The 10 Best Hitters In Major League Baseball

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Los Angeles Angels

Last week, a challenge was levied to by our editor-in-chief to me: Can you rank the 10 best hitters in baseball? Initially, I was a bit reluctant, because far too often, ranking the best hitters in the game can get equated to ranking the best players, which is not what this is (I’ll do that in a month or so).

No, great hitter is just that, simply the best with the bat. As much as it is about stats, awards and highlights that make big names, it’s also about the science and approach to owning Major League pitching — which is perhaps the most difficult thing to consistently do in all of sports. For an elite hitter, seeing a strikeout can be as awe-inspiring as a 400-foot home run, simply because the looming threat of the latter is constantly there every time he is approached with a pitch.

Picking through the masses of great ballplayers to select the best pure hitters isn’t a simple task, and there is a 100% chance that this will not be agreed with. Yet, in my equation, choosing a “pure hitter” is looking for a guy who can make a game-changing impact by hitting any pitch at any point in a count and changing the game in a way that his lineup mates are approached differently based simply on his upcoming presence.

Being an elite hitter is an art form. And these are the best applicators of the artistry today …


1. Miguel Cabrera: It’s not even a question of where this list starts. He’s won three straight batting titles and two consecutive American League MVP awards simply because he can rake. Miggy is on an historically great tear through the game right now, and if he manages another this summer, he’ll become the first player since Wade Boggs in 1985-88 to hold the crown for four summers straight.

Key Number: His three-year averages — .340 average/.427 on-base %, 39 home runs, 127 RBI, 38 doubles, 198 hits.

2. Robinson Cano: It doesn’t seem like he should be here, but I can’t see it any other way. Consistently excellent, and he hits the ball like a man who has no business playing second base. There are no holes in his cut, which produces a consistency only Cabrera can claim for himself. In the past five years, only once has he hit less than 25 home runs, finished with less than 90 RBI or less than 190 hits in a season — and never in the same year.

Key Number: He averages 44 doubles a season for his career and has reached 40 five straight years.

3. Mike Trout: He is preparing for only his second full season, but in his first two seasons, he's simply dominated a game in more ways than anybody else. In year two, his home runs “dipped” from 30 to 27, but he hit 12 more doubles and an extra triple to compensate. Overall, he has 372 hits since 2012 and a .324 average to boot it all with.

Key Number: He reaches base and makes it count. He’s scored 258 runs in his first 336 games.

4. Joey Votto: The best line-drive hitter in baseball. He owns the gaps and reaches base with more regularity than anybody in the game. He has only hit under .300 once, when he came up three points short as a rookie. Since then he has led the National League in on-base percentage for the last four years, including a ridiculous .474 mark in 2012.

Key Number: He once went a full season without hitting a pop fly out.

5. Chris Davis: Usually, it is not a good idea to jump to conclusions after one massive season, but Davis had the type of season that creates understandable exceptions. He made a few minor adjustments in his swing and created a mighty uppercut that made him the game’s premier power hitter — and producer of 53 home runs a summer ago.

Key Number: Davis joined Babe Ruth and Albert Belle as the only players to hit 40 doubles and 50 homers in a season.

6. David Ortiz: All he does is hit, but he does it with such an exquisite focus and discipline that it is truly a joy to watch. It’s his attention to details that lets him command the strike zone more than most pitchers do, and his eye allows him to square up pitches seemingly at will. That is the key to his consistency: He has topped 20 home runs for 12 straight years, while hitting over .300 six times over that span.

Key Number: He is the all-time RBI leader for designated hitters.

7. Joe Mauer: The retiring catcher/first baseman-to-be is a three-time batting champ and the active leader for career batting average with a .323 lifetime mark. His post-30-year-old career that is about to take off at his new position could see a return of the power swing that won him the 2009 MVP as well.

Key Number: He is one of two catchers ever to have a career on-base percentage of over .400.

8. Ryan Braun: Take the criticisms for what they are, but the man can hit. And until he shows up to the park and makes it clear it was the drugs and not him doing the real heavy lifting, I’m taking the on-field proof as provided. Throwing out the obviously abbreviated 2013 year, he owns four consecutive years over 185 hits, 30 doubles, 100 RBI and a .300 average. He owns the strike zone both high and away, while having the bat speed to turn anything around on his hands.

Key Number: He reached 200 home runs and 1,000 hits in six seasons.

9. Prince Fielder: A couple things: The down year is overstated, and he’s not in a “slide.” What he remains is perhaps the best pure power hitter in the game, with eight straight years of 25 homers or better. He won’t turn 30 until mid-summer and will hit his 300th long ball this summer.

Key Number: He has driven in 100 runs six of the last seven years.

10. Paul Goldschmidt: One thing about him that stands out the most: When he makes contact, it sounds different. Every time. The Diamondbacks' hammer had a breakout season a year ago and hits the ball harder, more consistently, than most players do with their best hits of the season. He hit seven less doubles (43 to 36) in 2013, while hitting 16 more home runs, to bump his total to an NL-best 36.

Key Number: He led the National League in seven offensive categories last summer.

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