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Chicago White Sox: The 10 Most Clutch Hitters of the Past 30 Years

Todd ThorstensonAnalyst IJanuary 1, 2017

Chicago White Sox: The 10 Most Clutch Hitters of the Past 30 Years

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    It's been a rough year to be a White Sox fan, as they have failed miserably to establish any form of consistency all year long. Their high water mark has been three games over .500, which they have reached twice, and one of those times was on April 10 when they were 6-3.

    The recurring theme for the Sox this season has been their inability to hit in the clutch, as they are hitting .240 with runners in scoring position and a paltry .208 with RISP and two outs.

    They just simply have been awful when it counts, and it's been nothing short of brutal to watch as a fan.

    In roughly 30 years of watching White Sox baseball, it’s tough for me to recall a more frustrating season than this current one. Time after time the Sox have failed to drive in runners in scoring position, and it has cost them countless games.

    So in order to try and forget about the horrendous clutch hitting by this year's White Sox team, I have decided to end the season on a high note by taking a look at what I feel have been the 10 most clutch hitters on the South side over the past 30 years.

    A popular phrase of White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is, “don’t tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit it,” and the guys on this list definitely knew how to deliver when it counted most.

10. Joe Crede (2000-2008)

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    Crede wasn’t a great hitter in his time on the south side, but he definitely delivered his share of big hits, especially during the World Series season of 2005.

    With a .252 career batting average, Crede certainly doesn’t stand out, but he hit a solid .278 with runners in scoring position during his career—and almost all of that was with the White Sox.

    Crede just seemed to thrive in the pressure situations late in games and was great at playing the role of hero.

    He will always be remembered more for his defense, but Crede supplied many timely hits for the Sox and always seemed to step up in big situations.

9. Carlos Lee (1999-2004)

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    Lee was known as “el caballo” because of his ability to drive in runs, and he often did so when the game was on the line.

    During the early 2000’s Lee was one of the White Sox's most feared hitters, especially late in the game with runners on base.

    Lee has a .286 lifetime batting average, but with RISP he has hit .296 over his career and did plenty of that damage while in a Sox uniform.

    Along with Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez, he formed a pretty formidable trio for the Sox for several years.

8. A.J. Pierzynski (2005-Present)

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    Love him or hate him, A.J. Pierzynski has always has had a knack for hitting in the clutch over his career with the White Sox.

    Even with all of his big hits, his biggest play may have come on a strike out. 

    Of course, I’m referring to the controversial dropped third strike play against the Angels in the 2005 ALCS. 

    Pierzynski’s heads up play caught the Angels off guard and became one of the more memorable plays in playoff history. He eventually scored the winning run when he was driven in on a double by Joe Crede, as the Sox won a crucial Game 2 to tie the series at one.

    A.J. is a guy who always seems to be in the middle of controversy, but the bottom line is that he usually comes up big when his team needs him to.

7. Lance Johnson (1988-1995)

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    To some it may be a surprise to see Lance Johnson on this list, but the “one dog” could deliver when the pressure was on.

    Johnson was the long time leadoff hitter for the Sox in the early 90’s and was known mainly for his speed on the basepaths. 

    To this day, any time a White Sox base stealer gets a huge lead and jump, Sox announcer “Hawk” Harrelson will call it a “Lance Johnson” jump.

    He was definitely a speedster who wreaked havoc on the bases, but Johnson’s ability to come up with big base hits may have been overlooked.

    He was a .291 career hitter with a .299 lifetime average with RISP, and during the White Sox 1993 AL West title run Johnson hit a lofty .364 with RISP.

    He was a little guy in stature, but the “one dog” often came up big when it mattered most.

6. Tim Raines (1991-1995)

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    “Rock” Raines only spent five years on the South side, but in his short time he was an impressive clutch hitter.

    Raines had a career batting average of .294 and a .302 average with RISP. 

    A lot of those numbers came from his years in Montreal, but in his last four years in Chicago, Raines hit at least .289 or higher with RISP and had four straight years of hitting over .300 with RISP and two outs.

    During the Sox 1993 run to the AL West title, Raines hit .325 with RISP and .342 with RISP and two outs, which are some pretty big numbers.

