10 Average MLB Players Who Turn into Stars in Big Games
A number of players go through their MLB career as average performers who get attention every now and then. There are some players, however, that have been able to step up when they were needed in big games and big series.
Average players have put in some incredible postseason performances over the years. Pitchers have gone out and had the outings of their careers in the biggest games that they have pitched in. A number of hitters have seemingly caught fire at the right time and dominated the postseason.
The following are some of the players that were average throughout their career that came up big when they were needed the most. Some appeared in a few All-Star Games, but they were never thought of as stars. They did shine when they were placed in the spotlight in big games, though.
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Orlando Hernandez burst onto the scene in 1998 with the New York Yankees in what may have been the best season of his career. Hernandez went 12-4 with a 3.13 ERA.
For his career, Hernandez had an ERA+ of 110 to go along with a 90-65 record. While those numbers are decent, Hernandez was essentially an average pitcher during the regular season.
Once the calendar turned to October, Hernandez was a whole different animal. In 15 playoff series, Hernandez went 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA. In the World Series, Hernandez had a 2.20 ERA in 28.2 innings.
Photo Credit: New York Times
Bobby Richardson may have been a seven-time All-Star, but the was not great offensively at all. In fact, he had one season where his production was above average (barely), when he posted a 101 OPS+ in 1962.
Richardson retired with a anemic 77 OPS+. To put that in perspective, pitcher Dontrelle Willis has a 75 OPS+ in his career.
The most well-known moment from Richardson's career came in the 1962 World Series when he caught a hard hit liner off of the bat of Willie Mays to win the title for the New York Yankees. Offensively, Richardson kicked things up a notch in the playoffs and tied a World Series record by collecting 14 hits in 1964.
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One October night in 1956 made Don Larsen famous. He went from being an average pitcher, with a career ERA+ of 99 to someone that would never be forgotten.
During Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen put together a shocking and dominant performance. His perfect game, the only one in World Series history, was a thing of beauty.
Larsen was also solid during his other playoff performances. He appeared in five World Series and he posted a 4-2 record with a 2.75 ERA.
Photo Credit: New York Daily News
Robin Ventura is arguably one of the best players to show up on this list. He was a slightly above-average player that had some great years. For his career, Ventura was a .267 hitter and he had an OPS+ of 114.
The current Chicago White Sox manager was able to come up big in important moments. One moment that stands out more than any others is Ventura's performance in 1999 NLCS.
Ventura came to the plate in the bottom of the 15th inning with two outs, the bases loaded and the New York Mets down one. If Ventura got out, the Mets would lose Game 5 and be eliminated from the postseason.
What happened next was a moment that is still a big part of Mets history. Ventura hit what is known as the "Grand Slam Single".
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While some may make a case that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame, sabermetricians point out that Morris was actually a very average pitcher during his career. After 18 years in the majors, Morris had a 105 ERA+.
The performance that Morris put in during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is part of the reason why he was so well-remembered. Morris threw 10 shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves and brought helped bring the World Series trophy to Minnesota.
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Chris Chambliss got his career off to a torrid start when he won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1971. Throughout the course of his career, Chambliss would have some ups and downs and he ended with a 109 OPS+.
During the postseason, Chambliss had two very good series. In his first playoff series, Chambliss hit .524 and drove in eight runs. He also hit a pinch hit walk-off home run to send the Yankees to the World Series.
The following year, he put up good numbers in the World Series. In 1978, Chambliss once again had a solid ALCS. He hit .400 during the series.
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Aaron Boone, known as Aaron "Bleeping" Boone by Boston Red Sox fans, had most of his baseball glory come on one play. Boone was a consistent player throughout his career, but he ended it with a 94 OPS+.
Boone may not have put up outstanding numbers during the postseason, but it came up big when it counted. During Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Boone came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning against Tim Wakefield.
On the first pitch that he saw, Boone launched a home run that would send the Yankees into the World Series and the Red Sox home.
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Some players have one of the best stretches of their career at the right time. Billy Hatcher was one of those players. A career .264 hitter with an 86 OPS+, Hatcher looked like a star during the 1990 World Series.
After putting in a solid performance during the NLCS that season, Hatcher got even better as the stakes got higher. He hit .750 with an .800 on-base percentage and scored six runs to help the Cincinnati Reds beat the favorites, the Oakland Athletics, in four games.
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Before Lloyd McClendon was stealing first base as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was a player for three different organizations (h/t Patrick Dorsey of ESPN).
McClendon was a very average player during his major league career and was a .244 hitter, but he had a 94 OPS+.
While McClendon's team may have lost every postseason series that he played in, it was certainly not McClendon's fault. He hit .625 during the three series that he participated in.
Photo Credit: Baseball-Reference
Bobby Brown played eight seasons with the New York Yankees in the 1940s and 1950s. His career started off well, but it quickly tailed off. Brown had a 100 OPS+ during his career.
A career .279 hitter, Brown turned things on in the postseason. He appeared in four World Series during his career and batted .439. In his worst postseason series, Brown batted .333. His performance helped the Yankees win four World Series titles during his career.