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The Greatest Designated Hitters of All Time

History was made yesterday when David Ortiz doubled in the second inning against Seattle, as he passed Harold Baines for the most hits as a designated hitter with 1,689. That begs the question, is David Ortiz the greatest DH of all time? What follows are my rankings of the top 10 designated hitters in MLB history.

Before a barrage of comments rain down, let me make it clear that these rankings reflect only what the players achieved while serving as DH. I’m well aware that Jim Thome is better than Chili Davis and that Paul Molitor is better than Travis Hafner, but they didn’t have better careers as designated hitters.

*Note: There is a discrepancy in statistics between Stats LLC and Baseball-Reference. According to Stats LLC Harold Baines had 1,688 hits as a DH, but according to Baseball-Reference he had 1,690.

Stats LLC is the more trusted source, but I do not have access to those statistics, so I used what I could from the chart in this article when making reference to DH stats. However, all of Jim Thome’s stats and all single-season numbers came from this Baseball-Reference table.

5. Chili Davis

credit : – NBC

An outfielder during the early stages of his career with the Giants and Angels, Chili Davis made the move to DH in 1990 at the age of 30, and he actually posted better numbers at the plate from then on. In 4,903 plate appearances, he had a .282/.381/.482 slash line with 200 home runs.

As a 37-year-old in 1997 he posted an .896 OPS and hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career. He is one of just 36 players to reach the 30-HR plateau at the age of 37 or older. He closed out his career winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1998 and 1999.

4. Harold Baines

credit : – south side

Harold Baines, the man that David Ortiz passed for most hits all-time as a DH, began his career as a right fielder for the White Sox. However, 1,769 of his 2,830 games played came as a designated hitter.

In 6,619 plate appearances he had a .291/.370/.466 line with 235 home runs, and he made four of his six All-Star appearances as a DH.

Overall, he finished his 22-year career hitting .289/.356/.465 with 384 home runs and 1,628 RBI (30th all-time), and that earned him a statue outside of U.S. Cellular Field. Not all of those numbers came as DH, but he put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers as primarily a designated hitter.

3. Frank Thomas

credit : – the baseball

Though he had probably the best career of anyone on this list, Frank Thomas spent six of the first seven seasons of his career as a first baseman, winning back-to-back AL MVP awards at the position in 1993 and 1994.

A superstar as a first baseman, he was still a terrific run producer later in his career, and in 5,698 plate appearances as a DH he hit .275/.394/.505 line and 269 home runs, which is good for second all-time at the position.

After a pair of injury plagued seasons, he was a star once again at the ages of 38 and 39, hitting .274/.379/.511 with 65 home runs and 209 RBI to finish his career with a bang for the Athletics and Blue Jays.

2. David Ortiz

credit : – the new york

Primarily a DH throughout his career, David Ortiz has spent 1,647 of his 1,905 career games at DH, with the majority of his time at first base coming as a result of the Red Sox looking to keep his bat in the lineup during interleague play.

In 6,829 plate appearances as a DH he has hit .290/.385/.560 with a position-record 236 home runs and 1,209 RBI. He’s taken home five Silver Slugger awards and started the All-Star game as a DH four times, including each of the past three years.

At 37, he’s showing no signs of slowing down, hitting .331/.412/.636 with 19 home runs and 65 RBI in 73 games so far this season. Before all is said and done, he has a great chance of claiming the top spot, but for now that still belongs to someone else.

1. Edgar Martinez

credit : – martiner

A member of the Mariners for all 18 of his big league seasons, Edgar Martinez spent the first six seasons of his career primarily as a third baseman, but his career really took off after he made the move to DH.

In 6,218 plate appearances as a DH he hit .314/.428/.523 with 243 home runs. His best season was his first full year as a DH in 1995, as he won the batting title with a .356 average and also had AL highs of 121 runs, 52 doubles and a .479 OBP to finish third in AL MVP voting.

Overall, he finished his career with a .312/.418/.515 stat line. Larry Walker and Martinez are the only two eligible players to finish their career with a .300/.400/.500 line and not make the Hall of Fame, and in my opinion Martinez belongs in Cooperstown.

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