In baseball history, there are those who are great due to clear hard work and toughness, and there are those who just seem so good naturally—their play style seems effortless.
What defines a player as smooth could be subjective, but there's no question that one knows it when he or she sees it. When you note a player's smooth swing or fielding, a few players that immediately pop into your head.
Here are the 50 smoothest baseball players in history, whether the smoothness encompassed the player's hitting, fielding or their entire game.
Those who are not Royals fans may not know this name, but the first Royals star was a well-rounded hitter with smooth base-running and fielding abilities. This led to five All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves for the center fielder.
It would only be natural for the player with the fourth highest batting average in league history to be a smooth hitter, and Lefty O'Doul certainly was that. His late arrival in the major league full time was certainly not due to a lack of smoothness in his hitting game.
Stan Musial is not generally regarded as a smooth player in sources of his time. Watching film of him combined with 3,630 hits certainly shows that there was some smoothness in his hitting game.
Bill Terry was another player that can reasonably be assumed to have a great element of smoothness in their bat, thanks to a .341 career batting average and great well-rounded play.
Slick Whitey Ford was a pitcher who simply refused to lose, and he was able to limit his losses thanks to both a smooth delivery and solid fielding. His whole pitching motion was just that: one smooth motion. It made his pitches look and work that much better.
Jim Piersall is more known for some of the other issues he had, including his battle with bipolar disorder. When he was starting out however, he had a very smooth swing and fielding style for the Boston Red Sox, and he looked like a star in the making based on that raw talent.
Jeter was an incredibly tough one to rate. On the one hand, his defensive is quite poor in spite of any gold gloves, and there are spots where his natural talent isn't there.
On the other hand, he has great mechanics and is likely the most fundamentally sound player today, which results in smooth hitting and base running—even if his defense is to be desired.
It may or may not be saying much, but Big Ed Delahanty is generally regarded as the smoothest player to play the game of baseball in the 19th century. He hit .346 and hit 101 home runs in an era that usually didn't have players hitting all that many.
Jim Kaat was known for two things: his longevity and his huge number of gold gloves. The 16 gold gloves alone tell me that Kaat was definitely one of the smoothest pitchers out there—at least with his fielding, if not with the pitching itself.
One of the greatest pitchers of all time, Lefty Grove had a smooth delivery and—perhaps more impressively—was able to win 300 games in a high-offense era and look good doing it, using his abilities to record a high number of strikeouts as well.
Completing the pitcher trifecta in this list is Rubs Foster, a player in the Negro and Cuban Leagues in the deadball era. He was regarded as one of the smoothest pitchers in those leagues, as well as one of the best, and was elected to the Hall of Fame as a result
The Yankees' second baseman during the late 1930s and 1940s was one of the smoothest defenders of his era. He was known for his great catches, and he had some smoothness to his hitting as well, which helped him finally make it into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Like Joe Gordon, Roberto Alomar was considered a smooth second baseman, and in his case he has the gold gloves to prove it. He also had smoothness in his hitting as well, batting .300 in his career and establishing himself as one of the best second basemen in history.
Robinson Cano is still reaching his peak, but he has shown that he definitely has one of the smoothest swings in the game already. If his defense can be refined to the point of Gordon or Alomar, then he can soar up this list.
The longtime first baseman of the Homestead Grays was not only a great hitter, but despite being a first baseman, he was regarded as one of the smoothest fielders in the Negro Leagues. He had a smooth swing to boot, which made him a huge figure in his time.
Johnny Mize was one of those rarities in baseball, as he was a first baseman known primarily for his fielding. Mize was considered a very smooth fielder and a great hitter as well—both of which helped him make it into the Hall of Fame.
There's no question that Bob Gibson was a dominant competitor, putting up great numbers due to his dominance and pitching in a great era. He also had a good eye for handling the ball, and he was a very smooth player as a result.
The longtime right fielder for the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees was, for the most part, a very smooth fielder and hitter. He had a couple mental lapses, such as the time he kicked a baseball back into the infield, but for the most part he seemed to have a great natural talent, especially in the batter's box.
