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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Greatest leadoff hitter: who was the greatest number two hitter?

Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is touted by many as MLB's greatest leadoff hitter.  This is used as justification for also electing Tim Raines to the Hall of Fame in that Raines is very similar to Henderson just not quite as good.

Henderson played in 3,081 games from 1979 through 2003.   Raines played in 2,502 games from 1979 through 2002.  Say, that's not even close.  Henderson had 13,346 plate appearances (PA).   Raines 10,359.  Henderson OPS+ 136.   Raines 123 in 3,000 fewer PA.  Henderson set the records for stolen bases (SB):  1,406  career, 130 season.   Raines: 808 career (5th), season high 90, topped by Henderson four times.

Both played the easiest defensive position, left field.  Both had the speed to play center field.  They get added defensive brownie points for being compared to weak fielding players in left who could hit but not field well.  Actually, Henderson played 446 games in center, mostly for the Yankees.   Raines played 165 in center and 53 at second.

OK, so  Raines is not really that close to Henderson but that's not the point.

1. If Henderson is the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, who did he displace?

2. Is  Raines the second greatest leadoff hitter of all time because he is similar in type to Henderson?

3. Doesn't it bother anyone that the two the greatest leadoff hitters of all time are so similar and played almost exactly at the same time?  Doesn't that suggest a problem with the designation, especially if Henderson did not displace someone?

4. Who is the third greatest leadoff hitter of all time?

5. Who is the greatest number two hitter of all time?  And the second greatest?

Why would position in the batting order connote anything special about a player?  I won't descend into asking who is the greatest number 8 hitter of all time but you can see how this can easily seem foolish.

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