Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ranking Baseball's Best Sluggers

Ruth towered over his era unlike any player before or since 
I meant to write this when Ralph Kiner passed away in February but am only just now getting around to it. A quick note: because slugging percentages are often inflated by batting average, I tried to give more weight to Isolated Power and AB/HR Ratio.

1 Babe Ruth 714 HR .690 SLG .348 Iso 11.76 AB/HR
It blows my mind that the Babe nearly slugged .700 for his career. He won 12 of his league's 14 home run titles from 1918 to 1931 and led the league in slugging every year in that timeframe except one (1925--when he slugged .543 and did not have enough at-bats to qualify).  From 1919 through 1932 he averaged 45 home runs per year and slugged .726. Ruth had 11 seasons with at least 40 home runs (a record) including seven straight from 1926-'32 (also a record). He also routinely outhomered entire teams by himself and ushered in the era of the modern slugger.

2. Barry Bonds 762 HR .607 SLG .309 Iso 12.92 AB/HR
The all-time and single season home run champ was also one of the game's most efficient sluggers. When he belted 73 home runs in 2001 he went yard once every 6.52 at-bats, the fastest pace of all-time. Bobby Bonds' son also holds the single season mark for slugging percentage--.863--also set in 2001. He had eight 40 homer seasons, 14 30 homer seasons (including a record 13 in a row from 1992 to 2004) and 19 20 homer seasons.

3. Mark McGwire 588 HR .588 SLG .325 Iso 10.6 AB/HR
Nobody in baseball history homered at a higher frequency than McGwire, who also owns the second best Isolated Power mark of all-time. Big Mac s one of just two players to hit 70 home runs in a single season and one of three to top 50 in four different seasons. He also owns three of the four best single season HR/AB ratios.

4. Hank Aaron 755 HR .557 SLG .250 Iso 16.38 AB/HR
With just one season with more than 44 home runs, Aaron wasn't the most dominant slugger who ever lived: he just did it longer than anyone else. He hit at least 20 home runs for 20 straight seasons, topping 40 eight times and 30 15 times. That's why he has the most total bases by a long shot and more home runs than anyone not named Barry Bonds.

5 Jim Thome 612 HR .554 SLG .278 Iso 13.76 AB/HR
Though often overshadowed by the likes of Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey Jr., Thome was one of the best sluggers of the last half century. He topped 20 homers 16 times, reaching 30 a dozen times and 40 half a dozen. Incredibly, Thome received only one Silver Slugger in his 22 year-career--as Cleveland's third baseman in 1996.

6. Lou Gehrig 493 HR .632 SLG .292 Iso 16.23 AB/HR
Larrupin' Lou's home run totals were often outdone by his teammate Ruth, though he did hit almost 500 in what amounted to be 14 full seasons and reached 49 in a season twice. Gehrig's gap power was phenomenal, helping him eclipse 300 total bases every year from 1926 to 1938 and surpass 400 in five of those seasons (a record). In all, the Iron Horse racked up almost 1,200 extra base hits over the course of his career.

7. Jimmie Foxx 534 HR .609 SLG .284 Iso 15.23 AB/HR
Few baseball players have ever hit the ball harder than Foxx, who hit at least 30 home runs every year from 1929 through 1940, averaging 40 per season and slugging .644 during that time. He very nearly broke Ruth's single season home run record in 1932 but finished at 58--still the record by an American League right-handed hitter.

8. Ted Williams 521 HR .634 SLG .289 Iso 14.79 AB/HR
Williams won four home run crowns and nine slugging titles, topping .700 in three separate seasons. He was also the total base champ six times. And while he only topped 40 home runs once (with 43 in 1949), he slammed at least 20 16 times in his 19 year career.

9 Ralph Kiner 369 HR .548 SLG .269 Iso 14.11 AB/HR
Kiner led his league in home runs seven straight years--something not even Ruth accomplished. Even more impressively, Kiner did so in the first seven years of his career. He hit at least 40 dingers in five consecutive seasons from 1947 through 1951, topping 50 twice and slugging .609 over that stretch.

10. Hank Greenberg 331 HR .605 SLG .292 Iso 15.69 AB/HR
The original Hammerin' Hank played only nine full seasons but led his league in home runs in four of them with a high of 58 in 1938. He and Foxx are the only righthanded batters to slug better than .600 for their careers.

Honorable Mention: Sammy Sosa, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Manny Ramirez, Willie Mays

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