Whether it was with the Expos, Rockies or Cardinals, Larry Walker showed that he was one of the smoothest hitters to play the game. Even when he wasn't in Coors Field, his hitting looked natural. His fielding may have been even better, as noted by seven gold gloves.
While Joe Mauer is a solid natural catcher, it's tough to say whether that will remain the case due to injuries. One thing is certain, however: he has one of the smoothest swings in the game today, and once healthy he could certainly win another batting title or two.
Despite the era that Jeff Bagwell primarily played in, he seemed to have one of the smoothest natural swings out there, and his batting stance may have actually helped it, whereas most unique stances take away from a player's smoothness big time.
After getting all his demons out of the way and establishing himself as a star in the league, Josh Hamilton showed us why he was drafted so high by the Rays to begin with. His playing style is incredibly smooth, and everything he does just seems to come naturally.
There was a reason many teams tried to pick up Shoeless Joe Jackson during the deadball era. He was a great all-around athlete and looked entirely natural on the field both with his hitting and his fielding, as evident by hitting .400 in more than one season.
If there's one modern infielder that definitely epitomized smoothness, it's Chipper Jones. He had a great natural swing, and by using it well he was able to lead his team to division title after division title. In fact, his swing may be a bit underrated, as seems to be the case with third basemen.
One of the greatest pitchers of all time, Alexander won 373 games over his 20-year career. He was able to do this by making his throws look and feel almost effortless. He had an extremely smooth throwing motion, and he did not seem to move the arm all that much when throwing a pitch.
Andruw Jones may have had a short peak, but during that peak, he was dominant. His defensive range was so great that it looked like he was barely trying.
He had a great swing to go along with smooth fielding, which may have been obscured since he was at his best at the height of the steroid era.
It's a bit tougher to note a pitcher with a smooth delivery, as most pitching motions are not that by their definition, hence why few make the list.
Some, such as lefty Warren Spahn, had smooth deliveries appearing effortless. One would expect a pretty smooth delivery from a pitcher who won 363 games and led the league in strikeouts four times.
There's no question that Ryan Braun is one of the best young talents in MLB right now, and much of this is due to his natural ability.
His swing has been acknowledged as one of the smoothest for an active player, and he is definitely one of the most fundamentally sound as well in all aspects of the game.
If there's one thing that Roberto Clemente was, it was smooth. He was a naturally gifted defensive player to begin with, and after a couple seasons in the bigs, he developed a great swing as well.
A .317 batting average, 3,000 hits, and multiple gold gloves definitely showed off the smoothness he had in all aspects of the game.
What I don't really understand is how B.J. Upton has been underachieving so much in his career thus far, because anyone who has watched him acknowledges him as a smooth, natural talent.
His swing has been compared to some of the best in history, and his mechanics are all great. His career numbers really should be better than they are, no matter what the reason for that may be.
As someone who was primarily a designated hitter in his career, Edgar Martinez's swing will naturally be looked at more closely then others.
Luckily for him, that swing is one of the purest in the game, and the natural beauty of it is what gave him a .312 average with 309 home runs in his career.
There are times where it seems as if Alex Rodriguez isn't quite living up to his contract as a Yankee. Whatever the case may be, it's not due to raw talent.
A-Rod has some of the best fundamentals in the game, as well as natural, smooth play. His defense has fallen off, which keeps him from being higher, but his hitting, base running and everything else is naturally great.
Throughout his career, primarily with the Angels and Cardinals, Jim Edmonds was known for his great defensive plays. In fact, it became routine to provide a great play that made your eyes pop.
Beyond that, though, he had all the tools down as a smooth baseball player in general. He was a great hitter who could really hit for power when he needed to, which went along with the great defense.
Maybe it's due to his dominance over the years, but Mariano Rivera's pitching style seems so smooth and effortless that it's no wonder he's been able to hold on this long.
Having a smooth delivery without much strain combined with that closer role has created a great situation in New York, as it's clear Rivera will be able to pitch even though he's already past 40.
How good Nomar Garcizparra would have been had he stayed healthy is one of the "what-ifs" of baseball, because there's no doubt that he had the talent to be great.
