The World Series is usually a contest that features the best of the best in all of baseball, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the best teams are defined by what they overcame, rather than what they commanded.
In respect to this year’s World Series, I would like to take a look at 10 teams from the past that were not the top-hitting teams in their respective divisions, and how their unexpected offensive performances carried them above-and-beyond to the rank of champion.
I chose five teams from the American League, and five from the National League (by current placement), and ranked them from 10th best to the No. 1 team that won a World Series, when they really weren’t expected to at all.
So sit back and enjoy.
The St. Louis Cardinals were viewed as a team that simply stumbled into the postseason in 2006. Many figured that they didn’t have enough to get past the San Diego Padres, much less the New York Mets.
That year, the Cardinals did hit .269, fourth best in the NL, but finished 83-78 (second worst record for a league champion) and nearly blew a seven-game divisional lead over the Houston Astros.
Their opponent, the Detroit Tigers, was also viewed as a team that couldn’t get to the World Series. As fate would have it, these two teams locked horns for five games.
The Cardinals' bats came out of the gate swinging, only to go silent in Game 2, garnering only four total hits in a 3-1 loss. It would be their only loss as the Cards exploded in Games 3, 4 and 5, grabbing 24 hits and 14 runs in route to a 4-1 series win.
The Cardinals out-hit Detroit 36 to 32 and doubled the Tigers’ run total with 22.
For many Dodgers fans, the most memorable aspect of the 1988 World Series has got to be Kirk Gibson’s pinch hit walk off home run against Oakland. But what casual fans may not know is that the Dodgers weren’t even supposed to get to the World Series with a pedestrian team average of .248.
At the time, the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets were viewed as the National League powerhouses. In fact, the Dodgers' team batting did not even finish in the top five in any offensive statistical category except batting average (fifth).
No regular or backup hit over .300 or drove in over 90 runs and no position player was good enough to make the All-Star Game, but despite all of that they still defeated the vaunted Reds and moved on to shock the Mets.
But what is even more memorable than anything mentioned, is the sheer grit used to defeat “The Bash Brothers” and the heavily favored, awesome slugging bats of the Oakland A’s.
The bats came alive at just the right time to help them take the first two games, and after a quick defeat in Game Three, the Dodgers did the impossible.
They out-slugged the powerhouse A’s 41 hits to 28 and outscored them 21 to 11 in a 4-1 shocker that is an indelible mark on the minds of Dodgers fans everywhere.
The Detroit Tigers entered the “rematch” World Series with the Chicago Cubs hitting only .256—good for 5th best in the AL—and for many, the idea of beating a powerful Chicago Cubs team was simply silly.
But some would say the Cubs were done in by their supposed curse, while others say the Tigers reached their hitting potential at just the right time.
The two teams had a slug fest from the first game to the last. This particular matchup marked a rare time in which the champion was out hit (65-54) but still won the series.
By having those pedestrian bats come alive in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and their pitcher friendly Briggs Stadium.
Between the two teams, they scored 61 total runs as the Tigers won in seven.
Isn’t it funny how whenever one of us does these types of pieces, the Miracle Mets are almost always mentioned?
Well this is a perfect example, as the Mets entered the postseason with a low hitting average of .242 which was good for 7th in the NL, but they were also widely considered a team that had zero chance of winning the World Series.
It marked the first year in franchise history where the Mets finished with a winning record. For their efforts the Mets would have to face the greatest Baltimore Orioles team ever assembled.
The outlook was not good.
But as fate would have it, the Mets’ offense would make history, even after the Orioles took Game One.
It would be the only game the O’s would win, as the Mets would go on to win arguably the most memorable World Series in baseball history.
It was the first time the A’s would appear in the World Series since 1931, and for a team that batted just .240, the outlook was not very favorable. They were about to face the Cincinnati Reds, The Big Red Machine.
The A’s were known for pitching, not for hitting while the Reds were regarded as a team that could just flat out beat anyone that stood in their way.
