Do stats alone determine the top baseball superstars? Baseball fans love to debate who is the best in the game.
We decided to take a deep dive into the current leaders in several key categories to find out who is the best of the best. We call it Baseball Superstars By The Numbers.
Baseball’s Best Hitters
Who is the best hitter you’ve ever seen? Was it a magician with a bat-like Rod Carew or Tony Gwynn? Or was it a power hitter like Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez?
Let’s start with a look at the leaders in batting average for the Major Leagues. This list shows the career leaders among active players.
MLB Batting Average Leaders
1.) Miguel Cabrera .313
The Detroit Tigers’ first baseman/designated hitter is nicknamed “Miggy” by his teammates.
2.) Jose Altuve .312
The Houston Astros’ second baseman is the shortest player in the Major Leagues at 5’ 6” tall.
3.) Charlie Blackmon .307
Blackmon is known as “Chuck Nazty” to his Colorado Rockies teammates, maybe for his impressive beard and flowing locks.
4.) Joey Votto .305
Canadian Joey Votto is a six-time MLB All-Star.
5.) Mike Trout .305
Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout won the American League MVP three times. He is known as “the Millville Meteor.”
6.) D.J. LeMahieu .303
The Yankees’ second baseman stands 6’4” tall. His initials stand for David John.
7.) Robinson Cano .302
Robinson Cano has been a thorn in MLB pitchers’ sides since he entered the league in 2005.
8.) Buster Posey .301
The San Francisco Giants catcher’s real name is Gerald Dempsey Posey III.
9.) Mookie Betts .300
You may make the assumption Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts is named after former major-leaguer Mookie Wilson. But instead, he was named after Mookie Blaylock, the former NBA star.
10.) Dustin Pedroia .299
The Red Sox second baseman is as good on the field as he is at the plate. He has four Gold Glove Awards.
Notable All-Time Batting Average Leaders
Here are some of the best batting averages among baseball superstars of the past:
- Ty Cobb .366
- Rogers Hornsby .358
- Shoeless Joe Jackson .355
- Ted Williams .344
- Babe Ruth .342
Baseball’s Most Powerful Hitters
Baseball has a rich tradition of homerun hitters, led by Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and most recently, Barry Bonds.
Here is a list of today’s career leaders in home runs among active players.
Baseball Superstars by the Numbers
Home Run Leaders (Career Totals)
1.) Albert Pujols 659
Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols played 11 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals before joining his current team, the Los Angeles Angels.
2.) Miguel Cabrera 481
Cabrera is closing in on 500 home runs and 3000 hits, only the 7th player in MLB history to do so.
3.) Edwin Encarnacion 416
The Chicago White Sox designated hitter is from the Dominican Republic. This is his 16th year in the league.
4.) Nelson Cruz 405
The Minnesota Twins cleanup hitter takes a daily nap to energize his at-bats.
5.) Ryan Braun 344
The Milwaukee Brewers star outfielder is nicknamed “Ocho” for his number 8 jersey.
6.) Robinson Cano 325
Cano was a member of the 2009 New York Yankees squad that won the World Series.
7.) Jay Bruce 315
Slugger Jay Bruce hales from Beaumont, Texas.
8.) Giancarlo Stanton 311
Yankees home-run hitter Giancarlo Stanton was previously known as Mike Stanton. He used the name because early in his life, classmates struggled to pronounce his real name.
9.) Justin Upton 300
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Justin Upton’s brother is B.J. Upton of the Atlanta Braves.
10.) Evan Longoria 298
The San Francisco Giants slugger owns three Gold Glove Awards.
Fun fact: Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout currently has 293 home runs. Also rising quickly up this list is New York Yankees star outfielder Aaron Judge, who currently has 119 home runs.
Baseball Home Run Leaders Meme
All-Time Home Run Leaders (Career totals)
The list of all-time home run leaders features some of the best ever to play the game.
