Best Hitters of All Time

Every sport has its debate of who is the greatest whatever of all time.

Whether it’s best quarterback, point guard, goal scorer, etc., there will always be the debate. Mainly because just when you think you’ve seen the greatest whoever, someone else comes along that makes your jaw hit the ground just a tad bit harder.

Baseball is no different from the other sports, in this sense.

Pitching, for instance, you can argue that Nolan Ryan was better than Cy Young, and vice versus, and you could even throw Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux, due to his outstanding control, into the mix, as well.

Hitting, the hardest thing to do in sports, is open to a whole other debate.

Babe Ruth was undoubtedly the greatest hitter of all time until Henry “Hank” Aaron hit home runs No. 714 and 715, and the 39 home runs after that he hit until he retired with the unthinkable total of 755.

That’s when the debate truly started.

Sure Joe DiMaggio had the hit streak, Pete Rose has the hits record, and Ted Williams probably had the best mind for hitting the game has ever seen. He was a freak of nature. Williams could tell the difference in the width of the handle of the bat if it was off by a millimeter.

But the Babe was the Babe – the Sultan of Swat.

Insert “Hammerin’ Hank.” And the nearly 40 years of other great hitters after he called it a career.

A while ago, for fun one night, I put together the list of who I thought were the greatest five hitters of all time. However, I couldn’t help but feeling that just naming five guys was a bit disrespectful.

So I came up with a new list, three to be exact.

I listed off who I thought were the best contact hitters and power hitters, and then best overall hitters, of all time.

After debating with myself for a while, this is what I came up with:

Best Contact Hitters Best Power Hitters Best Hitters Overall
1.     Pete Rose 1.     Hank Aaron 1.     Pete Rose
2.     Ty Cobb 2.     Babe Ruth 2.     Hank Aaron
3.     Ted Williams 3.     Ken Griffey Jr. 3.     Ted Williams
4.     Hank Aaron 4.     Willie Mays 4.     Ken Griffey Jr.
5.     Joe DiMaggio 5.     Jim Thome 5.     Babe Ruth

One of the incredible things about this list, to me, is that it has two guys on it – Williams and DiMaggio – that missed three years each serving our country in World War II, and another guy – Griffey Jr. – that missed between 2-3 season in combined time on the DL due to injury.

Yet all three of these players had such outstanding careers.

I truly believe that if Griffey hadn’t sat out so much due to injury, he would’ve challenged Aaron and Bonds for most home runs all time. Griffey hit 630 home runs in his career; I think that had he been able to play in a majority of the games he missed, he would definitely be ahead of Ruth on the home run list.

Pete Rose the No. 1 contact and overall hitter because he holds the all-time hits record and has more 4+ hit games than any other player in Major League history. Cobb second for contact because he hit .400 or better three times in his career – tied for the most all time – and has the second-most hits ever. Williams is third in both contact and overall because he could dissect both his game, and that of the opposition, better than anyone else and used it to his advantage while at the plate.

Aaron is fourth for contact because he ranks third all-time in hits, among a multitude of other impressive statistics he put up over the years. Finally DiMaggio because he has the longest hit streak of all-time at 56 games, which is a record I don’t think will ever be broken.

Moving to power, Aaron is number one because, to me, he is still the record holder for most home runs hit in a career – not Bonds. Ruth second, because he is second on the home run list due in part to him hitting 45 or more home runs in a season nine times during his career. Mays ranks fourth on the home run list (third for me) and 12th all-time in hits. Thome makes my list of power hitters because he is the last completely clean member of the 600 HRs club.

Aaron ranks as the No. 2 overall hitter of all-time on my list because he did it all – hit for power, hit for contact and drove in the most runs in MLB history. Griffey is ranked so high, as I’ve mentioned, due in large part to what he did do, but also in part to what he could’ve done, in his career. Ruth ended what is known as the “Dead Ball Era,” among all the other things he did in his career, which is one of the reasons why he ranks as the fifth-best hitter of all time.

 

To get different opinions for the purpose of this post, I asked two of my friends to make lists of their own, same format as mine.