    He is another guy on this list like Lance Johnson, who will probably be remembered more for his speed on the bases, but Raines got it done at the plate as well.

5. Robin Ventura (1989-1998)

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    An All-Star and five-time gold glove winner during his time in Chicago, Ventura was a cornerstone of the White Sox teams of the early 90's and was one of the lead cogs of the 1993 team that won the AL West.

    Ventura and Frank Thomas formed a pretty solid tandem in the middle of the Sox lineup for several years. 

    A career .267 hitter, Ventura always seemed to step it up a notch with runners in scoring position over his career, as he hit .279 in those situations. 

    Even more impressive is the fact that he is tied for fifth all-time with 18 grand slams, many of which came in a White Sox uniform.

    I can still see Frank Thomas lifting him up over his shoulder and carrying him off of the field after Ventura delivered a game winning hit in 1991.

    The guy knew how to deliver in crunch time.

4. Magglio Ordonez (1997-2004)

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    Ordonez has just simply been a great hitter throughout his career and has been even better when it counts.

    “Mags” has an impressive .309 career batting average but has hit a ridiculous .321 with RISP throughout  his career and delivered a lot of big hits in his seven plus years in Chicago.

    He, along with Frank Thomas, was a leader of the 2000 White Sox team that won the AL Central.

    In his final six years with the Sox, Ordonez hit over .300 with RISP every year and also hit over .300 twice during that span with RISP and two outs.

    Ordonez appeared in four All-Star games as a member of the White Sox and will always be remembered as one of the better hitters to wear a White Sox uniform.

3. Paul Konerko (1999-Present)

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    It should be no surprise to see Konerko on this list, as he as pretty much cemented himself as one of the best hitters to ever put on a Sox uniform.

    Over the years Konerko has come up with several big hits in key situations for the Sox, but probably none was bigger than his grand slam off Dan Wheeler in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the 2005 World Series.

    “Paulie” just has an outstanding approach at the plate to go along with a great swing and seems to be getting better with age.

    He has a career lifetime batting average of .282 to go along with a .285 average with RISP, and many of those hits have come late in games when the Sox have needed it most.

    White Sox fans are really going to miss this guy when he's gone.

2. Harold Baines (1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001)

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    I can still hear the chant of “HAR-OLD, HAR-OLD” coming from the old Comiskey Park as Baines walked to the plate in another late inning situation with the game on the line.

    Throughout the 80’s Baines was the best hitter on the White Sox, hands down. And he was still a tough out during his second stint with the Sox in the mid-90’s.

    Baines helped the “winning ugly” team of 1983 win the AL West by 20 games and seemed to always come up with the big hit when they needed it.

    He was a .289 career hitter and a .291 hitter with RISP. When major league baseball still tracked the stat of game-winning RBI’s, he was always near the top of the league.

    On this list, Baines is second only to Frank Thomas with a .280 lifetime batting average with RISP and two outs, which is a statistic that goes a long way when discussing clutch hitting.

    Not known to say much, Baines was a silent assassin who, as Hawk Harrelson would say, “wasn’t afraid to get a big base hit.”

    And he did it time and time again.

1. Frank Thomas (1990-2005)

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    The “Big Hurt” is not only the best hitter in White Sox history, but he is also one of the best of all time, and he certainly knew how to get the big hit.

    It’s hard to even count the number of big hits that Frank had in his 16 years in a White Sox uniform…so I’m not going to try.

    The numbers pretty much speak for themselves.

    A five-time All-Star and two-time MVP, Thomas is one of only four major league players, the others being Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, to have a .300 average, 500 homeruns, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 runs scored and 1,500 walks in his career.

    That’s pretty solid company and an even more impressive stat line.

    He was a .301 lifetime hitter with 521 homeruns and over 1,700 RBI, most of which came with the Sox. 

    In addition to that, he hit .312 with runners in scoring position and .291 with RISP and two outs over his career, which basically tells you that he was a money hitter.

    In his first 11 seasons with the White Sox, Thomas hit over .300 with RISP eight times and hit over .300 with RISP and two outs eight times as well.

    The list of accomplishments goes on and on, but the bottom line is that the big man could hit—especially when it counted most.

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