Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Best "Leadoff" Hitters Since 1951

A few weeks ago I had a post called Who Are The Good Leadoff Men?. In the latter part of that post I explained a ranking system that is used here. To summarize it, it takes into account the ability to get walks, hits, hit for extra bases, and stealing. It also takes into account the value of a hitter that would be lost if he batted elsewhere in the lineup. The complete list of can be found if click here. The top 25 are below. I looked at all players who had 4,000+ PAs since 1951, the earliest year that both leagues began continuously keeping track of caught stealing. I did not adjust stats for park effects or league average.

Rank Player
1 Ted Williams
2 Barry Bonds
3 Wade Boggs
4 Frank Thomas
5 Eddie Yost
6 Edgar Martinez
7 Jason Giambi
8 Mickey Mantle
9 Todd Helton
10 Dave Magadan
11 Joe Cunningham
12 John Olerud
13 Mike Hargrove
14 Jim Thome
15 Gene Tenace
16 Lance Berkman
17 Brian Giles
18 John Kruk
19 Ken Singleton
20 Stan Musial
21 Richie Ashburn
22 Mark McGwire
23 Albert Pujols
24 Manny Ramirez
25 Gene Woodling


Anonymous said...

There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. And this proves it: Rickey Henderson, the 87th best leadoff hitter of all time??? (who hit for average and power, had a ton of walks, AND is the all-time SB leader) And Johnny Damon at 340? Behind the likes of 'speedsters' Rick Monday and Gene Tenace? With rankings like these, I can't imagine that stolen bases were much of a factor here. What am I missing?


Todd said...

The assumptions made in this analysis are many and create flaws in my mind...a couple of big ones: first, you cannot measure what it takes to actually hit leadoff from a mental/physical standpoint, therefore you can't statistically "project" how other lineup hitters would do in that same spot...second, leadoff hitters do not have the advantage at the same rate other hitters do of having quick runners on base when at bat which impacts a pitcher's/coach's pitch selection to the hitters in the heart of the lineup.

I'd like to see this analysis ONLY for the pure leadoff hitters of the game. Is that listed somewhere?

---Todd Price

Cyril Morong said...

I don't think that the mental/physical makeup will matter that much. In the long run, players hit about the same in all situations. Research shows this.

And having a fast runner on first who can steal does not help much. Look up the research of Mark Pankin or Tom Ruane. I did some research on this and found having good stealers on first matters very little. Go to

Does Base Stealing Create Havoc?As for Mike's comment, Henderson being ranked so low just means that you lose less having him bat else where than you do if you batted some of those guys ahead of him elsewhere. Those other guys walked alot, which makes you a good leadoff man. If you had clicked on the link to the previous study, you would have some idea of what I am doing. It is based on the run values of various events for each lineup slot. One version of that analysis includes the value of hits, extrabases, walks, SB and CS. Why is Bonds a better leadoff man that Henderson? Because his leadoff value minus his value at all the other lineup slots is higher than it is for Henderson. Steals still have value elsewhere. Here is a link to one of my studies on lineups. Here is a link to my analysis on lineups.

Lineup AnalysisAlso, look at part 1 of this study. The simulator shows that having Adam Dunn bat first and Jose Reyes bat 4th leads to more runs than other wise.

One last thing. Other research I did shows that the fast guys hit as many doubles and triples with runners on base as they do with no runners on base. Another indicator of how where you bat really does not affect your stats. Go to

Do Fast Players Hit Fewer 2Bs and 3Bs With A Runner On First?

Cyril Morong said...

Using my values of the events for hits, walks, extra bases, SB and CS, here are the marginal run values of having Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson bat 1st or 4th


Sums to 3.13


Sums to 3.11

So you are better off with Bonds first and Henderson cleanup