Batting Average Leaders in MLB History

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HomeBlogsChris Sloan's blogBatting Average Leaders in MLB History
Batting Average Leaders in MLB History
Chris Sloan

As one of the oldest and most revered statistics in baseball, batting average has long been used as a measure of a player's offensive prowess. From Ty Cobb to Ted Williams to Tony Gwynn, some of the game's greatest hitters are forever associated with their remarkable batting averages. But what exactly is batting average, and how does it help us evaluate a player's performance? In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the highest career and single-season batting average leaders in MLB history, as well as some of the criticisms and limitations of using batting average as a sole measure of a player's offensive performance. We'll also discuss how understanding a player's batting average can influence the type of bat you choose. Whether you're a die-hard baseball fan or just starting to learn the game, this post will give you a deeper appreciation for the role that batting average has played in shaping baseball history.

Highest Career Batting Average Leaders in MLB History

When it comes to career batting averages, three names immediately come to mind: Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Shoeless Joe Jackson. These three players are the only ones in MLB history to have a career batting average above .400. Here's a closer look at their remarkable achievements:

  • Ty Cobb: Known as "The Georgia Peach," Cobb played 24 seasons in the majors, mostly with the Detroit Tigers. He holds the highest career batting average in MLB history at .366, and won a record 11 batting titles. Cobb's peak came between 1911 and 1925, during which he hit over .400 three times and had an average above .380 nine times. Despite his success on the field, Cobb was a controversial figure known for his intense competitiveness and fiery personality.

  • Rogers Hornsby: Hornsby is often considered the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history. In 23 seasons, he amassed a career batting average of .358, the second-highest in MLB history. Hornsby won two Triple Crowns and seven batting titles, and hit over .400 three times. He was known for his keen eye at the plate, and his ability to hit for both average and power.

  • Shoeless Joe Jackson: Although Jackson's career was cut short by scandal and controversy, there is no denying his incredible talent at the plate. In 13 major league seasons, mostly with the Chicago White Sox, Jackson had a career batting average of .356, the third-highest in MLB history. He hit over .400 twice, and was known for his smooth, natural swing. Jackson was banned from baseball for his alleged involvement in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which several players were accused of throwing the World Series.

These three players stand out not only for their high batting averages, but also for their unique personalities and contributions to baseball history.

Additional Reading: What is a Good Batting Average in Baseball?

Highest Single Season Batting Averages in MLB History

While batting over .300 is considered a benchmark of success for most MLB players, a select few have achieved even greater heights with single season batting averages above .350. Here are some of the players with the highest single season batting averages in MLB history:

  • Hugh Duffy: In 1894, Duffy had a remarkable season with the Boston Beaneaters, finishing with a batting average of .440. This is the highest single season batting average in MLB history, and is widely considered one of the greatest individual seasons ever by a player. Duffy's success was due to his ability to hit the ball to all fields, as well as his speed on the basepaths.

  • Nap Lajoie: In 1901, Lajoie had a sensational year for the Philadelphia Athletics, batting .426 over 131 games. This is the second-highest single season batting average in MLB history, and is remarkable considering Lajoie was primarily a power hitter. Lajoie's success was due in part to a controversial scoring decision that gave him an extra hit in the final game of the season.

  • Rogers Hornsby: Hornsby makes another appearance on this list with his .424 batting average in 1924. This is the third-highest single season batting average in MLB history, and was part of Hornsby's legendary career. In addition to his high batting average, Hornsby led the league in home runs, RBI, and runs scored in 1924.

Other players with high single season batting averages include George Sisler (.420 in 1920), Rogers Hornsby again (.403 in 1925), and Ted Williams (.406 in 1941). These players are remembered not only for their incredible individual seasons, but also for their contributions to baseball history as a whole.

Criticisms and Limitations of Batting Average as a Statistic

While batting average is a commonly used statistic to measure a player's hitting ability, it has its criticisms and limitations. Some of the main criticisms and limitations of batting average include:

  • It does not take into account walks or hit-by-pitches: Batting average only takes into account hits and at-bats, which means that players who draw a lot of walks or are frequently hit by pitches are not given credit for their ability to get on base. This can make batting average a less accurate measure of a player's overall offensive ability.

  • It does not measure power: Batting average only measures a player's ability to get hits, but does not take into account how hard they hit the ball or how many extra-base hits they get. This means that a player with a high batting average may not necessarily be a power hitter.

  • It does not account for situational hitting: Batting average treats all hits the same, whether they come in a high-pressure situation or in a blowout game. This means that a player who excels at hitting in clutch situations may not be fully represented by their batting average.

Despite these limitations, batting average remains a useful statistic for evaluating a player's hitting ability, especially when used in conjunction with other statistics like on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS (on-base plus slugging).

How Batting Average Can Influence Your Choice of Bats

Choosing the right bat can be a critical factor in a player's success at the plate. Batting average can be a useful statistic in determining which type of bat is best suited for a player's swing and hitting style.

  • Weight: The weight of a bat can have a significant impact on a player's batting average. A heavier bat may provide more power, but can also slow down a player's swing and decrease their ability to make contact. A lighter bat, on the other hand, can allow for a quicker swing and more control, but may sacrifice some power. By analyzing a player's batting average, coaches and players can determine the optimal weight for their bat.

  • Length: The length of a bat can also impact a player's batting average. A longer bat may provide more reach and better coverage of the strike zone, but can also be more difficult to control. A shorter bat may sacrifice some reach, but can also provide better control and quicker swing speed. Looking at a player's batting average can help determine the optimal length of bat for their hitting style.

  • Material: The material of a bat can also influence a player's batting average. Wooden bats are required at the professional level, but at lower levels of play, players have a choice between wood, aluminum, and composite bats. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on the player's preferences and hitting style. A player with a high batting average may be more suited for a certain type of bat material, based on the way they make contact with the ball.

Overall, a player's batting average can provide valuable insight into their hitting ability and help determine the type of bat that will best suit their needs. By choosing the right bat, players can increase their chances of success at the plate and improve their batting average over time.

See Also: How Long is a Baseball Game?


In conclusion, batting average is a fundamental statistic that provides valuable information about a player's hitting ability in baseball. While it is not a perfect measure, it remains a popular metric among fans and players alike. By understanding how batting average is calculated, who the leaders in MLB history are, and the limitations of the statistic, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the sport and its players. Additionally, recognizing the relationship between batting average and the type of bat you use can help you make informed decisions when selecting equipment for your own game.

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About Chris Sloan

Chris Sloan is a former baseball league commissioner and travel baseball coach who has made significant contributions to the sport. In 2018, he founded selectbaseballteams.com, a website that helps parents find youth and travel baseball teams in their local areas. Since its launch, the website has experienced impressive growth, offering a wealth of resources including teams, news, tournaments, and organizations. Chris's unwavering passion for baseball and his innovative approach to connecting parents with quality baseball programs have earned him a respected reputation in the baseball community, solidifying his legacy as a leading figure in the world of youth and travel baseball.

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