – Derek Jeter (Yankees) Another Yankee. I tried hard to find someone other than Jeter but it just isn’t possible. He dwarfs every other player in career stats. And there’s the throw in Oakland that saved the Yankees in 2001.
LF – Manny Ramirez (Red Sox, Dodgers) Not only does Ramirez have more hits, home runs and RBI than any other left fielder, his slash line (.338/.442/.604/1.046) is easily the best of any left fielder with at least 100 AB’s
CF – Carlos Beltran (Astros, Mets) Bernie Williams’ totals are much better but Beltran’s are pretty amazing and it’s unlikely that any player at any position has had as dominant a postseason as Beltran did in 2004 for Houston when he hit eight home runs and compiled a slash line of .435/.536/1.022/1.557.
RF – Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees, Angels) The nickname “Mr. October” is deserved. He hit more home runs than any right fielder and he almost single-handedly crushed the Dodgers in 1977. He was also MVP of the 1973 ALCS for Oakland.
DH – David Ortiz (Red Sox) Another situation where the overall numbers are so dominant that they leave no other choice and that doesn't even mention his ability to pile up those numbers at the exact moment when the Red Sox needed them the most. Perhaps the best postseason hitter ever and certainly the best of his era.
SP – Andy Pettitte (Yankees) Easily the most wins (19) in the postseason – Tom Glavine is second with 14 – but it’s more than that. Twelve times Pettitte took the mound with the Yankees on the verge of clinching a series. Eight times the Yankees won and Pettitte was 6-2 in those games. He ended another team’s season six times.
SP – Curt Schilling (Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox) He might be on this list for that 2004 ALCS start at Yankee Stadium alone. His career numbers are astounding (11-2 with a 2.23 ERA with four complete games, including two shutouts).
SP – John Smoltz (Braves) Smoltz is not just third in wins with 13 but he’s third in winning percentage (13-4, .765) among starters with at least 10 decisions.
SP – Madison Bumgarner (Giants) Duh. His cumulative numbers may not knock you out of your chair (8-3, 2.11) but they are still great, especially when you consider his age. Simply brilliant when his team absolutely needs it, even on short rest as Royals fans will bitterly attest.
SP – Bob Gibson (Cardinals) Nine career starts. Nine complete games. Seven wins and an ERA of 1.89. He won all three of his starts as the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the 1967 World Series and he struck out 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, a record that still stands today.
RP – Mariano Rivera (Yankees) The only possible choice. It’s not just the 42 saves – Brad Lidge is next with 18 – but it was his sheer dominance over an extended period of time. His career postseason ERA of 0.70 almost defies belief. The best closer ever was the best in October as well.
MGR – Tony LaRussa (White Sox, A’s Cardinals) He won a division title with the White Sox, three pennants and a World Series with the A’s and three pennants and two World Series with the Cardinals.
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