It's that time of year again.
Baseball fans come out of hiding across the world as the sounds of bats and balls fill the Florida and Arizona sky. The hope of a winning season and the expectations of a long, sweet summer start to occupy all of our minds.
Yes, there is something poetic about pitchers and catchers reporting. But on this day, the focus is not about the actual tuneups for Opening Day. Instead the focus is on looking back, and trying to decide who is the best right-handed hitter of all-time.
There is a lot of debate about who should be included on this list. Would a pure power hitter make it over a singles hitter? What about those guys who had career averages around .270 but hit home runs? For this list I tried to find the best all-around hitters, those who could hit for power and average, although some hitters were hard to leave off the list.
So without further ado, here's the top 25 right-handed hitters of all-time.
One of the best hitters of our era and perhaps the best designated hitter of all-time.
He's somewhat forgotten because he played in Seattle and never had the best power numbers, but he was very consistent. Martinez had ten straight seasons of hitting .300 or better, including seven straight seasons from 1995-2001. Martinez is also in the top 50 all time in doubles, on-base percentage and OPS.
If any designated hitter makes the Hall of Fame, right now it would be him.
I was debating whether or not to put either Bagwell or Craig Biggio on this list, and while Biggio had the better numbers in terms of hits, doubles, etc., he also was in the top 15 in both at-bats and plate appearances.
Bagwell didn't reach 3,000 hits, but he was one of the more feared hitters in the game in his prime. He finished with 449 home runs and actually finished with a better average (.297) than Biggio while playing a couple of fewer years than Biggio.
Wilson's .303 batting average is pretty good, even considering he had a Sandy Koufax-esque arch where he struggled at the beginning and the end of his career.
Wilson only had five fantastic years in the majors, but during those five years he hit .331. During those same five years, he averaged 183 hits, 33 doubles, 35 home runs and 142 RBIs. He was one of the better offensive players in his time during that five-year span.
It's hard to compare players from before the 20th Century to now because the batting averages were somewhat inflated then. But even still, Anson's numbers are hard to ignore.
A .334 career average is still pretty good, especially when he hit .300 or better in each of the first 19 seasons of his career. The numbers are inflated because he didn't play too many games in those first few years, but a good hitter is still a good hitter regardless of the era.
For all the problems Ramirez has had with his teams in the past, he's still one of the most feared hitters in the game today and one of the most feared right-handed hitters of all time.
He and David Ortiz created a righty-lefty pair in the middle of the Red Sox order that gave opposing pitchers nightmares. And while his power prowess and that free and easy swing that made the baseball just explode off his bat is what people will remember him by, they probably won't think of him as a career .313 hitter with a .998 OPS.
Guerrero might be one of the most gifted ballplayers I've ever seen.
Never saw a pitch he didn't like, but also never saw a pitch he couldn't hit. He's known for having an abnormally wide strike zone, but he's also made a career of being able to use the whole field and having a great mix of both hitting for average and for power.
And in a completely unrelated subject, one of the best arms I've ever seen.
Considered one of the best players in Detroit Tigers history, Kaline put together a pretty nice career for himself.
One could make the argument Kaline is like Biggio in that he amassed 3,000 hits over a 19-year career, doing it with longevity rather than excellence. He's 23rd in both total at-bats and plate appearances, which is fewer than Biggio.
But Kaline's season averages (according to Baseball Reference) are higher in home runs, batting averages, on-base, slugging and OPS and only had two less hits (172) than Biggio. Therefore, Kaline's earned his place on this list.
Yount is another tricky case because his average, while pretty good (.285), is not great. He's only had five seasons of .300 batting averages, and his best year was 1982 when he had 22 home runs and 114 RBIs to win the AL MVP.
But Yount fits into one of those categories like a Cal Ripken or Ernie Banks where his offensive output was very abnormal for a shortstop at that time, which gave him a lot more credence for putting up those numbers at a usually defensive-based position.
If it wasn't for the admission of steroids, Rodriguez would be higher on this list. In a way, he's the right-handed Barry Bonds in that he had the tools to be a great player before he took steroids, but his career took off.
Entering 2011, an average season for Rodriguez is .303 with 43 home runs and 129 RBIs, which is pretty good considering all the flack he's gotten for his career. He's already near the top of the all-time list in RBIs, runs scored, slugging and OPS. If it wasn't tainted by steroids, those seasons in Texas would be legendary.
Like Kaline and Yount, Molitor compiled a good resume that might look a little better because of his long career. Add to the fact that Molitor was a DH who never had the outstanding power numbers (his career high in home runs is 22).
But he was also very consistent, averaging 200 hits per season. He was also a clutch hitter, as a big part of the back-to-back World Series victories for the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993. He wasn't the prettiest hitter, but ninth all-time in hits is still ninth all-time in hits.
Plus his .306 career batting average is nothing to sneeze at either.
One of the premier power hitters of his era, Robinson is somewhat underrated as an overall hitter.
Four times he hit .300 or better, including his Triple Crown season of 1966 when he hit .316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBIs. Robinson also had four seasons with an OPS better than 1.000, six seasons of .400 on-base percentage or better and 18 seasons of double-digits home runs.
