The Greatest Players: Total Offense #1 through #45
This post ranks the 45 greatest players in the history of baseball based on their offensive performance. Forty of the players are described in previous posts covering Total Player Ratings; here, here, here and here. Five players not mentioned in those posts are described in further detail below.
#44 (two players are tied)
Roger Connor 1B
Roger Connor was one of the best all-around players of the nineteenth century. He was a power-hitting first baseman who was a good fielder. An 18-year veteran, he played mostly with the New York Giants. His career batting average was .316, and he slugged a nineteenth century record 138 homeruns. Connor also led the League in fielding percentage for first basemen 4 times. He is a member of Cooperstown.
Ichiro Suzuki is one of the greatest right fielders in the history of baseball. He played 9 years for Japan’s Pacific League’s Orix Blue Wave, winning 7 batting titles in a row, and becoming the first ballplayer in Japan to get 200 hits in a single season. Once he joined the American League’s Seattle Mariners in 2001, he started a Major League-record streak of 10 straight years of 200 hits, including 2004′s 262 hits, breaking Hall Of Famer George Sisler’s 84-year old record of 257 hits in a season. His 10 straight years of over 200 hits broke Hall Of Famer Wee Willie Keeler’s record of 8 straight such years. Ichiro has been selected for 10 All-Star games, and has won 10 Gold Gloves in a row.
#37 (seven players are tied)
Moisés Alou LF
Moises Alou is one of the best hitting left fielders in the history of the game. He batted .303 and accumulated 332 home runs. He played mostly with the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants for 17 seasons. He was selected for 6 All-Star contests, and was known for the consistency of his offensive production. His peers called him a “professional hitter”. He was always in the top echelon of several offensive categories.
Ken Griffey, Jr. always dazzled the fans with his acrobatic catches in center field and his stylish power swings at the plate. He played 22 seasons for the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds (the team that had featured his father, Ken, Sr., as a star), slamming 630 home runs in the process. He was also a superb defender, garnering 10 Gold Gloves. He also won 7 Silver Slugger Awards, and was selected for 13 All-Star games. “Junior” also won 4 HR titles.
Michael “King” Kelly is tied for 3rd on our All-Time list of catchers. He played for 16 years, mostly for Chicago and Boston of the National League. He was an exciting offensive performer, and with his dashing good looks became a fan favorite. Kelly was known for his batting and his base running, often accompanied to exhortations from the fans, “Slide, Kelly! Slide!” He was the nineteenth century’s most popular player, and is in the Hall Of Fame.
Ralph Kiner 1B
Ralph Kiner was one of the great home run hitters in the history of baseball. He is a Hall Of Famer, and played 10 seasons for mostly the Pittsburgh Pirates as a left fielder and first baseman. From 1946 to 1955, he had a string of 7 consecutive home run crowns, and was on 6 All-Star teams. He also won 3 adjusted OPS titles. Kiner’s home runs were often of the tape measure variety, and if he had not severely injured his back, his career totals would be mind-boggling.
Duke Snider CF
Duke Snider was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ star center fielder during New York City’s baseball heyday. The Yankees had Mantle, the Giants had Mays, and the Dodgers had the Duke… all future Hall Of Fame center fielders. In his 18 year career, Snider was an 8-time All-Star, and slammed over 40 home runs for five consecutive years–two of them off Phillies’ ace Robin Roberts on September 22, 1957, the last homers ever hit at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. The Duke was also an outstanding defensive center fielder.
Turkey Stearnes was one of the All-Time great black ballplayers. In the Negro Leagues, he won 3 batting titles and 6 HR crowns, and played an excellent center field. In 1932, as a Chicago American Giant, Stearnes won the doubles, triples, homerun and steals crowns, a feat only matched in major league-level play by the incomparable Oscar Charleston. Stearnes is in the Hall Of Fame.