Here are their lists:

 

Cory Mutchler

Best Contact Hitters Best Power Hitters Best Hitters Overall
1.     Pete Rose 1.     Hank Aaron 1.     Hank Aaron
2.     Ty Cobb 2.     Babe Ruth 2.     Willie Mays
3.     Hank Aaron 3.     Ken Griffey Jr. 3.     Babe Ruth
4.     Mickey Mantle 4.     Willie Mays 4.     Ted Williams
5.     Carl Yastrzemski 5.     Jim Thome 5.     Mickey Mantle

 

Says Cory: Contact… This list is what their rankings would be if you went by the numbers and took out the cheaters until Mantle at 4 and Yastrzemski at 5. For Mantle, Stan Musial clearly has better numbers but Mantle is probably the best switch hitter of all time so he has to be on the list for contact hitters, and I have to include Yaz, so Musial gets booted. My reasons for Yaz: Only one less hit than Wagner (yes, I realize Yaz played three more seasons but still finished one hit short), and he is a Red Sox.

Power… I feel like the only thing I have to defend is Griffey over Mays, because, if you take out the cheaters everyone else falls in line with their rank. Basically, I saw Ken Griffey Jr. play. I didn’t see Mays play, and they are close enough in number of home runs for that to matter. Griffey is probably the best power hitter I have seen play that is not associated with steroids.

Overall…. Hank Aaron is the only player (non-cheater) in the Top 10 in both hits and home runs so he is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time). Willie Mays is better than Ruth. To be honest, Ruth is probably only ranked below Mays because he was a former-Red-Sox Yankee, which is the worst kind. Also, Mays has a lot more hits, and I value that over the 22 years that they each played more than the 54-more home runs Ruth has. Ted Williams belongs on the list because the man batted below .300 once in his career! So, even though he is not on either of the other lists, I would still take him early in an all-time fantasy draft. Mickey Mantle had three MVPs which could easily have been five had it not been for Roger Maris.

Matt Mullin

Best Contact Hitters Best Power Hitters Best Hitters Overall
1.     Pete Rose 1.     Hank Aaron 1.     Pete Rose
2.     Ted Williams 2.     Babe Ruth 2.     Ty Cobb
3.     Stan Musial 3.     Barry Bonds 3.     Ted Williams
4.     Hank Greenberg 4.     Ken Griffey Jr. 4.     Lou Gehrig
5.     Joe DiMaggio 5.     Willie Mays 5.     Babe Ruth

 

Says Matt: Contact… Rose is No. 1 because on base percentage is off the chart. Williams next because I think he’s the third best hitter of all time and the value he brought to the team. Greenberg because he’s very underrated in the world of baseball and he did everything for that team. DiMaggio fifth because his stats are ridiculous and those teams were fueled by him.

Power…. Aaron first because he is the actual holder of the home run record in my book. Ruth second on the list because he’s second behind Aaron in home runs. Bonds third because, even though he cheated, you have to recognize greatness. Griffey is fourth because he could’ve been the leader in HRs had he not been injured. Mays at No. 5 because he was a natural power hitter and is fourth in home runs.

Overall… Pete Rose is the greatest all around hitter because he is consistent and has the hits record. Williams is obviously one of the greatest hitters of all time. Williams, he says, may be a bit biased due to his favorite team being the Red Sox. Gehrig and Ruth because their average, runs batted in and on-base percentage are, “insane”

 

What’s a debate without reaching a conclusion, though? It doesn’t make sense for the three of us just to name some players and leave it at that.

There should be an answer to the question at hand – Who is the greatest hitter of all time?

To answer that question, I tallied up the results, and did some quick math to come up with a final list. Below, is the consensus picks if you combine the three of our lists:

Best Contact Hitters Best Power Hitters Best Hitters Overall
1.     Pete Rose 1.     Hank Aaron 1.     Pete Rose
2.     Ty Cobb 2.     Babe Ruth 2.     Hank Aaron
3.     Ted Williams 3.     Ken Griffey Jr. 3.     Ted Williams
4.     Hank Aaron 4.     Willie Mays 4.     Babe Ruth
5.     Stan Musial 5.     Barry Bonds 5.     2 tied (Willie Mays and Ty Cobb)

 

Obviously there were some great players that didn’t make our lists.

And that’s where you, the reader, can get involved. Make lists of your own and leave them in the comment section to keep the debate going.

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