Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ranking Righthanded Hitters

More than 75 years after his last at-bat, Hornsby is still the best righty
With another incredible season under his belt, American League MVP Miguel Cabrera is making a case as one of the best righthanded hitters of all time. But there have been many great players that batted from the right side, so as of now he doesn't even crack the top 10. In my opinion, these are the best righthanded hitters to debut after 1900. That disqualifies Honus Wagner and Nap Lajoie right off the bat, though frankly I'm not sure they would have made the final cut anyways.

For statistical comparisons I used Adjusted OPS,  scaled Runs per Plate Appearance, True Average and weighted On-Base Average to help account for parks and different scoring levels.

1. Rogers Hornsby 175 OPS+ 173 wRC+ .459 wOBA 860 Rbat
Rajah won six consecutive sabermetric Triple Crowns (seven overall), two traditional Triple Crowns, two MVP awards, and led the league in OPS+ a dozen times. The .358 career hitter also eclipsed a .400 batting average three times and batted .382/.460/.637 during the Roaring Twenties.

2. Hank Aaron 155 OPS+ 153 WRC+ .335 TAv .403 wOBA 870 Rbat
The all-time leader in RBI (2,297), total bases (6,856) and extra base hits (1,477), Hammerin' Hank is best remembered for breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record in 1974. Though Barry Bonds has since passed him, Aaron's 755 career dingers are still the most ever by a righty. His combination of consistency and longevity--20 straight seasons with at least 20 homers and and OPS+ over 100 in all but one of his 23 seasons--is unmatched for a power hitter.

3. Jimmie Foxx 163 OPS+ 158 wRC+ .460 wOBA 758 Rbat
One of the most feared hitters of all-time, Foxx led the American League in walks seven times. From 1929-1940, Foxx reached 30 home runs and 100 RBI each year while batting an aggregate .334/.440/.644. He also won three MVPs and a Triple Crown in a career with 534 home runs.

4. Willie Mays 156 OPS+ 154 wRC+ .339 TAv .409 wOBA 805 Rbat
Probably the best all-around player to ever grace the diamond, Mays slammed 660 homers in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He also won five league OPS titles, five slugging titles and four home run championships.

5. Albert Pujols 165 OPS+ 161 wRC+ .337 TAv .420 wOBA 663 Rbat
Through his first ten seasons, Pujols cemented his reputation as one of the best hitters in baseball history by winning three MVP awards (would have been more if not for Barry Bonds) and averaging 41 homers, 123 RBI, 43 doubles and 119 runs scored per season. His career OPS after the 2010 season was 1.050. Though his career appears to be in a state of decline, he's already done more than enough to bank a first-ballot Hall of Fame induction.

6. Frank Thomas 156 OPS+ 154 wRC+ .331 TAv .416 wOBA 688 Rbat
Few players have started their careers better than Thomas, who batted .330/.452/.600 through his first eight seasons and won back-to-back MVP awards, becoming the league's first righthanded hitter to do so in over 60 years. The Big Hurt finished his career with rate stats nearly identical to Mickey Mantle's and 521 home runs, same as Ted Williams and Willie McCovey.

7. Manny Ramirez 154 OPS+ 153 wRC+ .326 TAv .418 wOBA 649 Rbat
Ramirez loafed on defense and never ran out anything, which explains how he never won an MVP award (or even finish second), but his intense focus in the batter's box was unquestioned. For his career he batted .312/.411/.585 with 555 home runs and 547 doubles. ManRam was also an RBI machine, topping the century mark 12 times and driving in as many as 165 in 1999.

8. Frank Robinson 154 OPS+ 153 wRC+ .332 TAv .404 wOBA 726 Rbat
Another candidate for most feared hitter to ever step up to the plate, Robinson led the majors in intentional walks four straight years. He is the only player to win an MVP award in both leagues, winning in 1961 with the Reds and 1966 with the Orioles after winning both the conventional and sabermetric Triple Crowns.

9. Mark McGwire 163 OPS+ 157 wRC+ .333 TAv .415 wOBA 544 Rbat
Big Mac was a feast or famine type hitter, especially early on his career (.250 career average through age 30), but walked a ton and so his career OBP of .394 is actually very good. More importantly, he cranked 583 home runs and owns the best AB/HR ratio of all-time.

10. Tie Hank Greenberg 158 OPS+ 154 wRC+ .453 wOBA 433 Rbat and Joe DiMaggio 155 OPS+ 152 wRC+ .439 wOBA 529 Rbat
Due to injuries, World War II and somewhat early retirements (both called it quits after their age 36 seasons), their careers lasted just 13 seasons. But both men accomplished a great deal in that short time and were overwhelmingly dominant when they did play. Greenberg batted .313/.412/.605 for his career, winning four home run championships, four RBI titles and two MVP awards in the process. He narrowly missed breaking Lou Gehrig's league RBI record and Babe Ruth's single season home run record in successive seasons. DiMaggio's numbers were hurt by Yankee Stadium, but Death Valley didn't stop him from winning back-to-back batting titles and three MVP awards, or from making the All-Star team every year. It also didn't stop him from getting a hit in 56 consecutive games in 1941.

Honorable Mention (in no particular order)
Dick Allen 156 OPS+ 155 wRC+ .330 TAv .400 wOBA
Harry Heilmann 148 OPS+ 144 wRC+ .427 wOBA
Mike Schmidt 147 OPS+ 147 wRC+ .317 TAv .395 wOBA
Gary Sheffield 140 OPS+ 141 wRC+ .314 TAv .391 wOBA
Edgar Martinez 147 OPS+ 147 wRC+ .320 TAv .405 wOBA
Alex Rodriguez 143 OPS+ 143 wRC+ .314 TAv .400 wOBA
Harmon Killebrew 143 OPS+ 142 wRC+ .318 TAv .389 wOBA
Jeff Bagwell 149 OPS+ 149 wRC+ .321 TAv .405 wOBA
Mike Piazza 143 OPS+ 140 wRC+ .314 TAv.390 wOBA
Albert Belle 144 OPS+ 139 wRC+ .310 TAv .396 wOBA
Frank Howard 142 OPS+ 140 wRC+ .313 TAv .374 wOBA
Ralph Kiner 149 OPS+ 147 WRC+ .427 wOBA
Hack Wilson 144 OPS+ 143 wRC+ .421 wOBA
Vladimir Guerrero 140 OPS+ 136 wRC+ .309 TAv .390 wOBA

Maybe someday...
Miguel Cabrera 154 OPS+ 152 wRC+ .324 TAv .407 wOBA
Ryan Braun 146 OPS+ 148 wRC+ .315 TAv 400 wOBA
Mike Trout 166 OPS+ 163 wRC+ .350 TAv .405 wOBA


  1. Not bad! Unspoken & useful for the formula would be credit for longevity, & peak value. Also, if "greatest" is meant to mean on a theoretical Field of Dreams, should things not be gradually weighted to give more credit to more recent players? Stephen Jay Gould showed how outliar performances ha
    ve gotten less common, & almost surely it is due to the average player getting better & more athletic, like no-hit middle infielders getting squeezed out. Bill James gave this credit in assessing his best of all time list

  2. Ya I gave more credit to guys with longer careers which is why McGwire ranks ninth despite his very high rate stats. I also tried to favor modern players where possible but also recognize how tough it was for hitters during the 60s and 70s