Cristóbal Torriente played in the Negro Leagues,and was one of the greatest ballplayers to ever come from Cuba. He mostly played center field, and could do it all–hit, hit for power, run the bases and field. In games against Major Leaguers, he excelled. They just couldn’t sign him because he was black. Torriente was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2006. He was also one of the first class of inductees of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
#32 (five players are tied)
Roberto Clemente, a Hall Of Famer, is generally regarded as the greatest right fielder in the history of baseball. He batted .317 for his career, and won the NL MVP Award in 1966. He played all his 18 years, from 1955 to 1972, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was selected for 15 All-Star contests. He was a 12-time Gold Glover, and his laser-beam throws from right field are still talked about. Clemente won 4 batting titles, and led the NL in outfield assists 5 times.
Todd Helton 1B
Todd Helton is one of the finest first basemen ever. Even when allowing for the fact that he has played mostly at Coors Field, his offensive stats are noteworthy. At the time of this publication, Helton has played 15 seasons, starting in 1997, with the Colorado Rockies, and has a career batting average of .323. He has won a batting title and 4 Silver Slugger crowns. He also has been an All-Star 5 times, and was awarded 3 Gold Gloves. Helton has led all NL first basemen in fielding percentage 4 times, and is 6th All-Time in the history of baseball.
Chipper Jones is one of the best switch-hitters of All-Time. He is baseball’s greatest offensive performer as a third baseman, having batted over .300 9 times. In 1999, he won the National League’s MVP Award. That same year, Jones set a record for the most home runs in a season by a National League switch hitter (45). That record has since been tied by Lance Berkman. His entire career has been with the Atlanta Braves. Chipper is a 7-time All-Star, and has won 2 Silver Slugger Awards.
Mike Piazza is one of the best hitting catchers to ever play the game. He played for 16 years, from 1992 through 2008, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets. His career average was .308, and he slammed 427 home runs. He also won 10 Silver Slugger Awards, and was selected for 12 All-Star games. He was not heavily scouted, and was the last player taken in the draft. Yet, his great work ethic made him into a star at the plate.
Frank Thomas 1B, DH
Frank Thomas was one of the most dangerous designated hitters in the history of baseball. He also played first base, and batted .301 for his 19 year career, mostly with the Chicago White Sox. He slugged 521 home runs, and won 2 consecutive MVP Awards. He played from 1990 to 2008, and won 4 Silver Slugger Awards, and was selected for 5 All-Star squads. He won 4 OPS crowns, and was a feared power hitter.
#27 (five players are tied)
“Cool Papa” Bell was a star center fielder in the Negro Leagues. He may have been the fastest base runner in the history of baseball. He once scored from first base on a sacrifice bunt. He also scored from second base on a sacrifice fly. He was an excellent bunter and contact hitter. Bell played a Gold Glove-level center field. He won a Triple Crown in the 1940 Mexican League. His .437 led the league by 73 points ahead of fellow Hall of Famer Martín Dihigo. This Hall Of Famer played for 25 years, mostly in the 1920s and 1930s.
Hugh Duffy OF
Hugh Duffy was one of the most productive hitters in baseball history. He averaged .326 for his career, including a .440 average in 1894. He played for several teams in the 1890s and early 20th century, mostly for Boston of the National League. He played the outfield, mostly center field, for 17 years. His combination of power and speed kept him near the top of offensive categories throughout his career. He is a member of the Hall Of Fame.
Bill Lange CF
Bill Lange, a center fielder, was one of the finest players of the nineteenth century. He played only 7 seasons, in the 1890s, for Chicago’s National League franchise, and batted .330. Lange was an amazing base stealer and a Gold Glove-level outfielder. He retired at the top of his game to his beloved San Francisco and became wealthy in business. His nephew, George “High Pockets” Kelly, is in the Hall Of Fame, and many say Lange belongs there, too.
Buck Leonard 1B
Buck Leonard was the backbone of the fabled Homestead Grays from 1934 to 1950, a record for continuous service with one team in the history of the Negro Leagues. He was a slick-fielding, clutch-hitting first baseman who played in a record 11 East-West All-Star games in the Negro Leagues. He was the long-time captain of the Grays, and a great field leader. His play was often compared defensively to George Sisler and his offensive prowess to Lou Gehrig. He is a member of the Hall Of Fame.
Johnny Mize 1B
Johnny Mize was a left-handed hitting first baseman who slugged his way into the Hall Of Fame with a power bat. Mize played 15 seasons, losing 3 years to his military service in WWII. He won 4 home run crowns, and won the NL batting title in 1939, recording .312 for his career average. He played mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals and both NY teams–the Giants and Yankees. He was selected for 10 All-Star games.
#23 (four players are tied)
Barry Bonds LF
Barry Bonds was one of the most talented and controversial players in baseball history. He starred at Arizona State, and with the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. His father, Bobby Bonds, was a star player, and Barry showed the talent to eclipse his father’s stats. He played left field, sometimes brilliantly, sometimes listlessly. He was a decent hitter and excellent base stealer. His amazing evolution into an offensive superstar has been plagued by evidence showing he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Therefore, his great offensive stats have been downgraded in most fans’ minds. Also, his propensity for a surly and confrontational disposition has not endeared him to the baseball community.
“Pop” Lloyd SS
“Pop” Lloyd was a star shortstop during the 1910′s and 1920′s for both black barnstorming teams and Negro League clubs. He is generally rated as the 2nd best shortstop in baseball history, next to Honus Wagner. He also played many games in Cuba, and the best scholarship on Lloyd’s career is that he batted around .340. He always did well when playing against Major Leaguers. Many thought that he was the best player that had ever played.
Honus Wagner SS
Honus Wagner, The Flying Dutchman, was considered the best all-around player of the first quarter of the 20th century. He played 21 seasons for the Louisville and Pittsburgh clubs of the National League, and won 8 batting titles. He was indeed a 5-tool player. He could do everything on a baseball field–and, do it better than the other players. Wagner batted .328 for his career, and won 8 OPS titles. This Hall Of Famer was also a Gold Glove-level defender.
Larry Walker RF
Larry Walker, a great right fielder, averaged a .313 batting average during his 17 years in the Major Leagues, mostly spent with the Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies. He won 3 batting titles and was selected to 5 All-Star squads. In 1997, Walker won the National League’s MVP Award. He was a marvelous defensive player, winning 7 Gold Glove crowns.
#20 (three players are tied)
Jeff Bagwell 1B
Jeff Bagwell, originally a fourth-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, was a power-hitting first baseman, who played 15 seasons for the Houston Astros. He became the first National Leaguer to finish first or second in batting average, home runs, RBI, and runs scored since Willie Mays in 1955. His career batting average was .297, and he slugged 449 home runs. He was selected for 4 All-Star games, and won the NL MVP in 1994. Bagwell also won a Gold Glove, and won 5 Silver Slugger Awards. He also led the NL in runs scored 3 times.
Frank Robinson, a left fielder, was a prolific hitter who earned election to the Hall Of Fame. He played 21 seasons, mostly for the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles, and slugged 586 home runs. He won 2 MVP Awards, one in the NL–one in the AL, and won the Triple Crown Award (AL) in 1966. He was selected an All-Star 14 times.
Sam Thompson RF
“Big” Sam Thompson was a slugging right fielder in the 1880s and 1890s, for National League franchises in Detroit and Philadelphia. He averaged .331 for his 15 year career, and won 3 slugging percentage crowns and a batting title. He was a feared clutch-hitter and won 3 RBI crowns. “Big” Sam was also an excellent right fielder with a cannon for a throwing arm. His career record of RBIs per 9-inning game has never been equaled (he knocked in runs at a rate of over .92/game!). He is in Cooperstown.
#18 (two players are tied)
Dan Brouthers 1B
Dan Brouthers started in baseball as a semi-pro pitcher, but came to the majors at age 21 primarily as a first baseman. He was one of the most feared sluggers of the nineteenth century. He played 19 seasons for several National League teams, especially Buffalo. He won 5 batting titles, and won 7 slugging percentage crowns. He posted a .349 career average as a left-handed hitter, and is a member of the Hall Of Fame.
Hank Greenberg, who mostly played first base, was a feared slugger who was an RBI machine. He played all but one year of thirteen with the Detroit Tigers. He was a career .313 hitter, and won 2 MVP Awards. He was a 4-time All-Star, and helped power the Tigers to 4 World Series’ appearances. Greenberg also won 4 RBI crowns. He served nearly 5 years in the military in WWII, and was known as a class act on and off the field.
#14 (four players are tied)
Oscar Charleston, a Hall Of Fame center fielder, also played LF, RF and 1B for 27 years in the Negro Leagues for a variety of teams. He is considered the best all-around player in the history of black baseball. He was a solid 4-tool player, though he did not have a rifle arm. But, he could hit, hit for power, run and field at levels that wowed all who saw him, including Major Leaguers. His combination of speed and power were unmatched, possibly in the entire history of baseball.
Ed Delahanty LF
Ed Delahanty was the most famous of five brothers who played Major League baseball. He was the first real “5-tool” player in baseball history, and was the first batter to hit over .400 in 3 seasons. He played 15 years, mostly for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1890s, and for a while, was part of an outfield that included fellow future Hall Of Famers Billy Hamilton and Sam Thompson. The greatest offensive outfield ever?! Delahanty hit .346 for his career.
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a left fielder, was one of baseball history’s greatest hitters. He played 13 years, mostly for the AL Cleveland franchise and the Chicago White Sox. His career batting average is .356, 3rd highest ever. He was also a fine defender. His career was cut short when he was banned for life from Major League baseball by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for his part in the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal. He did “take the money,” but had a spectacular World Series, all to no avail.
Tris Speaker CF
Tris Speaker, The Grey Eagle, is often described as the best defensive center fielder in the history of baseball. He played for 22 years, from 1907 through the 1920s, mostly with the American League franchises in Boston and Cleveland. He batted .345 for his career, and won the AL MVP Award in 1912. Speaker got 3,514 hits, and holds the Major League record for doubles with 792. He owns 7 titles for center field put-outs, and 6 titles for double plays for center fielders, and with all debate permitted, still doesn’t have an equal for center field defense.
#13 Stan Musial 1B
Stan “The Man” Musial played 1B and LF for the St. Louis Cardinals for 22 seasons in the 1940s and 1950s, and averaged a .331 batting mark along the way. Musial won 7 batting titles, and 3 NL MVP Awards. He was selected to play in 24 All-Star contests, and retired with the 4th highest career hit total in baseball history (3,630). He is a Hall Of Famer.
#11 (two players are tied)
Josh Gibson C
Josh Gibson is the greatest right-handed power hitter in baseball history. He won Negro League home run crowns for 10 straight years. One home run at Yankee Stadium was measured at about 580 feet. Gibson played as a catcher for nearly 20 years with the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays, in the 1930s and 1940s. He also won titles for batting average, doubles, runs, total bases, slugging percentage–every category but steals.
Rogers Hornsby, a second baseman, may not have had Gibson’s raw power, but as a right-handed hitter he had no equal. He played 23 seasons, mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, from 1915 to the 1930s, and batted .358 for his career. “The Rajah” won 2 Triple Crowns and 2 MVP Awards. He also batted over .400 3 times, and won 12 adjusted on-base-plus-slugging crowns. He also won 7 batting titles. In 1922, he batted .401, slugged 42 HRs and knocked in 152 runs, perhaps the greatest offensive year ever.
#9 (two players are tied)
Mickey Mantle CF
Mickey Mantle, another Hall Of Famer, was the center fielder for the New York Yankees, for 18 years, and hit 536 home runs, even though he played hurt for most of his career. His World Series play includes 18 HRs, a record, and an amazing total of 40 RBIs. “The Mick” won 3 MVP Awards, and 1 Triple Crown title (1956). He was selected to 20 All-Star contests, and was one of the biggest fan favorites in the history of baseball. Mantle also won 8 adjusted OPS titles, and was an excellent center fielder.
Willie Mays CF
Willie Mays, the “Say Hey Kid”, played center field, brilliantly, for mostly the New York/San Francisco Giants for 22 years, during the 1950s and 1960s. In his career, he crushed 660 home runs, and won 4 home run crowns. Mays’ engaging personality won legions of fans, as did his Hall Of Fame play. He won 2 MVPs, and was selected to an astounding 24 All-Star games. Mays garnered 12 Gold Gloves with his spectacular defense in center field He won 6 adjusted OPS crowns, and some have called him the greatest all-around ballplayer ever.
