The 10 greatest hitters ever
Babe Ruth edged Ted Williams for the top spot based on power
Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron just missed the Top 10
Albert Pujols is the only active player to rank in the top 15
Where does one begin in making a list of the greatest hitters ever? Well, I put together a spreadsheet, and using my very special grading system that I only just invented, I came up with a Top 10 list of hitters. In fact, I have a Top 538 hitters -- those are the 538 hitters in baseball history who compiled more than 6,000 plate appearances. The bottom 10, in case you are curious:
10. Roy McMillan
Yes, Ed Brinkman. He hit .224/.280/.300 over a long All-Star career (well, he was an All-Star in 1973). He won a Gold Glove, twice got MVP votes, and he was a high school teammate of Pete Rose*. It is also mentioned on Brinkman's Wikipedia page that he holds the record for most seasons with more than 400 at-bats, a batting average lower than .230 and fewer than 15 home runs. That seems kind of like rubbing it in, no? He also holds the records for most seasons with 450 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 70 or lower. I'm sure he holds a lot of records like that. He had a good glove, though.
So, the 10 best hitters in baseball history. For the record, I incorporated all sorts of factors -- walk-to-strikeout, runs created, OPS+, length of career, their run-scoring environment, their production numbers and so on. I threw in a few personal factors, added 20 points to everyone on the 1975 Reds (for all the obvious reasons), added 20 points to Buddy Bell and Andre Thornton for being my heroes, subtracted 15 points from Ty Cobb because we couldn't stand the son of a bitch when we were alive so we told him to stick it! Well, you don't want to know how the sausage is made, so here are hitters 11 through 20, who just missed the list.
11. Joe DiMaggio
And just below them: Frank Robinson, Edgar Martinez (!), Honus Wagner, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome, Todd Helton, Ralph Kiner, Paul Waner, Vlad Guerrero.
Now remember, we're just talking about hitting here. So this comes down to the players who, though a combination of batting skill, patience, power and the ability to not make outs, are the best who ever lived. There's no way you can fairly rank the 10 best. But nobody said this would be fair. Here's the list:
10. Mickey Mantle
In 1960 Mantle struck out 100 times for the fifth time in his career. That was a record and a very recent development. Up until the end of World War II, striking out 100 times in a season was an enormous embarrassment, and it had only happened 13 times. The strikeout pioneer was probably Dolph Camili, who first struck out 100 times in 1935 and then did it three more times before the World War II began.
But what interests me is that another player had done the dirty 100 K's four times as well ... Vince DiMaggio. Now, seriously, how does that happen? His brother Joe was famous for almost never striking out -- he had more homers than strikeouts six times and just missed pulling it off in 1950 at age 36. Dom was a moderate strikeout guy. And Vince, wow, he led the league in whiffs six times and he had more strikeouts than CAREER homers in 1938 and 1943.
Well, you can never tell about brothers. The only set of baseball brothers that really made sense to me were the Giambi brothers. You watched them play and you could ... both of them wanted to HIT when the family went out to play some ball. You have to figure whichever one wasn't hitting took a bat with him to the outfield.
9. Ty Cobb
I love that in 1922, at the age of 35, Cobb hit .401... and didn't even come CLOSE to winning the batting title. That was the year George Sisler hit .420. Sisler is a fascinating player in a lot of ways -- he hit .340 in his career, but as Bill James has pointed out, his career on-base percentage is lower than, among others, Alvin Davis, Mark Grace, Keith Hernandez, Gene Woodling, J.D. Drew, Merv Rettenmund, Tim Salmon, Bernie Carbo and Gene Tenace.
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