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Friday, June 29, 2012

Top 5 hitters in MLB History

 This is my list of the top 5 hitters of all-time

#5 Willie Mays

Mays is the second greatest right-handed batter of all-time. His career offensive WAR is 131.3(WAR or wins above replacement level player is a statistic that is a single number that presents the number of wins that a player added to his teams total, above what a replacement player would add.) On a single season scale the number 8+ wins is a MVP type year, 5+ wins is a all-star caliber season, 2+ is an everday player and 0 or minus is a replacement player.  Mays was a player that could hit for average, power, and had phenomenal speed.  Over a 22 year career, his average 162 game season totals out to:112 runs scored, 178 hits, 36 HRs, 103 RBI, 18 Stolen Bases, 79 walks, 83 Strikeouts, 28 doubles, 8 triples, .302 Batting Average, .384 On Base Percentage, .557 Slugging percentage, and 328 total bases.  Some of these numbers are a little low, because Mays played four years longer than he should have. By hanging on too long, he lowered his career averages.

Willie was selected to the Hall of Fame in1979, his first year of eligibility,  with 94.9% of the voters including him on their ballots. Mays finished in the top 4 of the National League for Offensive WAR 13 straight years(1954-1966).  Willie is; third all time with 6,006 career total bases, 4th all-time in Home-runs with 660, 11th all-time with 1,903 RBIs, 7th in career runs scored with 2,062, and 7th all-time with 2,368 runs created. Mays also has; the 5th most extra base hits in his career with 1,323, the 11th most at bats with 10.881, 9th in career games played 2,992, 11th all-time with 3,283 hits and led the league in stolen bases four different times.

Mays, combined power and speed better than any player, ever. This was a man who could lead the league in Home-runs and stolen bases. Willie led the National league in HRs four different times, twice hitting more than 50 in a single season. He also finished four different seasons at the top of the National League in Stolen Bases. He led the NL seven different times in offensive WAR. Mays was also a consistent .300 hitter, who won one NL batting title in his career.

Mays produced all of these numbers as a right-handed hitter. Mays also had to face racial bigotry and racism from fans throughout most of his career. The only thing keeping Mays from being higher on my list is the fact that he only won one career batting title. He, also really fell off a cliff, in terms of production the last 6-7 years of his career. The Say Hey Kid is still the second best RH hitter of all-time and definitely deserving of a spot as high as number 3 on this list. He will have to settle for number 5 though.

#4 Rogers Hornsby
Rogers Hornsby or the "Rajah" is the greatest right-handed hitter in MLB history. The Rajah played 23 years in the MLB for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Browns(1915-1937).  He played second base, shortstop, and third base. His career offensive WAR is 119.1. This is good for eighth all-time. The Rajah had an astounding .424 batting average in 1924. That is the highest battting average ever by a RH hitter. All told, Hornsby, hit over .400 three times in his MLB career. He also won one World series in 1926. Rogers was a two time triple crown winner for the Cardinals(1922 and 1925). he was a two time National league MVP(1925 and 1929). The Rajah was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1942. He appeared on 78.1 % of the ballots cast.

The Rajah finished first in offensive WAR 12 different times in the National League. His lifetime batting average of .358, is the second highest of all-time in the MLB. He has the highest lifetime batting average for a RH hitter. Hornsby, led the NL in batting average seven times, including 6 in a row from 1920-1925. He won; two HR titles, 4 RBI titles, and led the NL in hits four different times. The Rajah also led the NL in total bases seven different times.

Hornsby's 162 game average season looks like this: 586 At Bats, 113 runs scored, 210 hits, 39 doubles, 12 triples, 22 Home-runs, 114 Runs batted in, 10 stolen bases, 74 walks, 49 strikeouts, .358 batting average, .434 on base percentage, .577 slugging percentage, and 338 total bases.

Rogers Hornsby finished his career with; a lifetime batting average of .358, 2,930 hits, 541 doubles, 169 triples, 301 Home-runs, 1584 RBI, 1,038 walks, .434 on base percentag e, .577 slugging percentage, and 4,712 total bases. His career on base percentage is good for 8th all-time. The Rajah's career slugging percentage is good for 11th all-time.