1.) Barry Bonds 762
2.) Hank Aaron 755
3.) Babe Ruth 714
4.) Alex Rodriguez 696
5.) Willie Mays 660
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Slugging % Current Leaders (Career)
Slugging percentage is the total number of bases a player records for each at-bat. Walks and hit-by-pitches are not calculated in slugging percentage, only hits. These are the current slugging percentage leaders in MLB.
1.) Mike Trout .5826
2.) Albert Pujols .5479
3.) Giancarlo Stanton .5473
4.) Nolan Arenado .5444
5.) Miguel Cabrera .5421
6.) J.D. Martinez .5346
7.) Ryan Braun .5324
8.) Nelson Cruz .5273
9.) Paul Goldschmidt .5243
10.) Mookie Betts .5200
Fun fact: These current top-ten slugging leaders all bat right-handed!
Top Three All-Time Slugging % Leaders:
It doesn’t get any better than these three legends of baseball, all great sluggers.
1.) Babe Ruth .6897
2.) Ted Williams .6338
3.) Lou Gehrig .6324
What is Sabermetrics?
Bill James defined Sabermetrics in 1980 as “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.” Some see the empirical analysis Sabermetrics provides as a better measure of value and performance than traditional baseball statistics.
On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS)
OPS is the sum of a player’s on-base percentage plus their slugging average. Specifically, it highlights a player’s ability to get on base and hit for power.
Here are the current OPS leaders in baseball:
1.) Mike Trout 1.0016
2.) Joey Votto .9393
3.) Miguel Cabrera .9335
4.) Albert Pujols .9256
5.) Paul Goldschmidt .9154
6.) Giancarlo Stanton .9065
7.) Bryce Harper .8998
8.) Nolan Arendado .8973
9.) Kris Bryant .8973
10.) Mookie Betts .8928
Notable All-Time OPS leaders:
To no one’s surprise, the all-time leaders in OPS are some of the best to play the game:
1.) Babe Ruth 1.1636
2.) Ted Williams 1.1155
3.) Lou Gehrig 1.0798
Baseball’s Fastest Players
One way to gauge a player’s speed is to look at how successful he is at stealing bases. While not a true measure of speed (like measuring a player’s time in the 40-yard dash), a successful stolen base depends heavily on a player’s raw speed.
Stolen Base Current Leaders (Career totals)
1.) Rajai Davis 415
Speedster Rajai Davis credits Rickey Henderson as a major influence on his career and base-stealing ability.
2.) Dee Gordon 330
The Seattle Mariners’ second baseman’s full name is Devaris, but he goes by Dee.
3.) Elvis Andrus 305
The Texas Rangers shortstop is from Maracay, Venezuela.
4.) Billy Hamilton 300
Some consider Billy Hamilton to be the fastest man in baseball.
5.) Brett Gardner 267
Brett Gardner played in and won the 2009 World Series with the Yankees in his second year in the league.
6.) Jose Altuve 256
Altuve always provides opponents with the threat of stealing on top of his .313 career batting average.
7.) Jarrod Dyson 252
The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder has wheels. He stole over 30 bases five times in his career.
8.) Ian Kinsler 243
The Israeli-American infielder recently retired, joining the San Diego Padres front office.
9.) Starling Marte 241
In the ninth inning at Wrigley Field, Marte’s game-winning home run propelled the Pirates to the postseason in 2013.
10.) Ryan Braun 215
When Braun reached 200 stolen bases in his career, he became the 357th major leaguer to reach the milestone.
Notable all-time stolen base leaders:
Rickey Henderson stole 1406 total bases in his career. In second place on the all-time steals, the list is Lou Brock with 938.
Baseball’s Best Pitchers
The days of complete-game pitching performances seem to be a thing of the past. So what metric do we look at to determine proficiency at the position?
While some would argue win total is the key stat for a pitcher, we submit that strikeouts and ERA are among the best indicators of long-term success in Major League Baseball.