He had one of the smoothest natural swings ever, and it led to two batting titles early in his career as well as plenty of home runs and RBIs for the Boston Red Sox.
In the 2000s, Barry Bonds was a slugger who definitely seemed to be on steroids, hitting home runs at a ridiculous rate.
In the 1990s, Bonds was a smooth five-tool player who seemed to have all the natural tools to have a hall of fame career. He wasn't a bulky slugger but rather someone who could hit, run and field—and be great at all three.
After watching some film of Walter Johnson, I find it quite convincing that his pitching style is so smooth and graceful that it's doubtful he put all of his weight into his pitches.
In fact, that's probably how he kept control of his fastballs. I could only imagine how hard he would have thrown had he ignored the smoothness part of his game.
Aside from breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, Aaron also had a great batting average—well over 3,500 hits—and looked good doing it.
Yes, Aaron was not only smooth with the bat, but with his glove as well, winning three gold gloves and making his dominance in the major leagues look easy.
John Olerud may be one of the most underrated hitters of his era, since he only had one MVP-type year and wasn't on any World Series-winning teams aside from Toronto.
He was far from a flashy hitter, but he not only had one of the smoothest, purest swings in the game, but he was one of the best defensive first basemen out there.
If there's one player on the 1940s Cardinals who epitomized smooth play—even more so than Stan Musial—it was outfielder Enos Slaughter.
Slaughter was a career .300 hitter, and while he may be more known for his base running in some circles, it was his smooth contact swing that made him such a threat in the Cardinals' lineup.
The symbol of the Tigers and a player there for 22 seasons, Tigers fans got to see a very smooth player for a long time in Al Kaline.
Kaline had a great natural swing, reaching 3,000 hits in his career, but he was more known for his all-around smoothness; he was a great outfielder and baserunner to go along with smooth hitting, which could translate to both average and power.
The longtime Cub Billy Williams had one of the sweetest, smoothest swings in major league history. It's what led him to a Hall of Fame career and 2,711 hits.
Hit batting style, helped by quick wrists, helped him hit for average and power and gave him a swing still talked about with Cubs fans.
The first black to play in MLB was not only a great all-around player, but was one of the all-around smoothest ones in history. His talent and playing ability made what he did look effortless, and he definitely helped integrate baseball.
The greatest defensive third baseman of all time—and one of the greatest defensive players period of all time—would have to make the top 10 on this list. He made great plays frequently, but with his smooth play he made them look routine.
After all, he was named the human vacuum cleaner for a reason.
Ozzie Smith looked amazing during his time at shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. Great plays became routine, and if a ball got near him, the Wizard of Oz would deal with hit.
His base running was great as well. While his hitting was light, it was smooth and incredibly effective. All of it combined created one of baseball's greats.
You know you have an exceptionally smooth swing when Ted Williams singles you out and acknowledges it. Such is the case for Paul Molitor, the man with 3,319 career hits and a great, perfectly sound swing to boot.
While his fielding may not have been great to go along with it, his baserunning certainly was, notching 504 stolen bases with relatively few times being caught stealing.
There's a reason that Willie Mays is considered the best five-tool player of all time. His hitting, fielding, base running and everything else just works so effortlessly together that it's clear we watch a natural play when we see Mays.
He fails to crack the top three only because he's not discussed as smooth quite as much as the others past him.
Joe DiMaggio was, without question, one of the smoothest players to play the game. He had a lot of power in a very natural swing, and you don't hit safely in 56 straight games without having a great pure swing.
His fielding was smooth as well, though it was far from the great hitting he was known for.
If there's one player who seemed to have a perfectly sound swing technically, it's Ted Williams. Teddy Ballgame had a .344 career batting average thanks in part to having such a smooth swinging motion.
In fact, he was able to understand every other hitter's batting stances. He compared two others on the list to each other, Joe DiMaggio and Paul Molitor, and he probably forgot more about how to hit than most other ballplayers know.
Ken Griffey, Jr. had perhaps the purest baseball swing I've ever seen. It seemed effortless to him to mash home runs. Not only that, but he was a great fielder who made good plays look routine. He was a natural, plain and simple, and definitely deserving of the top spot.