Top 10 MLB lifetime batting averages: right-handed hitters, post-1945 career start, Part II

Bryan Goldberg, my cousin, asked me which MLB right-handed (RH) hitter—who started his big-league career from 1946 on—had the highest career batting average (AVG)? My correct answer was Kirby Puckett’s .3181 AVG, for the 1984-1995 Minnesota Twins. Puckett has the 53rd highest MLB AVG all-time. Thus, 20 RH hitters and 32 left-handed (LH) hitters, with at least 1,000 MLB games—hit better than .3181. (Four digits are used in most of this analysis.) Only two of the Top 10 all-time MLB AVG leaders batted right-handed: #2 Rogers Hornsby (.3585) and #5 Ed Delahanty (.3458). LH-hitting Ty Cobb (.3662) was #1 and LH Babe Ruth (.3421) was #10, per https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/batting_avg_career.shtml

Who are the other nine (9) MLB RH-hitters on a Top 10 list of highest careers AVG, with post-1945 career start. From #2 through #10, we have: Vladimir Guerrero Sr. at .3176; Roberto Clemente’s .3173; Miguel Cabrera’s .3146; José Altuve’s .3145; Nomar Garciaparra’s .3127; Manny Ramírez’s .3122; Edgar Martínez’s .3115; Jackie Robinson’s .3113; and Derek Jeter’s .3095.  Jeter was 109th overall on the MLB all-time AVG list through 2019. Of the top 109 hitters for AVG, 61 or 56.0 percent batted LH; 46 or 42.2 percent, hit RH; and two (1.8 percent) were switch-hitters. Part II covers #6-10 RH hitters for AVG, post-1945 start.

Nomar Garciaparra #6

Garciaparra’s first four (4) full years in Boston, 1997-2000, were outstanding. The 1997 AL Rookie of the Year won back-to-back AL batting titles in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372), the first time in 60 years a right-handed hitter accomplished this dating to Joe DiMaggio’s 1939 and 1940 seasons. Even Ted Williams believed Garciaparra had the skills to hit .400! Dan Duquette, Red Sox GM during most of Garciaparra’s time with Boston, stated: “He had all the skills [to be a Hall of Famer]. He got to the big leagues quickly; won Rookie of the Year; won a couple of batting titles early in his career. It was just a matter of whether he could stand the test of time.”

According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, Garciaparra’s .882 career OPS is the best all-time by a shortstop who spent at least half of their MLB career at this position with at least 5,000 career plate appearances, at https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2015/01/06/nomar-garciaparra-and-hall-fame-career-that-wasn/W5oJDUAL2pDV6948WNatkL/story.html. Next came Hanley Ramírez (.873), Arky Vaughan (.859), Joe Cronin (.857), Honus Wagner (.853), Derek Jeter (.817), Barry Larkin (.815), Vern Stephens (.815), Joe Sewell (.804), and Carlos Guillén (.798). When we compare 1997-2000 for Garciaparra, to Perucho Cepeda’s best four years at shortstop in Puerto Rico for the 1938-1942 Guayama Brujos (Witches), both won two batting titles, with Perucho’s .411 AVG and .577 SLG higher than Garciaparra’s .3367 and .571 SLG. Both were affected by injuries in their respective careers.

Garciaparra had a .3127/.361/.521 MLB career slash line, plus .882 OPS. The 6x All-Star won a 1997 Silver SLG. He posted a .321/.386/.589 slash line, and .975 OPS in seven post-season series—five with Boston; and two with the Dodgers. In 2014, he was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame with Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and broadcaster Joe Castiglione. Garciaparra’s father was born in Mexico; so were his grandparents. He told the Los Angeles Times (2014), “It’s the culture. It’s knowing the music, the food, and most importantly, it’s about

family,” per Efraín Ruiz Pantin’s October 12, 2017 article in La Vida Baseball.

Manny Ramírez #7

Manny’s .3122 lifetime AVG places him seventh for RH hitters, who began their MLB career post-1945. His .3122/.411/.585 slash line and .996 OPS were noteworthy. The Red Sox Hall of Fame Class of 2020 will include him, David Ortiz, Rich Gedman, Bill Dineen (hero of the 1903 World Series champs), and Dan Duquette. Manny was MVP of the 2004 World Series, Boston’s first crown in 86 years, producing a .412/.500/.588 slash line and 1.088 OPS. His second ring came in 2007, after a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies. He hit 29 post-season HR with 78 RBIs in 410 AB, showing a .285/.394/.544 slash line and .937 OPS.

On a 2001 road trip, Allen McDill, a Boston teammate, saw Manny shouting “Dime, dime” at a soft-drink machine in the hotel. Manny wanted a Coca-Cola, but instead of putting the extra 10 cents in the machine, he thought the machine said: “Tell me, tell me.”

