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Top 10 Hitters of the 1990s

Publish Date: 07/09/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The 1990s will be remembered as the steroid era in Major League Baseball, so since it’s the steroid era, we might as well include those guys since it wasn’t against the rules but should have been. It’s hard to make a list without those players. Steroids were so prevalent we made an all-time steroid team.

10) Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza did not get to play for the whole decade. He was the least active player on the list, with just 981 games. However, he is still a notable player from the decade. Piazza played as a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets. He also briefly played for the Florida Marlins. His batting average was.328/.391/.575 in the ’90s, with 240 runs. Piazza is probably the greatest offensive catcher to have ever played the game. He finished the decade with 41.5 WAR, which is less than others but still impressive considering how many games he played.

Video: Mike Piazza Highlight Reel

Mike Piazza Highlight Reel

9) Mark Grace

Grace may not have had the same home run totals as others, but his resume shows he was one of the best pure hitters of the decade. Grace had 117 home runs but also hit.310 with an OBP of.385 and a 122 OPS+. He was the leader in hits with 1,754. 1995 was Grace’s best season. He had 51 doubles and a combined.395/.516. As a first baseman, Gracie accumulated 35.9 wins above replacement (WAR), which includes defensive value which isn’t included in our list.

Video: Grace hits for the cycle in 1993

Grace hits for the cycle in 1993

8) Larry Walker

Larry Walker is perhaps best remembered for his explosive offensive numbers, which people attributed to the fact that he moved from Montreal to Colorado, where he played his home games. He was the most successful player in the league for three years, hitting.369/.451/.689 and 109 home runs between 1997-99. He was awarded the league MVP in 1997 for his efforts and ended the decade with a.961 OPS, 261 homers and a total of.961 OPS. His decade-high WAR total was 47.7.

Video: Larry Walker's first big league home run

Larry Walker’s first big league home run

7) Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire was one of the true sluggers of the era. Baseball fans will all remember the 1998 home run race, in which he set a new record in home runs hit per season with 70. This record was not broken until 2001. McGwire split his time between the Oakland A’s (.411/.615 in the ’90s) and the St. Louis Cardinals (.615 in 2001). He hit.268/.411/.615, had 405 home runs, 46.3 WAR, and played in just 122 games per year.

Video: Watch all of Mark McGwire's 70 homers from 1998

Watch all of Mark McGwire’s 70 homers from 1998

6) Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell started his career in 1991 with the Houston Astros. He was quick for a first-baseman and only had mediocre home-run pop in his rookie and subsequent seasons. He found his groove and hit more than 30 home runs five more times during the decade. Bagwell stole 158 bases and won the 1994 MVP award with a.750 SLG%. He also compiled 56.7 WAR.

Video: Jeff Bagwell hits five HRs in Round 1 of 1999 Derby

Jeff Bagwell hits five HRs in Round 1 of 1999 Derby

5) Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn was 30 years old when the decade began. This shows just how great a hitter Gwynn was during his time with the San Diego Padres, posting an impressive.344 batting record for the decade, as well as a.394 in the legendary 1994 season lost due to the player strike. Gwynn’s shortcomings were evident as he did not walk very much and only hit 88 home runs over the ten seasons. However, he is an outstanding generational-hitting talent. He struck out only 188 times in 1,273 games and accumulated 32.4 WAR.

Gwynn was considered by most as one of the best hitters in baseball history.

Video: Tony Gwynn goes 5-for-5

Tony Gwynn goes 5-for-5

4) Edgar Martinez

One of the more underappreciated hitters of his era due to his status as primarily a designated hitter, Edgar Martinez was one of the rocks of the ’90s Seattle Mariners. He hit .322/.430/.532 with 196 home runs during the era with a 154 OPS+, and his best season came in 1995 when he hit .356/.479/.628 — leading the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, and doubles. He compiled 51.6 WAR in those ten years, which includes the 1993 and 1994 seasons when he totalled only 131 games played.

Video: 1995 ALDS Gm4: Edgar's two homers, seven RBIs

1995 ALDS Gm4: Edgar’s two homers, seven RBIs

3) Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas, a multiple-MVP Award winner, made it to the major leagues at the start of the 1990 season at 22. He had just been drafted by White Sox the previous summer. Thomas immediately hit.330 and had a 177 OPS+ through 60 games. Thomas’ slash line would be.320/.440/.573 during the 1990s. This made him one of the greatest hitters in the 1990s and one of the most admired players ever to play the game. Thomas posted 52.7 WAR during that time, but it could have been even more if he was a better defensive first baseman.

Video: 1994 HRD: Frank Thomas blasts homer into upper deck

1994 HRD: Frank Thomas blasts homer into upper deck

2) Ken Griffey Jr.

The best years of Ken Griffey Jr.’s career were in the ’90s. They were all played in Seattle and were relatively injury-free, except a few games that were missed in 1995. He would become very injury-prone later in his career with the Cincinnati Reds. Junior was able to hit 382 home runs, steal 151 bases, and have a.302 average.384 OBP and a +152 OPS+. His 1994 best season was when he hit.323 and had a 1.076 OPS. In 1997, he was named league MVP. He also compiled 67.3 WAR and made all 10 All-Star teams.

Video: Griffeys hit back-to-back home runs in 1990

Griffeys hit back-to-back home runs in 1990

1) Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds was a well-known player who played for the San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1990s. He is now considered one of the greatest players to have ever lived. This was right before Bonds’s bulking up, which saw him hitting 73 home runs in 2001. This led to the steroid arguments that Bonds was not allowed into the Hall of Fame. Bonds was awarded three MVPs during the decade and seven throughout his career. He also slugged 361 home runs and posted a cumulative 1.036 opps. He is the leader among all players, with a combined 179 OPS+ in the 1990s and a 79.9 Win Rate in the ’90s. This was, for the most part, before the steroids started in the late 90s. Bonds is the greatest living baseball players.

Video: PIT@SD: Bonds slugs a pair of homers against Padres

PIT@SD: Bonds slugs a pair of homers against Padres

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