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Top 10 Leadoff Hitters in Baseball History

Publish Date: 05/31/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Getting the game started right is an integral part of any team. Today, we will run down our top 10 leadoff hitters of all-time. This list will not include active players and is only open to men who played in the Major Leagues.

Criteria

The Criteria are simple: could you jump-start your team? Were you just a singles hitter, or could you do it all? Stats are huge, and if you were the driving force behind your team winning, that would count for a lot.

10) Craig Biggio

Being a middle infielder was not nearly as physically demanding as his original position, catcher. As expected, his hitting improved dramatically once he got out from behind the plate. He was always eager to “take one for the team.”Only Hughie Jennings (287 times) was plunked more often than Biggio (285).

Video: Craig Biggio Career Highlights

Craig Biggio Career Highlights

9) Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs sticks out like a slow-footed third-baseman. Regardless, as a doubles machine and member of the exclusive 3,000-hit club, he had a resume worthy of first-ballot Hall of Fame induction. There haven’t been many better left-handed batters in the history of the game.

Boggs played for other teams, but he was an all-time Boston Red Sox.

Video: Boggs gets 200 hits in sixth straight year

Boggs gets 200 hits in sixth straight year

8) Bobby Bonds

Bobby Bonds tended to strikeout, but his home run power was unparalleled as a leadoff hitter.

His.205 isolated power (slugging percentage less batting average) from the leadoff spot was by far the highest of any player featured in this article.

His elite base-stealing skills made him a legitimate NL MVP candidate during 1971 and 1973 as a San Francisco Giants outfielder.

Video: Bobby Bonds hits two-run home run for NL in 1973 ASG

Bobby Bonds hits two-run home run for NL in 1973 ASG

7) Richie Ashburn

In the 1950s, Richie Ashburn was unbeatable as a leadoff hitter. His excellent contact rate and just enough speed made him ideal for that position, providing him with enough advantage over opponents to hit for extra bases.

Ashburn only led the National League in stolen bases once as a rookie. But he won two batting titles and earned himself six all-star selections. Ashburn’s patience, control of the strike zone, and hustle make him one of baseball’s greatest leadoff hitters.

Video: Richie Ashburn 1995 Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Richie Ashburn 1995 Hall of Fame Induction Speech

6) Pete Rose

He is comfortably ahead of the rest in total hits (4,256), plate appearances (15,890) and games played (3,562). He wasn’t particularly powerful or quick. Rose made up for it with baseball instincts and, of course, hustle.

Rose was an integral part of the Big Red Machine in the 1970s one of the greatest baseball teams of all-time. He would go on to help the Philadelphia Phillies win the 1980 World Series. This is all marred by the Pete Rose Betting scandal, but this article is about leadoff hitters and he was one of the best to ever do it.

Video: Pete Rose Highlights

Pete Rose Highlights

5) Paul Molitor

With a nickname like “The Ignitor,” Paul Molitor was destined to wind up high on this all-time list. Molitor was a great hitter and, along with Robin Yount, led the Milwaukee Brewers to their first playoff appearance in 1981 and their first World Series in 1982.

Molitor was a big reason the Toronto Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series in the early 1990s. He had 20 hits in the 1993 postseason and five hits in Game One of the 1982 World Series. Molitor was at his best on the biggest stage.

Video: Molitor extends his streak to 39 games

Molitor extends his streak to 39 games

4) Lou Brock

Contrary to what you would expect, he wasn’t unusually aggressive on the basepaths in his early years. However, a 1964 trade to the St. Louis Cardinals put him in an environment where theft was encouraged. In his age-35 season, he became the oldest player to tally triple-digit steals.

Brock would be later surpassed by Rickey Henderson(More on him later), but Brock was an all-time great player for the St.Louis Cardinals.

Video: Lou Brock Highlights

Lou Brock Highlights

3) Ichiro Suzuki

The legend won American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player on the winningest professional team baseball has ever had (2001 Seattle Mariners, 116 victories). In 2004, he broke George Sisler’s 84-year-old record for most hits in a single season with 262.

If his career had been playing from the start in the States, he may have made a run at Pete Rose’s all-time hit record of 4192. He was mainly just a singles hitter, but he was one of the best at it during his career.

Video: Top 10 Ichiro Suzuki Moments

Top 10 Ichiro Suzuki Moments

2) Tim Raines

One of the most underrated players of the modern era. There were six consecutive seasons where he stole at least 70 bases and half a dozen more where he finished with 30-plus. He possessed considerable power for someone of his 5’8″ stature (170 home runs).

Raines was one of the greatest Montreal Expos to play the game and burst onto the scene in the early 80s and was one of the best for the rest of the decade.

Video: Tim Raines Highlights

Tim Raines Highlights

1) Rickey Henderson

The numbers don’t lie. Rickey Henderson was no doubt the greatest leadoff hitter ever. He had power, speed, and everything you could want in a baseball player. Henderson was the most complete leadoff hitter in MLB History.

He helped lead the A’s to a World Series title in 1989 and multiple playoff berths. Henderson was the greatest base stealer of all time and was also solid in the field. Having Rickey Henderson leadoff for your team was like having a cheat code.

Video: Rickey Henderson - Oakland Athletics Highlights

Rickey Henderson – Oakland Athletics Highlights

Honorable mention

Vince Coleman

Vince Coleman made his entrance into the major leagues at an incredible speed.

His 110 steals as a first-year player in 1985 set a remarkable record that could stand for decades to come.

Coleman had a history of struggling during the playoffs, but his legs came alive during the 1987 Fall Classic. In seven games, Coleman swiped six bases.

After the 1990 season, he signed with the New York Mets as a free agent. Unfortunately, injuries and suspensions derailed his promising career from there on out.

Brady Anderson

Brady Anderson effectively handed off the bat to Brian Roberts during his final season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2001.

He remains the only No. 1 hitter to hit 50 home runs in a single year (1996).

His 1.034 overall OPS from that summer and 1.029 OPS when leading off are unmatched by anyone else in the top 20.

Willie Wilson

Willie Wilson was an impressively efficient base stealer despite his high volume.

He never experienced more than 12 caught-stealings in any single season.

With Wilson in their lineup, the Kansas City Royals were contenders.

At his peak, he was too fast to be doubled up on a ground ball.

Kenny Lofton

He didn’t earn an everyday job in the big leagues until his age-25 season but managed to have a very long career. He was a perennial All-Star in his mid-20s and early 30s.

Maury Wills

During the 1962 season, Maury Wills batted .299, scored 130 runs and stole 104 bases. He whiffed only 57 times in 759 plate appearances. Wills spent his finest years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and won three championships with the club.

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