Born in Santo Domingo, Manny was 40 when he played for the 2012-13 Aguilas Cibaeñas in 25 regular season games, with a .293/.360/.434 slash line. He hit four HR with 17 RBIs plus four more HR in the semi-finals/round-robin. At age 42, he played 41 regular season games plus round-robin contests for the “Aguiluchos.” Manny’s .313/.409/.510 slash line and .920 OPS in 2014-15, six HR and 28 RBIs, were followed by three HR, most in the round-robin competition. Per Luichy Sánchez, via Twitter from the Dominican Republic, January 11, 2020:

“I believe what Manny did was interesting. He showed he could contribute in the Dominican Winter League. Those two seasons, he played in 101 total [regular season and round-robin] games, with a .390 OBP, 17 HR, and 60 RBIs, solid figures for our League, and even more so, considering Manny’s age.”

An interesting development in Manny’s life is finding God; coming to faith; and enrolling in a seminary to study the Bible, per Scott Slayton’s December 4, 2019 blog at https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/scott-slayton/former-red-sox-manny-ramirez-finds-god-enrolls-in-seminary.html

Edgar Martínez #8

Edgar Martínez’s 2019 Hall of Fame Induction in Cooperstown is quite impressive, considering he overcame strabismus, an eye disorder that prevented his eyes from working in tandem, plus injuries which made it necessary for Seattle to use him as their full-time DH. Edgar spoke with me at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, prior to a January 1992 post-season game, when he was San Juan’s third baseman. “Puerto Rico winter ball has helped me get untracked in spring training. There is less pressure and a more relaxed atmosphere in Puerto Rico than in the majors. We see baseball as more of a game on the Island. “In the U.S., it’s more like a system.”

Ryan M. Spaeder made the case for Edgar’s Cooperstown induction on December 18, 2018, via  https://www.sportingnews.com/us/mlb/news/edgar-martinez-hall-of-fame-vote-ballot-stats-seattle-mariners-greatest-dh-designated-hitters/1dwopulzkbw2d14uikwv9k69ld.  Edgar’s .3115 MLB career AVG was close to Johnny Mize’s .3121; Edgar’s .418 OBP surpassed Stan Musial’s .417 OBP; Willie McCovey’s .515 SLG mirrored Edgar’s .515; Edgar’s .933 OPS versus Shoeless Joe Jackson’s .940 was a valid comparison. Six MLB players had at least six straight seasons with a .320/.420/.555 slash line, or better—Edgar, 1995-2000; Ted Williams, 1939-42 and 1946-49; Lou Gehrig, 1930-37; Babe Ruth, 1926-32; and Rogers Hornsby, 1920-25. Edgar dominated the three pitchers in his 2019 Cooperstown Hall of Fame class: 10-for-19 versus Mariano Rivera, .579/.652/1.053 slash line, with three doubles, two HR, and four walks; and, eight hits in 18 AB against Roy Halladay, for a .444/.474/.722 slash line, and 1.196 OPS. Facing Mike Mussina, he had a .307 AVG, .337 OBP, .627 SLG, and .964 OPS, with five HR in 83 plate appearances.

Eighteen ex-MLB players had a career .300 AVG/.400 OBP/.500 SLG; seven batted RH; 10 hit LH; and Chipper Jones was the switch-hitter. The seven RH hitters are Hornsby, Harry Heilmann, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Frank Thomas, Manny [Ramírez], and Edgar, a 2x AL batting champ, 1992 and 1995. Edgar had 1,283 walks and 1,202 strikeouts. The 11x All-Star, a 5x Silver SLG winner, and 3x OPS leader, batted .317 with 103 RBIs in 138 career games versus the New York Yankees, including his 1995 ALDS-winning double off Jack McDowell. Edgar surpassed 500 doubles and 300 HR career-wise, hitting 514 and 309, respectively, for Seattle. In 2000, he had personal bests of 37 HR and a league-best 145 RBIs. The Edgar Martínez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award was named for Edgar in 2004.

His Puerto Rico Winter League career included a league-leading .424 AVG (56/132) in 1989-90; a .418 AVG (28/67) in 1993-94; a .341/.456/.494 slash line and .950 OPS in 1994-95. He was the DH for Puerto Rico’s “Dream Team” in the February 1995 Caribbean Series, played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Edgar’s 10 hits in 27 AB resulted in a .370 AVG and nine RBI’s for undefeated (6-0) Puerto Rico, versus the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Venezuela. Edgar was named to the Series All-Star team. In 2007, Edgar was inducted into the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame. Three years earlier, he earned the 2004 Roberto Clemente Award.

Jackie Robinson #9

Jackie Robinson’s 10-year NL career with the Brooklyn Dodgers was preceded by one minor-league season with the 1946 Montreal Royals; one season in the Negro Leagues—1945 Kansas City Monarchs; plus, a barnstorming tour of Venezuela, November 24-December 23, 1945. Robinson joined the All-American Stars from the Negro Leagues for their one-month tour, where they played Estrellas del Caribe and Cervecería Caracas. Miguel Dupouy Gómez shared this blog on nine games played by the Negro Leaguers in the round-robin, followed by five more versus Cervecería Caracas (http://beisbolinmortal.blogspot.com/2019/08/las-estrellas-americanas-visitan.html?m=1). Robinson’s AVG in Venezuela was .339. His squad included Buck Leonard, Parnell Woods, Gene Benson, and Sam Jethroe.

