Both baseball fans and teams tend to obsess over power, especially in today’s game, but the best contact hitters of all time also deserve special recognition. Just getting the bat on the ball is no easy task, which is why hitting .300 or better and failing just 70% of the time is such a big deal in baseball. It got us thinking about the greatest contact hitters in MLB history.
Best contact hitters of all time
Granted, it’s tough to completely discount a hitter’s power when evaluating baseball players. But we had to do that when thinking about the best contact hitters of all time.
We also had to exclude some great hitters in order to whittle it down to the best of the best. With that said, here is our list of the 10 best contact hitters of all time.
10. Wade Boggs
During the 1980s and 90s, there were few players who were better at getting a bat on the ball than Wade Boggs. He made his debut with the Red Sox in 1982 and won his first batting title in 1983. Boggs would go on to win four more batting titles that came in consecutive years from 1985 to 1988.
While he never won another batting title after 1988, Boggs continued to perform at a high level, going to 12 straight All-Star Games from 1985 to 1996 and winning eight Silver Slugger Awards, the last of which came in 1994. When all was said and done, Boggs finished his Hall of Fame career with 3,010 hits and a .328 career average.
9. Rogers Hornsby
Rogers Hornsby was one of the best overall hitters in baseball history, combining a high average with a decent amount of power. While he never made it to 3,000 hits, falling 70 short, Hornsby did own a .358 career average.
He maintained such a high average over a career that spanned from 1915 to 1937 while also serving as a player-manager during the second half of his playing career. On three occasions, Hornsby hit over .400 in a season, including a .424 average during the 1924 season. He won seven batting titles during his career, including a stretch of six in a row that also saw Hornsby win the Triple Crown twice. That’s not bad for a guy who also had 301 career home runs.
8. Honus Wagner
For most people, Honus Wagner just has an expensive baseball card that’s accompanied by an amazing story. But one reason why Wagner’s baseball card is so expensive is he was one of the best hitters in baseball history.
He batted .329 during his career, collecting more than 3,400 hits between 1897 and 1917. While he played during a different era, there’s no taking away the eight batting titles that Wagner won. For what it’s worth, he was also a speed demon on the base paths and a great defensive shortstop. But putting the bat on the ball was the thing that he did best during his Hall of Fame career.
7. Stan Musial
Stan Musial is a legendary figure who played from 1941 to 1963, although he did sit out the 1945 season while serving in the Navy. During that long career, Musial won seven batting titles with his first coming in 1943 and his last coming in 1957.
That indicates that he was a player of great consistency who maintained a high level of performance over many years. But not only did Musial collect 3,630 hits over his career while batting .331 but he also smashed 475 home runs, proving that he was a great contact hitter but so much more.
6. Rod Carew
Rod Carew was always willing to sacrifice power in order to make contact. His Hall of Fame career included fewer than 100 home runs. But he was always making contact with the ball and putting it in play.
Carew racked up over 3,000 hits while batting .328 during his career, which included 18 consecutive all-star selections. However, he’s clearly among the best contact hitters of all time because Carew won seven batting titles during his career. At one point, he won four in a row and six in a seven-year span, collecting base hits at a rate most players wouldn’t even dream of reaching.
5. Ted Williams
For a player with over 500 home runs in his career, Ted Williams was also an exceptional contact hitter. He’s simply one of the best overall hitters in baseball history, winning six batting titles while also leading the league in home runs four times, helping Williams win the Triple Crown twice.
If not for his career being interrupted by military service during World War II, Williams would have had no problem reaching 3,000 career hits. Of course, he did finish his career with a .344 average, as his contact led to a lot more than home runs.
4. Tony Gwynn
Virtually no player in baseball history had a sweeter swing than Tony Gwynn. More importantly, he knew how to use it, always finding a way to collect base hits.
If he had played in today’s game, there’s no way opposing teams would be able to effectively shift against Gwynn. The 15-time all-star took home eight batting titles, winning three in a row from 1987 to 1989 and then winning four in a row from 1994 to 1997 during the second half of his 20-season career.
Gwynn finished that 20-year career with 3,141 career hits and a .338 career average. However, the most impressive part of Gwynn’s resume is that in every full season that he played, he never hit worse than .309, never slowing down and always hitting for a high average
3. Pete Rose
It’s undeniable that the all-time hit king is one of the best contact hitters of all time. While Pete Rose may have lacked power throughout his career, hitting only 160 home runs, he never struggled to make contact with the ball.
Rose’s career spanned more than two decades, making his career .303 average even more impressive. He not only holds the all-time record for hits but also the all-time record for singles. Rose also won three batting titles during his career, all within a span of six years, showing that during his prime, there was nobody better at putting the bat on the ball.
2. Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro’s place in the record books is unquestioned. He’s surely one of the top leadoff hitters ever, but he also holds the record for most hits in a baseball season, collecting 262 hits during the 2004 campaign.
Needless to say, he won the batting title that season, although Ichiro also won the 2001 batting title during his first season in the majors when he won both Rookie of the Year and MVP. As a big leaguer, Ichiro Suzuki collected over 3,000 career hits, although he could have had so many more hits if he hadn’t played nearly a decade in Japan before that. While his methods were a little unconventional, his results speak for themselves, as Ichiro finished a long and storied career as a .311 hitter.
1. Ty Cobb
In well over a century of baseball history, there might be no better hitter than Ty Cobb. Exactly how he would have fared against the velocity of today’s pitchers we’ll never know.
But one thing we do know is that the guy won 12 batting titles during his career, doing so within a span of 13 years. He could hit for contact like no other, doing so over a career that spanned more than two decades.
Cobb was also a speedster who stole nearly 900 bases in his career. But as far as his hitting prowess is concerned, Cobb amassed 4,189 hits during his career with an average of .366, making it hard to argue against him being the best contact hitter ever.