But that’s not all.
The A’s entered the series without their star hitter Reggie Jackson or Darold Knowles, rather with fill in hitter Gene Tenace who hit a measly five home runs that season. He would hit four in the series, tying Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the same mark.
The A’s went the distance with a powerful Reds lineup, but it was the Reds' bats that went silent. The offensive explosion of the A’s was as unpredictable as it was enjoyable.
The 1918 World Series was played in a time when war was afoot, and conspiracies of fixed championship games were all the talk. This particular World Series is the only one to have been played entirely in the month of September.
But for the Red Sox, a matchup against another vaunted Cubs team spelled sure disaster for their team that hit .249, good for only 6th in the AL.
This series only took six games for the Red Sox to win. It was consistent hitting that got the job done, in another World Series where the victor was out hit, but not outplayed.
How’s this for a twist: The 1987 Minnesota Twins hit .261 as a team, hit 196 homeruns, were “stacked” with power hitters, yet didn’t place in the top five in any hitting category except for home runs, where they placed fifth.
The Twins were actually ranked 10th in the AL for team batting, finished with one of the lowest winning percentages for an eventual champion (.525—the worst record for a championship team until the 2006 Cardinals broke it) and had a horrible road record of 29-52. They were outscored in the regular season and literally outnumbered in every major statistic in baseball.
The Cardinals on the other hand, were like the good kid: always talked about and praised. This team was not without its power either.
But despite nearly the entire world thinking the Cardinals were going to make quick work of this supposedly hapless Twins team, fate would have it another way.
The most interesting part of this series was despite all the statistical stigmas the Twins faced, they out hit and outscored the overly powerful Cardinals. This World Series marked the first time the home team won every game.
Despite the Atlanta Braves being “the team of the decade” in the 1990s, they coasted into the 1995 Fall Classic with a .250 team average that was ranked 13th out of 14 in the NL.
During the postseason, many felt the Reds were going to take it all and face an Indians team that would’ve had writers going bonkers over the All-Ohio World Series, but such is the way of a methodically hitting team.
Each game was won by a single run except for Game Four. But it was Game Six in which the Braves' bats really became clutch, as they grabbed six hits, but only won the game on a clutch homer by David Justice which was just enough to win the series in six.
The Braves were known as an inconsistent team, but they were also known for being very good at knowing exactly when to make your hits count, and that came in handy in Game Six.
The 1985 World Series featured two distinct situations:
1. All the games were played at night
2. The Royals were trying to win the first World Series in the team's history
Kansas City ranked 13th in the AL with a team batting average of no better than .252, their opponent, the Cardinals, was the team to beat.
But the Royals they would not go away without a fight.
In the first four games, the Royals had only 33 hits and 9 runs as they went back and forth with the Cardinals, and it had seemed as if they were going to be overwhelmed. But in the last three games of the series, the Royals came alive, pounding out 36 hits in only three games and a whopping 19 runs to take the series 4-3.
The “I-70” Series was marked by a team that came alive just as another team was self destructing, and it was the unexpected offensive explosiveness that would wind up being the final blow.
Bruce Bochy's dirty dozen did the absolute impossible by not only winning the World Series, but did it as a team that never even placed in the top 5 of any hitting or offensive category all year long.
They out hit the hot slugging Braves in the NLDS.
They out hit the best hitting team in the National League (Philadelphia) in the NLCS,
And they out hit one of the best hitting teams in the American League for the crown.
This team was viewed as a band of misfits, and group of nobodies—a dirty dozen--but it was clutch hitting that proved they were the best team in baseball.
It didn't matter whether it was a true ace or a hot prospect pitching to them. It didn't matter if the competition had a rock solid defense. It didn't matter if you pitched inside, outside, up or down. They flat out lit a fuse that carried them all the way to the greatest achievement in baseball.
A World Series Championship.
Congratulations to the Bay Area fans and the San Francisco Giants. I hope you enjoyed this little piece.