The old maxim says strong pitching and timely hitting will propel a team to the World Series. In the 2014 MLB postseason, the case has never been stronger. Among the players with the best batting averages with runners in scoring position (RISP), the names of Giants and Royals dominate the field, and they’ve already been at in the first two games of the series.
League championship play featured unreal performances by the Cardinals’ Matt Adams (.500 average with RISP) and Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz (1.714 OPS with RISP), but for this list we used the cutoff point of 9 at-bats as an appropriate sample size. Here are the top five clutch performers of the postseason based on average with RISP with at least nine at-bats. Stats are current as of October 23, prior to Game 3 of the World Series.
5. Travis Ishikawa, Giants
How is “clutch” defined? There may be different interpretations, but “walkoff home run to win the NLCS” ought to be one of them. Travis Ishikawa’s three-run homer to send the Giants to the World Series was the first NLCS-clinching home run in history. (Only the Giants’ Bobby Thomson had ever sent an NL team there before on a home run.) But that was only one of Ishikawa’s big hits this postseason.
In 9 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Giants’ left fielder is hitting .333 with one HR and one 2B, good for a menacing .778 slugging percentage. Of course, extra-base hits with men on base equal a lot of runs. Ishikawa has seven RBIs going into Game 3 of the World Series.
4. Brandon Belt, Giants
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has had the most at-bats (15) of any MLB player thus far in the postseason, and he’s made the most of them. Belt has chalked up a .333 BA with RISP through Game 2 of the Series, good for 6 RBIs. Like the best clutch performers, Belt has recognized when pitchers are avoiding contact and been content to take a walk when the situation presents itself. He’s drawn four BB in 20 plate appearances, good for a .450 on-base percentage (OBP) in the postseason with RISP.
3. Hunter Pence, Giants
The clutch center of San Francisco’s batting order has been unusually productive in the 2014 postseason, and Hunter Pence is another Giants player who’s delivered in crunch time. Pence is hitting .364 with RISP in the playoffs with a home run and double mixed in with two singles (five RBIs). The Giants’ right fielder has also shown patience at the plate with four BB in 15 plate appearances. It all adds up to a .571 OBP in the postseason with men in scoring position.
2. Buster Posey, Giants
If it seems as if Buster Posey has been sensational in the clutch this postseason, he has. The Giants backstop is hitting .385 with runners in scoring position. Posey has done all his damage with five singles and a sacrifice fly, good for five RBIs in the postseason. He has also drawn two BB to go with his five hits in 17 plate appearances, giving Posey a sterling .471 OBP in playoff action with RISP.
1. Billy Butler, Royals
Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler has feasted on opposing pitchers when it’s counted the most. In his first postseason appearance, Butler is raking with a .429 batting average with runners in scoring position. Though he only has one extra-base hit in 14 at-bats, his six timely hits have produced seven RBIs in the 2014 playoffs.
Butler has exhibited the ultimate mark of a professional hitter in the clutch. Compared to his .273 average, the .429 BA with RISP is on another level. He was at it again in Game 2 of the World Series when he knocked in the go-ahead run with a single to left. Since the Giants never scored after Kansas City took a 3-2 lead, Butler’s RBI turned out to be the difference-maker in Game 2, or what used to be the stat called the game-winning RBI (GWRBI).