The 10 Best Hitters in Major League Baseball Today

Shawn McFarlandContributor IIJune 21, 2011

The 10 Best Hitters in Major League Baseball Today

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    Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals
    Albert Pujols of the St. Louis CardinalsDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Statistics say the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball.

    These guys would beg to differ.

    Since the steroid era has come to an end (or so we think), home run numbers have gone down but the quality of hitters has not.  Just because baseballs aren't being hit 480 feet anymore doesn't mean there aren't any good hitters left in today's game.  Today, average and consistency are more the key.

    This list will rank the top 10 hitters in recent history.  Please note that none of the players on this list have been linked to any performance-enhancing drug.  With that, apologies go out to Alex Rodriguez, who otherwise would have certainly been on this list.

No. 10: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

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    Josh Hamilton
    Josh HamiltonChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .309

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .370

     

    Hamilton got to the big show a little late due to some personal problems, but in just four short years he found himself hoisting in the AL MVP trophy in 2010.

    In his two full, non-injury seasons, Hamilton has batted .304 (2008) and .359 (2010).  Both of those seasons saw him hit 32 homers and have at least 100 RBIs (130 in '10).  He also collected nearly 200 hits in each of those two seasons with 190 and 186 respectively.

    Hamilton does play the bandbox called The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, but the fact that he is a .309 lifetime hitter shows that he isn't all about the long ball.  Only 16.5 percent of Hamilton's hits have been home runs, compared to Albert Pujols' percentage of 21.5.

No. 9: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

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    Robinson Cano
    Robinson CanoAl Bello/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .308

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .346

     

    For the first half of 2010, it looked as if Cano was going to run away with the AL MVP and batting crown.  He had 14 homers and an average of .372 on June 17.  However, his average dropped over time and he finished fifth behind three other players on this list (Hamilton, Cabrera and Mauer).

    Since 2005, Cano has batted over .300 on four different occasions.  Within the last two years he has seen a spike in home runs (25 and 29) and RBIs (85 and 109).  It can be even more amazing when looking at it from the reverse angle.  He has never struck out more than 85 times in a season since becoming a major league player.

    Lefty-on-lefty matchups have always been viewed as difficult for the left-handed hitter.  Cano is one of the few that defy those odds, as he boasts a .299 lifetime average versus left-handed pitchers.

    Robinson currently has an eight-game hitting streak and his average is approaching .300 once again.

No. 8: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Ryan Braun
    Ryan BraunJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .307

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .368

     

    With the exception of 2008 in which he hit .285, Braun has exceeded .304 in each of his other five seasons in the bigs and has hit as high as .324 (2007).

    In three of his first four years, "The Hebrew Hammer" has hit over 30 homers and knocked in more than 100 RBIs.  He has also collected at least 146 hits in that same time period, including 203 in 2009.

    In 2007, Braun won the National League Rookie of the Year, the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year, the Baseball America Rookie of the Year, the Baseball Prospectus Internet Baseball NL Rookie of the Year and the Players Choice NL Most Outstanding Rookie Awards. Since 2001, the only other NL hitter to win all five awards was Albert Pujols.

No. 7: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners

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    Ichiro Suzuki
    Ichiro SuzukiDave Reginek/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .329

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .374

     

    What most people have to realize is that by the time Ichiro entered Major League Baseball in 2001, he was already 27 years old.  Although he may have lost some time as compared to some of the other players on this list, he has made the most of his "elder-statesmen" years.

    Ichiro has racked up 2,324 hits in his career and has picked up at least 206 hits a season.  No one else in the history of baseball can say that.

    On top of his hits totals, Ichiro has never hit below .303.  His most amazing season came in 2004 when he hit an outstanding .372 and had an on-base percentage of .414.  While Ichiro's average dropped as far as .252 this year, he currently has a eight-game hitting streak (seven multi-hit games) and has risen it to .277.

    Other notable stats include his lifetime average against left-handers (.339) and stolen bases (401).

    One other thing to keep in mind. Coming into this season, only 27 players in MLB history have a lifetime average of .330.  Two of them are still active: Ichiro and Pujols.

No. 6: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    Joey Votto
    Joey VottoStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .315

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .407

     

    The 2010 NL MVP has become one of the top three hitters in the National League in such a short period of time.  Votto was called up in 2007, but only played in 24 games.  It was in 2008 that he made a name for himself.

    Since 2008, Votto has seen an increase in homers, RBIs, average and on-base percentage.

    Year          HR          RBI          AVG          OBP

    2008          24            84          .297           .368

    2009          25            84          .322           .414

    2010          37           113         .324           .424

    This year Votto's average and on-base sit at .320 and .445 respectively, meaning that he has a great chance of improving on those numbers yet again.  The scary thing is that he is only 27 years old and plays in a batter-friendly park.

    Along with receiving the NL MVP trophy last season, Votto (born in Toronto, Canada) was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy representing Canada's athlete of the year.

No. 5: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox

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    Adrian Gonzalez
    Adrian GonzalezJim Rogash/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .289

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .371

     

    The lifetime averages may seem a little low compared to most of the players on the list, but there is no denying the quality of hitter that Gonzalez is.