The Rajah is by far the greatest hitting middle infielder of all-time. He was the National Leagues best player in the 1920's. His career tailed off in the 1930's, which is why he does not crack the top three on this list. For a decade though, he was the first or second best player in all of baseball. Hornsby, is one of the most underrated players in MLB history. He deserves to be mentioned as the greatest second baseman of all-time.

#3 Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth is generally considered the greatest hitter of all-time, but that is highly overblown in my opinion. Of course The Babe was a great hitter, but he also benefited greatly from new rules in the MLB. The MLB adopted a new baseball that flew out of the park with much greater ease in 1920 and thereafter. This coincided with Ruth's ascension to greatness after he was sold to the New York Yankees in 1920. Another rule change in 1920, and thereafter was tossing out baseballs after they became scuffed, muddied, and discolored from being used. Before 1920, MLB games where generally played with just one or two baseballs. This obviously led to balls becoming disfigured and discolored, even lopsided. This made it harder to see the baseball, and even harder to hit the ball with any kind of power. Another rule that benefited Ruth and the rise of the Homerun; was the outlawing of the spit ball and other doctoring of the baseball by pitchers.

After the previous paragraph disparaging Ruth, let's discuss how good he was. When Ruth retired in 1935 he was the MLB'S all-time leader in HR with 714. He was also the MLB'S all-time RBI leader with 2213. The Babe, is also number 1 all-time in offensive WAR with 151.3 win shares. Ruth was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936 with his name appearing on 95.1% of the ballots cast. This was the first class of the Hall of Fame, and only Ty Cobb finished ahead of Ruth on the ballot.

Babe Ruth's average 162 game season looks like this; 544 At bats, 141 runs scored, 186 hits, 33 doubles, 9 triples, 46 HR,  143 Runs batted in,  8 stolen bases, 133 walks, 86 strikeouts, .342 batting average, .474 on base percentage, .690 slugging percentage, and 375 total bases.

Ruth is; third all-time in HRs with 714, second all-time in RBI's with 2.213, third all-time with 2,062 walks, and fourth all-time with 1,356 extra base hits. Babe's career batting average of .342 is good for tenth all-time. Ruth led the American League in offensive WAR ten different seasons, and finished in the top ten 16 times.

Babe Ruth is one of the top hitters of all-time as his statistics show. He definitely benefited greatly from playing in New York. He received more media coverage than any other MLB player at the time and possibly of all-time. Almost all of that coverage was favorable, as media back then covered up any transgressions he committed, and glorified/portrayed him as a mythical like man in pinstripes. He also benefited from playing in a park that was tailor made for him and his swing. At his home park, Yankee Stadium, it was just 295 feet down the right field line. Right Center at Yankee Stadium was just 350 feet away from home plate during Ruth's time. All in all the Babe was a great player, but he is not the best hitter of all-time.

#2 Ted Williams
Ted Williams, "The Splendid Splinter" is the second greatest hitter in MLB history. "The Kid" is the last player to hit .400 in the MLB. He batted .406 in 1941. Williams won two triple crowns in the American League(1942 and 1947). He was also a two time AL MVP. (1946 and 1949).  Williams' career was interrupted twice by War during his prime. He served in World War II; missing the 1943,44,and 45 seasons. He also served during the Korean War missing the 1952 season and most of the 1953 season. Williams owns the highest lifetime batting average(.344) of anyone who hit more then 500 HRs. After 19 seasons in the MLB, "The Kid" was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame in 1966 with 93.4% of the voters electing him.

Williams average season for 162 games look like this: 545 At Bats, 127 Runs, 188 hits, 37 Doubles, 5 Triples, 37 Homeruns, 130 Runs Batted In, 143 Walks, 50 Strikeouts, .344 Batting Average, .482 On Base Percentage, .634 Slugging Percentage, and 345 Total Bases. Some of these totals are lower than they should be. Williams played just 6 games in 1952, and 37 games in 1953, because he was serving in Korea.

The Splendid Splinter has a lifetime Offensive War of 122.9 this is good for sixth all-time. His career batting average of .344 is good for eighth all-time. Williams won six AL batting titles. Williams' .482 on base percentage is the best of all-time. He either walked or got a hit 48.2 % of the time he came to the plate. That is 12 percentage points higher than his nearest competitor.  Williams' .634 slugging percentage is the second best of all-time. His 521 career HRs are good for 18th in MLB history. Ted finished his career with 1,839 RBI fourteenth most in history. His 2,021 walks are good for fourth most in MLB history.

