It should come as no surprise that David Ortiz, the owner of a .733 batting average through five World Series games (not to mention a 2.017 OPS), is on the verge of breaking the World Series hits record. Ortiz’s 11 hits (in 15 at-bats, no less) puts him just two shy of a record set three times — by Bobby Richardson with the Yankees in 1964, Lou Brock with the Cardinals in 1968 and Marty Barrett with the Red Sox in 1986.
Richardson, a second baseman for the Yankees from 1955 through 1966 and a seven-time All-Star, finished 13 for 32 (.406) with two doubles, three RBIs and a stolen base in the club’s seven-game loss to St. Louis in 1964. Richardson struck out just twice in 33 plate appearances but didn’t take a single walk — he had just a .299 career on-base percentage and walked in just 4.5 percent of his career plate appearances. The Yankees managed to score him just three times in the 1964 Series. Series MVP went instead to Bob Gibson, who allowed a 3.01 ERA in 27 innings over three starts, including a 10-inning win in Game 5.
Brock needed just 28 at-bats to compile his 13 hits and provided much more power and speed than Richardson. Brock hit a pair of homers, a triple and three doubles to go with three walks as he hit .464/.516/.857 for the Series. He stole seven bases and was caught just twice. However, Brock went just 2 for 7 as the Tigers swept the final two games of the Series in St. Louis to win in seven games. Series MVP again went to an opposing pitcher — Mickey Lolich, who won games 2, 5 and 7 and allowed just five runs over three nine-inning complete games.
Barrett, second baseman for the Red Sox, completes the trifecta of World Series losers setting the World Series hits record. Barrett, like Richardson, didn’t provide much power — he had two extra-base hits, both doubles. Still, Barrett walked five times and struck out just twice to finish with a formidable 1.014 OPS. His single to center field off Rick Aguilera gave the Red Sox the lead in what looked to be the deciding Game 6 before, of course, Bill Buckner happened. Series MVP went instead to Ray Knight, who hit .391/.440/.55 with a home run and five RBI for the Mets.
Although it might seem like Ortiz is a lock to catch this trio, it’s not so cut and dried. He is a sharp .296 hitter in 81 postseason games but, thanks to his propensity to take walks (and draw intentional passes), Ortiz has a hit in 23.6 percent of his playoff plate appearances (practically identical to his 24.8 percent regular season rate).
Given that hit rate, he has under a 10 percent chance of beating the record should the Red Sox manage to win Game 6 — at least in nine innings. Unless Ortiz takes 11 plate appearances over the rest of the Series (something that will almost certainly require two games, and probably one extra innings affair) he has less than a 50% chance of beating the record. Here is a table of Ortiz’s odds to tie or beat the World Series record given how many plate appearances he takes from here on out: