The Top-50 Hitters Ever: Nos. 36-40

Ryan WilliamsCorrespondent IAugust 25, 2008

The following is the third part of an 11-part series chronicling the Top-50 hitters of all-time.

40. Ralph Kiner, LF, Pittsburgh Pirates/Chicago Cubs/Cleveland Indians (1946-1955)

Despite his short 10-year career, Ralph Kiner was one of the top hitters during the league when he played.

Kiner put up impressive numbers during his career, with his career OPS+ of 149 ranking 35th all-time, and a career wOBA of .379.

Most importantly, Kiner was a dominant power hitter while he was in the league.  He led the National League in home runs for seven straight years, from 1946 to 1952.  He has 369 career home runs in 6,256 career plate appearances.

During his career, Kiner had an OPS of .946, .191 above the league average.

Still, the fact that Kiner ended his career at age 32 and never experienced a regression phase near the end of his career hurts his case to be higher on the list.

39. Todd Helton, 1B, Colorado Rockies (1997-present)

Though he is constantly overlooked as one of the top hitters of the current era, Todd Helton has quietly put up numbers that are comparable to All-Time greats.

Currently in his 12th MLB season, Helton has a career wOBA of .420, which is higher than any active player other than Albert Pujols.

His career .428 OBP is .065 higher than the league average during his career, while ranking 10th all-time.

With these numbers, Helton has to be considered among the top hitters of his generation.  However, there are two things holding him back from that status at the moment.

First of all, Helton is 34-years-old at the moment, and his numbers are already beginning to regress this season.

Also, and more importantly, Helton has played half of the game in his career at Coors Field, which is widely known as helping to inflate offensive stats.

Looking at park-adjusted stats, Helton’s case as an all-time great gets grimmer.  He has a career OPS+ of 141, 66th all-time.  Also, his career-high OPS+ is 165, impressive, but not enough to put him at legendary status.

Still, with a career wOBA of .420, even with Coors in the equation, it’s hard to leave Helton off of this list.

38. Willie McCovey, 1B, San Francisco Giants/San Diego Padres/Oakland A’s (1959-1980)

Willie McCovey was one of the top power hitters of the 1960s and 70s, and his great power influenced the unofficial nickname “McCovey Cove” for the area of the San Francisco Bay beyond the right field fence at AT&T Park.

His 521 career home runs helped him to amass a career OPS of .889, .174 above the league average during his career.

During the prime of his career, McCovey led the league in OPS+ for three straight years, with marks of 174, 209, and 181 from 1968-1970.

He also ranks 43rd all-time in OPS+ with a career mark of 147, and has a career wOBA of .373, despite playing half of his career in a non-offensive time period.

McCovey’s major weakness when compared to other all-time greats is, like many players of his era, the ability to get on-base.  Still, he had a career mark of .374, .047 ahead of the league average, which was good enough to not hinder his great power numbers.

37. Nap Lajoie, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies/Philadelphia Athletics/Cleveland Naps (1896-1916)

During the dead-ball era, Nap Lajoie was one of the most feared hitters in the game.

Lajoie career OPS of .847 was .171 above the league average during the time period in which he played.  His career OPS+ of 150 is ranked 32nd all-time.

During a time in which home runs were a rarity, Lajoie had 657 doubles, 163 triples, and 83 home runs during his career.  His .467 career SLG was .120 above the league average.

In his best season, 1904, Lajoie had an OPS+ of 205, leading the league in OBP (.413) and SLG (.552).

As these stats prove, Lajoie was constantly among the most dominant hitters in the game during his era.  While his .369 career wOBA would not be considered on a high level in today’s game, it was comparable only to that of all-time greats in the power-deprived dead-ball era.

36. Charlie Keller, OF, New York Yankees/Detroit Tigers (1939-1952)

When the average baseball fan is asked to name the best players in New York Yankees’ history, the name Charlie Keller rarely comes up.

However, Keller’s numbers are comparable with some of the legends of baseball’s most storied franchise.

Nicknamed “King Kong Keller” because of his strength, his career OPS+ of 152 ranks 28th all-time.  Also, his career wOBA of .399 is comparable with some of the greatest players of all-time.

Keller’s career OBP of .410 was .065 ahead of the league average, while his .928 career OPS was an astonishing 194 points above the league average during his career.

During his best season, 1943, Keller led the league in OPS+ (168), yet finished 13th in MVP voting—a great summary of how unappreciated he was as a hitter.

Longevity, however, was Keller’s main problem.  He played his last full season when he was 29, with numerous partial seasons due to the war and injuries after that until he retired 2 games into the 1942 season at 35-years-old.

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