Update [2005-5-24 19:11:45 by Matthew Kizner]: Marc made the point of distinguishing between hitters and pure hitters. I meant pure hitters when I wrote this article, and I ask you read it with that in mind.
Get off on a rant here, but saying that zsa zsa gabor is the embodiment of neomccarthyism is like saying that the iotola of Iran likes chocolate. If Chewbacca is a wookie, you must acquit!
But seriously, a little while ago in the Red Sox roundtable, Dan Scotto brought up an interesting question about Manny Ramirez being a top 5 hitter, and where we placed him. It got me to thinking of my own top 5 list, and since we all know how educated and informed my opinion is (please kids, hold the laughs till the end), I decided to make a list.
A few rules first. This is my list, which means it is entirely filled with my biases, pre/post/misconeptions about players. I honestly hope you guys don't agree with me, because I'm hoping for some lively debate.
So, with no further ado, my list.
Today, my top 5 AL Hitters, in a very particular order.
1. Vladimir Guerrero. Say what you want about him, but he is in my mind far and away the best hitter in the American League. Any one of you who's watched him dig a ball out of the dirt and put it over a fence, pull a ball, or even show us that opposite field magic can understand my choice here. The whole 40/40 thing doesn't hurt (I'm counting stolen bases marginally here, because his hits are useful hits, as he generally is able to put himself into scoring position, unlike, say, Big Papi, who as much as I love, isn't nearly as useful as Vlad.
.324/.389/.587 WARP3: 60.9 280 HRs, and guess what boys and girls, he's only 29!
For my money, there's no bat I want up in the big moment more than Vlad, but he barely out my pick at number 2.
2. Manny Ramirez. Go ahead, call me a homer, I am, but can you realistically argue with me that Manny isn't a top 5 hitter in all of baseball, and aside from Vlad, that he absolutely dominates this list? Manny has been consistently great for almost a decade, check the numbers. Only once in his whole career has Manny finished a season in which he had at least 500 ABs with less than a .306 avg. That is just out and out disgusting.
The line: .314/.410/.597 WARP3: 95.4
Let me explain why with a line that looks better I picked Manny second. If you add on the extra 4 years Manny has on Vlad (in his prime I might add), Vlad's projections:
Averaging Vlad's homerun totals from his last 4 complete seasons, he's averaging 39 home runs a year. So add on his average totals, and we're talking Vlad at 436 homeruns. Doing the same with his WARP3 numbers, we're adding another 34.2 points to his WARP3, putting him right on par with Manny at 95.1. So in short, I opted upside over proven, so 2 years from now, Manny could easily be bashing balls onto the Pike still, and I could be wrong, but I don't think so (I think Vlad will outperform him, not that Manny won't be smashing car windows for years to come).
3. Michael Young. Definitely a break from my first 2 power hitter trends, I absolutely could not be a bigger fan of Michael Young. Looking at his past 2 years (which I think are safe to say aren't flukes), Young is one of only 2 players in the AL to have 200 hits in both 2003 and 2004.
The line: .286/.328/.432 Definitely misleading. Counting only 2003 and 2004, he's batting almost .310. In those 2 years he's had 420 hits, and he's on pace for 177 more this year (which is going to go up when he heats up over the summer), and I can't see him not cracking 200 again. He's also averaging a respectable 5.45 WARP3 a year over 2003/2004. Definitely not hall of fame numbers, but nothing to shake a stick at. Young's going to be the heart and soul of this lineup for years to come, and will only be made better as the superstars (blalock/teixeira) develop around him.
4. Derek Jeter. I know, it hurt me to type it, and as much as I hate him, I can't not put him on this list, it'd just be bitter of me. There's really not a better clutch hitter for your money than Derek Jeter (as much as I'd prefer Vlad).
The line: .314/.386/.461 74% success rate on SBs 153/208. WARP3: 72.4
Jeter also has 3 seasons with 200 hits (and 3 more with 190+). I hate me some Yankees something fierce, but I still can't leave him off this list.
5. Alex Rodriguez. Much pain bring does it me put A-Rod on list of batters best. In all seriousness, I couldn't leave him off either, as much as I wanted to. Arguably the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols (or not made from juice concentrate cough Bonds cough [and that's my opinion, flame me for it all you like, it's not changing]). The numbers are staggering, and it's hard to argue his dominance.
The line: .306/.382/.575 395 HRs Also a 75% success rate on SBs (155/208). WARP3: 107.7
The homer: Johnny Damon. Still a sweet swing, and a threat at leadoff, as much as his skills are declining, he still deserves mentioning in this conversation.
The bird: Miguel Tejada. While I consider him more of an RBI machine, and not a pure hitter like the guys on the list, he still deserves to be mentioned here.
The young gun: Joe Mauer. Stay healthy Joe, you're on this list in 3 years, tops.
The veteran: Mike Sweeney. If only he could stay healthy and not play for a small market team with no future, he'd be up in the top 5.
The unproven(s): Carlos Guillen and Brian Roberts. Carlos, gimme another year, and we'll talk. Brian, gimme 2 more, including this one.
The speedster: Ichiro Suzuki. I have no respect for his drag bunt, infield single, I run fast outta the box with my irritating batflip crap. Sisler must be rolling in his grave watching him beat out another bunt.
That's my AL list, tomorrow an NL list to come, and as the week rolls down, I'll do my best to widdle the list down to the 5 best in baseball.
Check out the poll!
Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
Best hitter in the American League
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Not on the list (who is it?)