#6 (3 players are tied)
Hank Aaron RF
“Hammerin’ ” Hank Aaron, a right fielder, played 23 seasons, mostly with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves team of the National League. He played in the 1950s,1960s and 1970s, was a feared power hitter, and slammed 755 home runs for his career. Many consider him to be the only real record-holder. He also knocked in a record 2,297 RBIs, and obtained 3,771 hits, all astounding marks. In 1957 he won the NL MVP, and was known as a class act, on and off the field. This Hall Of Famer was selected for 25 All-Star games.
Ty Cobb CF
Ty Cobb, The Georgia Peach, was an electrifying performer on the baseball field, batting .366 for his 24 year career, mostly with the Detroit Tigers, from 1905 through the 1920s. This Hall Of Famer batted over .400 3 times, and won an astonishing 12 batting titles. He collected 4,189 hits, 2nd most of All-Time. In 1909, he won the AL Triple Crown, and in 1911, he was voted the MVP. He was also first in adjusted on-base-plus-slugging 11 times, and stole 897 bases in his career.
Billy Hamilton played mostly center field for 14 years with the Philadelphia and Boston franchises in the National League. He was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history with a career .344 average. He was one of the fastest and best base runners in the game with 914 stolen bases to his credit. For an average of 114 games a season, during the 1890s, his stolen base achievements became the stuff of legend.
#4 (two players are tied)
Joe DiMaggio CF
“Joltin’ ” Joe DiMaggio was a legendary center fielder for the fabled New York Yankees, where he won 9 World Series titles in 13 years. The Hall Of Famer batted .325 for his career, which spanned 1936 to 1951. The Yankee Clipper was an All-Star for all those 13 years, and won MVP Awards in 1939, 1941 and 1947. He was an amazing center fielder with a perfect “first step” toward the ball. His record 56-game hitting streak has been called the most difficult record to break in the entire history of baseball.
Jimmie Foxx 1B
Jimmie Foxx, “Double X”, was a power-hitting first baseman who played 20 seasons, mostly with the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox. He slugged 534 home runs, and won 4 home run crowns. He also won 2 batting titles, and 3 MVP Awards (1932,1933 and 1938). In 1933, he also claimed the Triple Crown. He was selected for 9 All-Star games, and batted .325 for his career. He is a member of Cooperstown.
#3 Lou Gehrig 1B
Lou Gehrig, The Iron Horse, was a legendary first baseman for the New York Yankees for 17 years in the 1920s and 1930s. He was the Captain of the Yankees, the most successful franchise in the history of baseball. This Hall Of Famer batted .340 for his career, and won MVP Awards in 1927 and 1936. In 1934, Gehrig also won the Triple Crown, and garnered 7 straight All-Star selections. He was a feared clutch-hitter and won 5 RBI crowns, including an AL record 184 in 1931.
#2 Ted Williams LF
Ted Williams, The Splendid Splinter, was a Hall Of Fame left fielder for 19 seasons during the 1940s and 1950s. He is widely acknowledged to be the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. He is the last player to bat .400 for a full season (,406 in 1941), and averaged .344 for his career. He won 6 batting titles, and 2 MVP Awards. In 1942 and 1947, Williams won Triple Crowns, the only 2-time winner in AL history. Williams also won a large number of offensive category titles, including 12 on-base crowns, in spite of spending nearly 5 years in military service as a U. S. Marine jet pilot.
#1 “Babe” Ruth RF
“Babe” Ruth is rated as the top player to ever play baseball. He played 22 seasons, 5 as a pitcher, and 17 as mostly a right fielder, for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. As a position player, Ruth blasted 714 home runs, batted .342, and set an entire Hall Of Fame section of records. He won the 1923 AL MVP, and won 13 OPS crowns, a Major League record. The “Babe” also led the AL in walks for 11 years, RBIs for 6 years, and home runs for 12 seasons. He also led the AL in extra base hits for 7 years. As a pitcher, he was one of the best, setting a consecutive scoreless innings streak for World Series play that lasted from 1918 til the 1960s (when Hall Of Famer Whitey Ford broke it). The “Babe” changed the game, and became wildly popular with young fans. He caused attendance to multiply, and built the game into what it has become.
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