The modern day sport of baseball was invented in the mid 1800’s somewhere in New York, Ohio, or somewhere in the US Midwest, depending on who you ask. Over the many decades to follow, this great game has produced some of America’s greatest national heroes and athletes.
While pitching certainly holds a place in our hearts, there is nothing that compares with a generational hitting talent. After all, it is a batter on the MLB logo, not a hurler.
So who are the greatest hitters in MLB history? This is an impossible question to answer definitively, but we can give some of our favorites.
Babe Ruth and the Birth of the Power Hitter
Babe Ruth is going to come up in every discussion of the greatest baseball players of all time. It might be tempting to think that the legend of The Babe is greater than the reality. In fact, it would be difficult for the myth to even match the gawdy output of this incredible player. Here are some Babe Ruth stats to back up his claim for the number one spot:
Career average of .342, good for 10th all time.
714 career home runs, only behind Hank Aaron (who played in many more games) and Barry Bonds (who we will get to below).
On base plus slugging (OPS) of 1.164, good for first in MLB history.
Wins above replacement (WAR) of 182.4, good for first in MLB history (not by all measurements, some give Bonds the nod).
Slugging percentage of .690, good for first in MLB history.
Oh, and did we mention the Babe started his career as a pitcher and lost several years of at-bats? Babe Ruth is more than just a name, he is likely the greatest player to ever play the game.
Ted Williams is the Last MLB Player to Hit .400
Ted Williams achieved a .406 batting average during the 1941 season, marking the last .400 season in Major League history. Even more astounding than this .400 drought is how few players have even come close.
Williams is a career .344 hitter, which ranks 7th all time. The Splendid Splinter also has a career on-base percentage of .482, good for first in MLB history. This combination of batting average and on-base percentage would make for a great leadoff man, right?
Williams also blasted 521 home runs in a career which was shortened by military service during the second World War. Ted Williams truly carried on the torch left by the great Babe Ruth.
Barry Bonds and Baseball’s Dirty (Not so) Secret
Barry Bonds is the only major league hitter to statistically compare to the great Babe Ruth. His offensive output is absolutely absurd. In the early 2000’s pitchers were so afraid pitch to Bonds that he set many unbreakable walk records to go along with his gaudy power numbers.
Career walk total: 2,558 - first in MLB history.
Career home run total: 762 - first in MLB history.
73 home runs in a single season - first in MLB history.
688 intentional walks issued - first in MLB history.
All of these hitting numbers came alongside 8 gold gloves, 12 silver sluggers, and some WAR calculations putting him just ahead of Babe Ruth.
If Bonds played in a different era and if his name was not so heavily connected to the PED disaster of the 90’s and early 2000’s, he might be considered the greatest baseball player of all-time.
Mike Trout and the new Era of Great Hitters
Mike Trout’s worst professional season came in 2014. His slugging percentage was down, average was down, and his strikeout rate was well above his career clip. At the end of the 2014 season, Mike Trout raised the MVP trophy.
That’s right, Trout is so talented and so obviously the best offensive player in baseball today, that he won the MVP during his worst year.
In fact, it could be argued that Trout probably should have won every MVP award in all seven (7) of his full seasons. He has never placed lower than fourth in MVP voting. This is because Trout is a complete baseball player.
With only 9 seasons under his belt, Trout is already tied for third in active WAR rating with 68.9. The players above him, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, and Albert Pujols are all likely hall of famers with a minimum of 15 years!
Manny Machado is the next player on the list who is Trout’s age or younger. Machado currently ranks 33rd amongst active players with a 34.5 career WAR. Trout is in the stratosphere when it comes to production.
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