    Gonzalez spent the last five years in San Diego, where PETCO Park is considered as one of the least hitter-friendly parks in the game today.  Still, at the age of 27, Gonzalez figured it out and posted some very nice numbers (.298/.393/31 HR/101 RBI) in 2010.

    Now in the prime of his career, Gonzalez is erupting in Fenway Park.  He currently leads the AL in hits (101), doubles (24), RBIs (64) and batting average (.348).

    Since 2006, Gonzalez has had at least 24 homers and 82 RBIs. Furthermore, he has had four years of at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs (once had 99).  The No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft has finally proven his worth.

    Having signed a seven-year contract through the year 2018, it looks as if Gonzalez will be posting some huge numbers for years to come.

No. 4: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

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    Joe Mauer
    Joe MauerNick Laham/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .326

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .406

     

    Though Mauer has been banged up as of late (perhaps a new "MLB The Show" curse), when healthy he is one of the best hitters in the game.

    Mauer has hit over .300 in five of his first seven seasons.  The two years he didn't hit over .300: .294 and .293.  Not too shabby.

    Each of the last three years he has had an on-base percentage of at least .402, which speaks to his ability to be patient.  In fact, his lifetime strikeout-to-walk ratio is 355:437.  Managers like it when their batters get on base by any means necessary.  Mauer does that.

    The reason Mauer is at No. 4 on the list is due to his lack of power.  While he did show signs of power in 2009 with 28 home runs, it was the first time he had hit more than 13 in a season.  The three players ahead of him all have the ability to change the game with one swing of the bat.

    Mauer won the AL MVP in 2009, becoming just the second catcher in 33 years to win the award.

No. 3: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Matt Holliday
    Matt HollidayJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .319

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .390

     

    Matt Holliday was a stud from the second he stepped in the batter's box. After hitting .290 his rookie season, he went on to hit over .300 for six of the next seven years.  And he wasn't just barely over .300.  He hit for averages of .326, .340, .321 and .353.  This year he is right in the middle of those numbers again with at .347.

    In the three years that he has played at least 155 games, Holliday has gone for over 28 homers and 103 RBIs.  Only three times has he struck out more than 100 times.

    His 2007 season was by far the best of his career. He led the NL in average (.340), RBIs (137), doubles (50), hits (216), total bases (386) and extra-base hits (92) and finished in the top six in 10 different offense categories.  Through it all he became only the fifth National League player in the last 59 years to lead the NL in both batting average and RBIs.

    Now batting behind the great Albert Pujols, Holliday should see a nice increase in his RBI numbers.

No. 2: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    Miguel Cabrera
    Miguel CabreraTasos Katopodis/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .314

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .391

     

    Cabrera has come a long way, both literally and physically, since his days of playing third base for the Florida Marlins.

    Cabrera was called up in 2003 and had an immediate impact.  He recorded 12 homers and 62 RBIs in just 87 games and helped the Marlins win the World Series.

    Other than his rookie year, Cabrera has hit under .300 only twice.  He hit .294 his sophomore season and later batted .292 in his first season in Detroit.  However, his .339 average in 2006 and .328 average last season have seemed to even things out.

    Cabrera has belted at least 30 dingers in six of his eight full seasons and has recorded over 100 RBIs every year since his rookie campaign.  Conversely, Cabrera has seen his strikeout rate drop each of the last three seasons.

    Like a fine wine, Cabrera only seems to get better with age.

No. 1: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Albert Pujols
    Albert PujolsJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Lifetime Batting Average: .329

    Lifetime On-Base Percentage: .422

     

    Before it is all said and done, Pujols may be remembered as one of the greatest hitters of all time—if not the greatest.

    Not much has to be said to defend the No. 1 spot for Pujols.  He is regarded by the majority of the baseball community as the hands-down best hitter in the game today and was named the greatest player of the decade by ESPN.com.  However, if one wants to see the evidence, here it is.

    Pujols has hit over .312, 32 homers and 103 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons in the major leagues.  At the end of the 2010 season, Pujols led all active players in average (.331), slugging (.624) and on-base percentage (.426).  His career strikeout-to-walk ratio is a staggering 671:946.  Sure there may be a lot of intentional walks in there, but that only speaks more to his reputation as a hitter.

    By the end of the 2009 season, Pujols already ranked in the top 15 in major league history in four different categories: on-base percentage (12th), slugging (fourth), on-base plus slugging (fourth), and adjusted slugging (T-sixth).  Adjusted slugging takes in consideration the ballpark and the league the player had played in.

    From 2001 to 2005, Pujols hit 201 home runs.  That ranks him second all-time for the most hit in a player's first five seasons. By 2009, he had reached the 350-homer plateau at the age of 29 and became the third-youngest to do so.  In turn, he surpassed Ralph Kiner's record for most home runs in a player's first nine seasons.  In the process, Pujols became the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in the first nine seasons of his career (he has since extended it to 10), as well the second player to have 100 or more RBIs in the same timespan.

    In his first 5,000 career at bats, Pujols hit 372 doubles, 358 home runs and 14 triples for a total of 744 extra-base hits.  That is the most in NL history.  He also is the second player in history to post nine consecutive seasons with 30 doubles, a .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 100-plus RBIs.  The other person?  Lou Gehrig.

    In about 20 years, people will start being compared to Pujols.  Unfortunately, we will have to be the ones to let them down since no one may ever be as quite as good as "The Machine."