Current Strikeout Leaders (per 9 innings pitched)
1.) Chris Sale 11.0839
The Boston Red Sox ace pitcher has over 2000 total K’s in his career.
2.) Yu Darvish 11.0815
The Japanese-born Cubs righthander’s real name is Farid Yu Darvishsefat.
3.) Max Scherzer 10.6028
Scherzer has one brown eye and one blue eye. The condition is known as heterochromia iridis.
4.) Stephen Strasburg 10.5842
Strasburg signed with the Washington Nationals for $245 million in 2019.
5.) Jacob deGrom 10.2762
Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Jacob deGrom had Tommy John surgery back in 2010.
6.) Gerrit Cole 10.0696
In 2019 Gerrit Cole became the first pitcher to throw over 300 strikeouts without a single complete game.
7.) Chris Archer 9.8308
The Pirates ace is currently recovering from shoulder surgery.
8.) Corey Kluber 9.7999
Kluber began his major league career in 2011 as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
9.) Clayton Kershaw 9.7537
Not only is Kershaw a strikeout leader, but he also tops the list at #1 for lowest career ERA.
10.) Trevor Bauer 9.5914
Trevor Bauer’s Twitter handle is @BauerOutage.
MLB Strikeout Leaders Image
Notable all-time strikeout leaders:
Randy Johnson leads the pack with an average of 10.6098 Ks per nine innings, followed by Kerry Wood at 10.3174 and Pedro Martinez with 10.0398.
Current ERA Leaders
Earned Run Average is the average of earned runs a pitcher gives up over nine innings pitched. Here are the top ten best in the league.
1.) Clayton Kershaw 2.446
2.) Jacob deGrom 2.619
3.) Chris Sale 3.026
4.) Corey Kluber 3.157
5.) Stephen Strasburg 3.187
6.) Madison Bumgarner 3.188
7.) Max Scherzer 3.191
8.) Gerrit Cole 3.216
9.) David Price 3.308
10.) Justin Verlander 3.328
Notable all-time ERA leaders:
Christy Matthewson’s ERA was an incredible 2.133 over his career, followed by Walter Johnson at 2.167 and Mariano Rivera at 2.209.
Best Fielding Players
Since 1957, the best fielding players at each position in baseball are awarded the Rawlings Gold Glove Award annually.
Here is a list of the best defenders in both the American and National Leagues.
Current Gold Glove Winners by Position (# of Gold Gloves Won)
- Zack Greinke 6
- Yadier Molina 9
3.) 1st Base
- Anthony Rizzo 3
- Paul Goldschmidt 3
4.) 2nd Base
- D.J. LeMahieu 3
5.) 3rd Base
- Nolan Arenado 7
6.) Short Stop
- Andrelton Simmons 4
- Brandon Crawford 3
- Nick Ahmed 2
- Alex Gordon 7
- Jason Heyward 5
- Mookie Betts 4
- Ender Inciarte 3
- Kevin Kiermaier 3
- Nick Markakis 3
All-Time Gold Glove Winners:
Greg Maddux won 18 Gold Gloves during his pitching career, the most ever won by one player. Jim Kaat is second on the list with a total of 16.
Strongest Arm in the Outfield
To determine the strongest arm in the outfield, let’s look at a fielder’s ability to throw the ball to an infielder for a putout—the outfield assist.
This outfield assist leader’s top-10 list features some of the strongest arms in the game. Opponents must be alert baserunners at all times or end up a victim of these superstars’ powerful throwing ability.
Outfield Assist Leaders (Career Assists)
1.) Nick Markakis 122
The Atlanta Braves outfielder is a three-time Gold Glove winner.
2.) Jay Bruce 102
Phillies outfielder Jay Bruce has played in three All-Star Games during his career.
3.) Alex Gordon 99
Gordon boasts seven Gold Glove Awards during his 14 years with the Kansas City Royals.