Williams is the second greatest hitter in MLB history. He put up all of his numbers, despite missing almost five years of his prime serving his country in WWII and Korea. If his career had not been interrupted, he would have over 3,000 hits and probably close to 700 HRs. He definitely would be in the top ten all-time in RBIs, and probably would have won at least one more batting title. It is hard to judge where to put Williams in the pantheon of greatest hitters of all-time, because of his missed time serving during the war. Even if you just judge him by the numbers he put up, he is definitely a top five hitter of all-time. If you judge him by adding his career averages to the five seasons he missed, he definitely is a top two hitter of all-time. I think you have to judge Ted on what he could have done in those five seasons he missed serving his country and in my judgement he is the second best hitter in MLB history.

#1 Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb, "The Georgia Peach" is far and away the greatest hitter in MLB history. When Cobb retired, he held over 90 MLB records. He still owns the highest lifetime Batting Average in MLB history(.366). In his career, the Georgia Peach won 12 American League batting titles. A record that still stands today. Cobb, won a record nine consecutive batting titles from 1907-1915. Cobb also finished second in batting average three times. His nearest competitors have eight career batting titles(Tony Gwynn and Honus Wagner). Ty Cobb batted over .400 three times in his 24 year career. Cobb holds the records for highest batting average over a two year span(.414 over 1911 and 1912), and a three year span(.408 from 1911 to 1913).

The Peach finished his career with 4,191 hits, an MLB record, that stood until Pete Rose broke it in 1985. Some of Cobb's other records that have since been broken; most career runs 2,246, broke in 2001, most career games played 3,035, broke in 1974, most career at bats 11,434, broke in 1974, most career stolen bases 892, broke in 1977. Ty played 24 years in the MLB and was elected by 222 of  226 voters for the inaugural Hall of Fame class. His 98.2% of the vote was higher than any player on the ballot, which included; Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and other greats. The Georgian also won the AL triple crown in 1909.

An average Cobb season over 162 games looks like this; 162 games played, 698 plate appearances, 611 at bats, 120 runs, 224 hits, 39 doubles, 16 triples, 6 home runs, 103 RBI, 48 stolen bases, 67 walks, 36 strikeouts, .366 batting average, .433 on base percentage, .512 slugging percentage, and 313 total bases. That is just an average season over his 24 year career. That is an amazing stat line.

Ty Cobb is second all time in career offensive WAR(wins above replacement level) with 144.9 win shares. The Georgia Peaches career stats; .366 lifetime batting average first all-time, 4,191 hits second all-time, .433 on base percentage ninth all-time, .512 slugging percentage 71st all-time, 3,034 games played fifth most all-time, 11,434 at bats fifth all-time, 2, 246 runs scored second all-time, 5,854 total bases fifth all-time, 724 doubles second all-time, 295 triples second all-time, 1,938 RBI seventh all-time, 897 stolen bases fourth all-time, 3,053 singles, second all-time, 1,136 extra base hits 12th all-time, and he was on base 5,532 times good for third all-time.

I believe Cobb to be the greatest hitter of all-time and it is not even close. He was the top hitter of his generation. A generation that only used one or two baseballs per game. These balls were much different from the baseballs used in 1920 and thereafter. They were not wound tight, and they did not carry nearly as far as the modern baseball. Despite these differences, the Georgia Peach still managed to hit .366 for his career. Cobb played in an era that was much different than today's, but he was that generations top slugger. His power numbers compare favorably with the greats when you factor in the different era he played in.

Here is a story  that best sums up his career. On May 5, 1925, Cobb began a two-game hitting spree better than any even Ruth had unleashed. He was sitting in the dugout talking to a reporter and told him that, for the first time in his career, he was going to swing for the fences. That day, Cobb went 6 for 6, with two singles, a double, and three home runs. His 16 total bases set a new AL record, which stood until May 8th, 2012 when Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and a double for a total of 18 bases. The next day he had three more hits, two of which were home runs. Cobb's single his first time up gave him 9 consecutive hits over three games. Cobb wanted to show that he could hit home runs when he wanted, but simply chose not to do so. At the end of the series, 38-year-old Cobb had gone 12 for 19 with 29 total bases. The fact that he could do that shows he is by far the greatest hitter of all-time.

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