Clay Hopper—Robinson’s 1946 Montreal manager—was from Greenwood, Mississippi; and hesitant to manage him. In December 1945, with Robinson playing in Venezuela, Branch Rickey told Hopper he had been promoted to manage Brooklyn’s top minor-league club, the Montreal Royals. According to https://nationalpost.com/42/how-clay-hoppers-attitude-was-transformed-by-jackie-robinson, Hopper,  a cotton broker during the off-season in Mississippi, asked Rickey if Robinson could play on one of the other Dodger minor-league clubs. Rickey refused; Robinson later noted that he was treated “fairly well” by Hopper in 1946, which ended with an International League title. Hopper warmly shook Robinson’s hand when Montreal clinched the title, stating, “You’re a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman; it’s been wonderful having you on the team.”

Jackie Robinson was recruited to play for the 1946-47 Ponce Lions, in Puerto Rico, but Brooklyn declined. Ponce then contracted switch-hitting Howard Easterling, from Mt. Olive, Mississippi.   

Robinson’s 10 NL seasons resulted in the first-ever Rookie of the Year designation for both leagues (1947); the 1949 NL MVP Award; 6x All-Star selection; 2x SB leader; 1949 batting champ (.349 AVG); 1952 OBP leader (.440); and 2x leader in sacrifice hits: 28 in 1947 and 17 in 1949. His career AVG was .3113, and his slash line was .311/.409/.474, with a .883 OPS. He earned a 1955 World Series ring, and played in six Fall Classics versus the Yankees.

Jorge Colón Delgado’s recent (2019) book on the Mayagüez Indiosindicated Robinson was close to signing a contract to manage Mayagüez, 1950-51 season, but it was vetoed by MLB Commissioner Happy Chandler, September 12, 1950. Chandler cited rule 18-D, page 533, of the 1950 Blue Book. Frank Robinson—who first managed the Santurce Crabbers when he was still a player for the Baltimore Orioles—became MLB’s first black manager in 1975.

Derek Jeter #10

Derek Jeter will receive a phone call Tuesday, January 21, 2020, alerting him of his election to Cooperstown, Class of 2020. The New York Yankees retired his #2 in 2017; he won the 2011 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award and 2009 Roberto Clemente Award. Jeter’s 3,465 hits in a 20-year Yankee career place him sixth all-time, behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, and, Tris Speaker; ahead of Honus Wagner, Carl Yastrzemski, Paul Molitor, and Eddie Collins.

Jeter, a 5x GG winner, earned five World Series rings—1996, 1998-2000, and 2009. His .3095 career regular season MLB AVG places him 10th all-time, for RH hitters starting MLB careers post-1945. (Magglio Ordoñez from Venezuela is #11 at .309.)  Jeter, MVP, 2000 World Series and 2000 MLB All-Star Game, had a .321/.384/.449 slash line in seven World Series, and .833 OPS. In 16 ALDS, he had a .343/.397.519 slash line, .916 OPS, 10 HR, and 28 RBIs. His 10 ALCS resulted in a .257/.340/.412 slash line and .752 OPS. Jeter’s 200 post-season hits outdistance Bernie Williams’s 128, Manny Ramírez’s 117, and Jorge Posada’s 103. In 158 post-season games, Jeter had 650 AB, 111 runs, 32 doubles, five triples, 20 HR, and 61 RBIs! His post-season slash line was .308/.374/.465 and .839 OPS. Jeter’s .321 career World Series AVG surpasses Steve Garvey’s .319 AVG, all-time, for RH batters with 100+ AB; his .321 AVG is 4th all-time (100+ AB), behind Lou Gehrig (.361), Eddie Collins (.328), and Babe Ruth (.326).

Jeter’s .3095/.377/.440 MLB career slash line and .817 OPS mirror his minor-league slash line: .309/.386/.418, and .804 OPS. In 13 MLB All-Star Games, he got 13 hits in 27 AB, with two doubles, one HR, and a .481/.483/.667 slash line (1.150 OPS)! He played superbly for Team USA, 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics (WBC), with a .347 AVG (17-for-49) in 14 games, a .439 OBP, and six walks. Jeter, as a Miami Marlins executive, has encouraged Stateside prospects, coaches, and managers to learn Spanish, per https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/30/derek-jeter-sees-spanish-lessons-more-inclusive-ml/.

With thanks to Cooperstown Hall of Famer Edgar Martínez; Allen McDill; Luichy Sánchez, 40+ years covering baseball and the Aguilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Republic; Jorge Colón Delgado, “The Authority,” official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League; and, Miguel Dupouy Gómez, for blogs on baseball in Venezuela.

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