4.) Hunter Pence 96
In 2012 Hunter Pence committed only 7 errors in the outfield, the lowest total in the majors.
5.) Matt Kemp 91
In 2011 Kemp became the first player since Hank Aaron to finish in the top two in steals and home runs.
6.) Shin-Soo Choo 80
The Texas Rangers outfielder was born in Busan, South Korea.
7.) Ryan Braun 78
Ryan Braun began his career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 and has been with the team since then.
8.) Carlos Gonzalez 77
The Venezuelan ballplayer Carlos Gonzalez is currently a free agent.
9.) Brett Gardner 75
Gardner won the 2016 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.
10.) Andrew McCutchen 74
The Philadelphia Phillies outfielder has played in five All-Star Games.
MLB Assist Leaders Image
Notable All-Time Outfield Assist Leaders:
Tris Speaker threw out 449 runners in his career. Ty Cobb is second on the list at 392.
Baseball’s Best Players
Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
The Sabermetrics statistic called WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, represents the number of wins the player adds to their team above that of a replacement player. The following single-season scale determines scoring:
- <0 Replacement Level Player
- 0-2 Reserve Player
- 2+ Starter
- 5+ All-Star Quality Player
- 8+ MVP Quality Player
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Top-10 Current WAR Leaders (Career)
1.) Albert Pujols 100.6
Pujols is the current active home run leader (656).
2.) Mike Trout 73.1
Mike Trout’s WAR score is already ahead of 30 Hall of Famers.
3.) Justin Verlander 71.9
Verlander has over 200 wins and more than 3000 strike-outs in his career.
4.) Zack Greinke 71.6
Greinke’s ERA for the Dodgers in 2015 was an amazing 1.66.
5.) Miguel Cabrera 69.5
Cabrera has played in 11 All-Star Games over his career.
6.) Robinson Cano 68.4
Over his 16-year career, Cano is hitting .303.
7.) Clayton Kershaw 67.9
Kershaw sports a 170-75 pitching record and a very impressive 2.45 ERA over his career.
8.) Joey Votto 62.0
In Votto’s 14 years with the Cincinnati Reds, his overall batting average is .306.
9.) Max Scherzer 60.8
Scherzer is nearing 3000 strike-outs over his career.
10.) Cole Hamels 59.5
Hamels has six seasons in which he had a top 10 ERA in the league.
All-Time WAR Leaders (Career)
These are the all-time leaders in WAR for both pitchers and position players.
1.) Babe Ruth 182.5
2.) Walter Johnson 164.5
3.) Cy Young 163.8
4.) Barry Bonds 162.8
5.) Willie Mays 156.2
6.) Ty Cobb 151.0
7.) Hank Aaron 143.1
8.) Roger Clemens 139.2
9.) Tris Speaker 134.2
10.) Honus Wagner 130.8
Fan Favorites: Baseball Jersey Sales Leaders
Lastly, we offer a twist on the traditional evaluation of super-stardom: jersey sales. Much like the MLB All-Star Game, fans ‘vote’ directly with their hard-earned dollars for their favorite player in the league when they buy a jersey.
Aaron Judge 10 Best Home Run Moments Video
Here are the top-selling jerseys at the MLBshop.com:
1.) Bryce Harper
2.) Aaron Judge
3.) Mookie Betts
4.) Mike Trout
5.) Yadier Molina
6.) Clayton Kershaw
7.) Javier Baez
8.) Christian Yelich
9.) Anthony Rizzo
10.) Ronald Acuña Jr.
So there you have it. Judging by current jersey sales, the most popular player is Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper.
But as these stats show, there are many ways to conclude who is the best player in baseball. Let us know your choice and why you think so!
By Greg Johnson & Mike O’Halloran
Greg and Mike write about baseball, basketball, and football. A lifetime Twins fan, Greg still has fond memories of the 1987 and 1991 seasons. Mike is the founder and editor of Sports Feel Good Stories. He has authored three sportsbooks.
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