In all, one of the best hitters people tend to forget about.
In 1957, his third season in the league, Clemente hit .253. After that, he never hit lower than .289 again.
That enough should tell you the outright skill and talent Clemente had. His .317 career average and 3,000 career hits don't begin to tell the story of how talented he was. Four times he led the National League in batting average including a career best .357 in 1967 (ironically he finished fifth in batting average in his MVP season of 1966).
Simply put, he was one of the most talented players the game had ever seen. And it was a shame he was taken from us so early.
He was a switch hitter, but Pete Rose is also the all-time hit king. His .303 career average is somewhat low for someone with as many hits as Rose, but he was never a power hitter.
He made his career as a tenacious slap-hitter who always played the game hard, and it was the same whether or not he was batting righty or lefty.
The Big Hurt, was one of the best power hitters in the game.
After 2000, his productivity dropped as did his average. But in his prime, Thomas was a great hitter for power and for average. He still kept a .301 career batting average, which is not bad. But it should tell you something that 1997 was the first year of his career Thomas hit less than .300, his ninth season in the league.
You probably didn't know Mantle was a career .334 hitter from the right side of the plate, nor that he felt he was a better hitter from the right side than the left.
What you probably know is that boyish smile, that Oklahoma drawl and that swing that made him one of the best switch-hitters of all time.
Heilmann is one of the lesser known Hall of Famers in history, but definitely well-deserving as one of the better right-handed hitters in history.
There are some who would argue Heilmann's career .342 average is inflated because of his era, but he's also won four batting titles, including a .403 season in 1923. For his average, Heilmann was also a run producer in his day; his 1,539 RBIs are 43rd all-time.
Not bad at all.
Over his 20-year career, Simmons was one of the better hitters in the game. He hit .300 or better in his first 11 seasons, and did so while being a power hitter and a run producer as well.
Simmons' is 23rd on the all-time list in batting average (.334), and is in the top 50 in hits, doubles, triples, RBIs and total bases. His later years weren't as productive as he was at the beginning of his career, but he was one fantastic hitter in his prime.
When only hitting .312 is considered an off-year, you know you're good.
Pujols has blended the unique mix of average and power in a game when many hitters are either one or the other and not both. He's hit .300 or better and at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in each of his ten seasons in the big leagues with no signs of slowing down.
Pujols had his worst year in terms of average last year, but made up for hit by hitting 47 home runs. If he should go into free agency next year, he might garner the biggest contract in the history of the sport.
DiMaggio was such a star during his time that I think we sometimes forget how good of a hitter he was. I mean the man had a song written about him and was married to Marilyn Monroe. At that time, it really didn't get much bigger.
A .325 career hitter and a three-time MVP who lost four years to World War II and played in an extremely pitcher-friendly ballpark, who knows how good his numbers could've been. A great hitter who is somewhat underrated as a power hitter and a run producer.
The man who's been forever immortalized as one of the most valuable baseball cards around wasn't a bad player in his day either.
He led the league in batting average eight times, and drove in 100 or more runs nine times. Wagner is in the top 10 all-time in hits, doubles and triples, and in the top 50 in career batting average. For his lack of home runs (as was the custom then), his RBI total is 22nd all-time.
He's more than a baseball card.
During a time when Babe Ruth and the Yankees dominated baseball, Foxx usually goes unnoticed when it comes to one of the best hitters of all-time.
But he also hit 50 homers twice, crushed 534 bombs in his career, won three MVP awards including 1933 when he also hit for the Triple Crown and finished with a .325 career average (same as DiMaggio). Foxx was one of a rare breed today of a power hitter who could hit for average.
In the eyes of many, he's still the all-time Home Run King.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about him (or to many the most detracting thing about him to his critics) is that Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a season. In fact, the 44 home runs and 130 RBIs in 1963 were both career highs.
Yet there's no doubting his place in baseball history. I guess for right now he'll have to settle for being the RBI King.
One of the best all-around players of all time.
The defense, which was Gold Glove caliber. The speed, which was fluid like a glass of water. And the bat, which made the rest of the league stop and stare.
His 660 home runs and .302 career average went with all the Gold Gloves, All-Star Game appearances and the the two MVP awards all combined to make Mays one of the best players of all time. Definitely worth the moniker "the Say Hey Kid."
Lajoie was another one of those players who played in the dead-ball era where 10 home runs led the league. In fact, Lajoie led the AL in home runs with 14 in 1901.
But he made up for it with his .338 career batting average (20th all-time), his 3,242 hits (13th all-time) and his 657 doubles (seventh all-time). One of the best hitters of his era and a guy who averaged 200+ hits a season during his career.
Despite what you might think of his personal life (and it definitely wasn't pretty), there was no doubting his talent.
Hornsby hit .300 or better an astounding 21 of his 23 seasons in baseball, averaging 210 hits, 22 home runs and 114 RBIs a season during his long career. A pure hitter in every sense of the word, he's still among the all-time leaders in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. His amazing .359 career average is second on the all-time list.