Best Hitters Ever: Nos. 7-10
The following is the ninth part of an 11-part series chronicling the Top-50 hitters of all-time.
10. Jimmie Foxx, 1B, Philadelphia A’s/Boston Red Sox/Chicago Cubs/Philadelphia Phillies (1925-1945)
During his MLB career, mostly with the Philadelphia A’s and Boston Red Sox, Jimmie Foxx was truly one of the great hitters to ever play the game.
With a career wOBA of .434 (4th all-time) and a career OPS+ of 163 (11th all-time), there’s no doubting how great of a hitter Foxx was during his career.
In terms of power hitting, Foxx was one of the best ever, with a career SLG of .609 (5th all-time, .187 above the league average) and was the 2nd-quickest player ever to 500 home runs, accomplishing this feat at a younger age than only Alex Rodriguez.
Foxx’s on-base prowess was also one of his strengths, as his .428 career OBP ranks 11th all-time. However, this may have been somewhat aided by the era in which he played, since it was .066 above the league average during his career. It is still an impressive number, but makes him less comparable to the all-time greats.
Overall, it’s hard to doubt Foxx’s hitting ability in his 9,670 career plate appearances. His 1.037 OPS ranks 6th all-time, and was .253 above the league average.
The high OBP of his era, however, prevents him from moving into elite territory on the list, but his great numbers in every other category are enough to place him in the cherished top-10.
9. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals (2001-present)
Here it is—the active player who always ends up somewhere near the bottom end of the Top-10 in any list of the top hitters.
In his short major league career, Albert Pujols certainly deserves to be put in a league among the all-time greats of the game.
Pujols’ 170 career OPS+ is tied for 7th all-time, while his .431 career wOBA ranks 5th all-time.
Meanwhile, Pujols’ 1.049 career OPS (5th all-time) is .278 higher than the league average during his career, with a career .425 OBP (13th all-time) that is .086 above the league average and .624 SLG (4th all-time) that is .193 above the league average.
During an era where most of the league’s power hitters are also known for their strikeouts, Pujols has 502 strikeouts in his career, compared to 685 walks. During recent times, only Pujols and Barry Bonds can pride themselves on their numbers of walks-per-strikeout in addition to their power numbers.
With 315 career home runs in 8 seasons, Pujols could very well be on his way to the all-time home runs record.
The scary thing about Pujols is that we may not have seen the best of him yet.
He is currently entering the prime for most hitters’ careers, and his having arguably his best season ever at 28-years-old, with an OPS+ of 191 and a park-adjusted wOBA of .445.
He has also been playing the entire year with an elbow injury that will need surgery after the season. After that is fixed, Pujols’ performance may escalate even more and cement his spot as one of the top-5 hitters ever.
8. Josh Gibson, C, Pittsburgh Crawfords/Homestead Grays (1927-1946)
Josh Gibson never got the opportunity to play in the major leagues because of his race, but he did everything he could to put himself among the top hitters ever during his career in the Negro Leagues.
While playing catcher, the most grueling position to a player’s body in all of baseball, Gibson put up unprecedented power numbers in the Negro Leagues, as his Hall of Fame plaque states that he hit “almost” 800 home runs.
Recent research has credited Gibson with a rate of a home run every 15.9 at-bats in “official” Negro League games, comparable to some of the all-time greats of the major leagues.
Gibson’s career batting average has been estimated as being at least .350, and as high as .384 in official Negro League games.
During two seasons in the 1930s, Gibson reportedly hit above .400, and had a slugging percentage above 1.000.
Gibson’s stats vary by source, but they are all amazing.
According to the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, in Negro League games, Gibson had a batting average of .362 with 607 hits (146 of them home runs and 270 of them for extra bases) in 501 games.
In ‘Shades of Glory’ by Dr. Lawrence Hogan, his official statistics are a .359 batting average with 115 home runs in 510 games.
Although the stats vary and were not available and he never played in the Major Leagues, Gibson was truly one of the great hitters ever. If he had played in the Major Leagues, we may be talking Gibson’s all-time home run record—not Bonds’ or Aaron’s.
7. Mickey Mantle, CF, New York Yankees (1951-1968)
Mickey Mantle, who famously wore the number seven, comes in seventh in the list of top hitters ever.
At first, Mantle’s credentials are great, but not in the territory of the all-time greats. He had a career OBP of .421 (19th all-time), a career SLG of .557 (23rd all-time), and a career OPS of .977 (13th all-time).
However, a closer look into the numbers and compensating for the era in which he played greatly increases Mantle’s credentials and makes him, in my eyes, an all-time great.
Mantle’s career OPS+ of 172 ranks 6th all-time, while he led the league in that category nine times during his career.
Also, his career wOBA of .418 ranks 7th all-time.
Mantle’s career OPS of .978 was .263 above the league average during his career, while his .421 OBP was .092 above the league average and his career SLG of .557 was .171 above the league average.
In 9,909 plate appearances, Mantle also had 536 home runs, which ranks 15th all-time.
Using traditional statistics, Mantle is thought of as one of the good but not great hitters of all-time. However, a closer look into the numbers and factoring the era in which he played makes him one of the great hitters to ever play the game.
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