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10 best leadoff hitters in baseball history

Home » MLB » Best Leadoff Hitters of All Time: Greatest Leadoff Hitter in MLB History

In baseball, most fans pay attention to the power hitters who drive in runs, but it’s important not to overlook the best leadoff hitters of all time.

After all, the best leadoff hitters are the ones who are getting on base and scoring the runs when the power hitters drive them home. Plus, many of the best leadoff hitters of all time are also among the fastest baseball players in MLB history, which is another reason why the best leadoff hitters deserve recognition.

Best leadoff hitters of all time

But who is the best leadoff hitter in baseball history? As we’ll see, it’s a somewhat easy question, but there are also other leadoff hitters who deserve to be recognized.

That’s why we put together a list of the 10 best leadoff hitters in baseball history. While we expect some to disagree with the order, here is our top-10 countdown to the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

10. Kenny Lofton

For much of his career, Kenny Lofton’s game was all about speed, which naturally made him one of the great leadoff hitters of his era. As an athlete, Lofton was on another level, actually going to Arizona on a basketball scholarship.


When he got to the big leagues, Lofton led the American League in stolen bases for five straight years, collecting 622 stolen bases during his career. He was also a .299 career hitter, so he had no problem getting on base, where he could use his speed to torture opposing teams. 

9. Craig Biggio

Craig Biggio is a bit of an anomaly because he’s a former catcher who became one of the top leadoff hitters of his generation. But the move to second base allowed him to showcase a little more of his speed. Biggio then combined that with his ability to hit for both average and power, not to mention his never-ending hustle.

Those are all ingredients that made him a great leadoff man over his 20 seasons in the majors. During that time, he racked up over 3,000 hits and 291 home runs while also stealing 414 bases. Biggio could do it all, and he did it from the leadoff spot, including 53 leadoff home runs, which ranks near the top of the all-time list.

8. Wade Boggs

Despite leading off in just under 50% of his games, Wade Boggs still gets credit for being one of the best leadoff hitters of all time. After all, we’re talking about a five-time batting champion and a .328 career hitter.

Even if he didn’t take as many walks as some of the other great leadoff hitters, Boggs could get himself on base, at one point batting over .350 in four straight seasons. While his power and speed were a little lacking, his ability to hit for a high average helped to make him a great leadoff hitter.


7. Pete Rose

As the all-time MLB leader in hits, Pete Rose knew how to get on base, making him the perfect leadoff hitter. He spent roughly two-thirds of his distinguished career hitting out of the leadoff spot and starting rallies.

Rose didn’t have the type of power or speed that teams sometimes like in a leadoff hitter, but he batted .303 in his career with 160 home runs, so he showed a little power. More than that, the 17-time all-star was always getting on base by walk or hit, making him an ideal leadoff candidate.

6. Lou Brock

As one of the most prolific base stealers in baseball history, Lou Brock was a natural in the leadoff spot. When the Cardinals won the World Series in 1964 and 1967, Brock was usually the catalyst at the top of the order.

During his career, he collected 928 stolen bases, leading the National League in stolen bases eight times. On top of that, Brock was a .293 career hitter with over 3,000 hits. In other words, he was always getting on base and always stealing bases, which is exactly what you want from a leadoff hitter.

5. Richie Ashburn

During the 1950s, there was no better leadoff hitter than Richie Ashburn. He was a great contact hitter and had just enough speed to make him the ideal leadoff man.

The Philadelphia legend only led the National League in stolen bases once, doing so as a rookie. But he did win two batting titles and was named an all-star six times. Ashburn was also recognized for his patience and control of the strike zone, as well as his hustle, which are also traits that make him one of the best leadoff hitters of all time.

4. Paul Molitor

When your nickname is The Ignitor, it’s a safe bet that you’re a great leadoff hitter. That was surely the case with Paul Molitor, who racked up over 3,300 hits and more than 500 stolen bases in his career.

He is one of five players in MLB history with at least 3,000 hits and 500 stolen bases who also hit over .300 with Ichiro being the only other player on that list who played after World War II.

Out of those five players, Molitor is the only one with more than 200 career home runs, making the seven-time all-star one of the better power hitters among the great leadoff hitters in MLB history.

3. Ichiro Suzuki

In baseball history, there are few players who have the type of approach that fits the leadoff spot better than Ichiro Suzuki. He was always looking to hit for contact and find a way on base, explaining his .311 career batting average and his 3,089 career hits.

After all, he set the MLB record for singles in a season, helping to elevate him over other leadoff hitters. Oddly enough, Ichiro also ranks ninth all-time in leadoff home runs, so he had a little power.

Likewise, Ichiro was a two-time batting champ and also led the American League in stolen bases the year he won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in 2001. Of course, Ichiro also made the All-Star Team in each of his first 10 big league seasons, helping to make him one of the best leadoff hitters of all time.

2. Tim Raines

With his incredible speed, there is no debate about Tim Raines being one of the best leadoff hitters of all time. He wasn’t just fast, he was also an intelligent base runner. He led the National League on three occasions in times on base and twice in runs scored.

In 1986, Raines won the National League batting title and led the league in on-base percentage, which is what you want from a leadoff hitter. Raines also led the National League in stolen bases four times, which is another good trait for a leadoff hitter. On top of that, Raines was an all-star in seven straight seasons during the first half of his career when he was an elite leadoff hitter.

1. Rickey Henderson

It’s almost laughable how far ahead Rickey Henderson is of everyone else for the title of the best leadoff hitter in baseball history. His combination of speed and power was unique and has rarely been matched in MLB history.

In addition to being the single-season stolen base king, Henderson also holds the all-time records for stolen bases and unintentional walks drawn. More importantly, he’s well ahead of the pack in terms of leadoff home runs with 81 with Alfonso Soriano a distant second with 54.

Henderson finished this illustrious career with 3,055 hits and an on-base percentage of .401, which is exactly what you want from a leadoff hitter. Of course, with a career that spanned from 1979 to 2003 and included 10 all-star selections, three Silver Slugger Awards, and MVP honors in 1990, nobody is touching Henderson when it comes to being the ideal leadoff hitter.

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