We continue our countdown of the 25 Best Hitters of the Free Agent Era. The rest of the posts can be found here. If you like our countdown and other content, please sign up for our mailing list and like our page on Facebook!
We’ve reached one of the Hall of Fame’s newest members. When I think of Vladimir Guerrero, I think of the best bad ball hitter in baseball. He swung at everything, and still hit it. Here’s a great video compilation, if you’re unfamiliar.
Vladdy joined the majors in 1996 at 21 years old, but his first full season was not until 1998. Playing for the Montreal Expos, he greeted the baseball world that year with a monster line of .324 BA, 38 homers, 109 RBI, and a .589 slugging. Guerrero can probably be considered one of the most consistent hitters in the game during his 16 year career, never batting lower than .290 in any season where he had at least 325 at bats. The only season this excludes is his cup-of-coffee in ’96 when he only batted 27 times.
He was also consistent with the long ball, crushing at least 27 homers in 11 of his seasons. This doesn’t include 2003, in which he hit 25 in only 394 at bats.
He batted .300 or better 13 times, including .324 or better in seven of those. Amazingly, despite his pension for swinging at ludicrously bad pitches, Vlad never struck out more than 95 times in a single season. He finished with 737 walks against 985 strikeouts, good for a .379 career on-base percentage. Add that to his career slugging of .553, and his OPS of .931, which actually places him sixth in OPS among the 13 players left in our countdown.
His best season came in 2000, his age 25 campaign. Vlad batted robust .345, sporting a .410 OBP and a monster .664 slugging. He sported a 1.000+ OPS in two additional seasons (2002 and 2003). The 2000 season may have been his best, but he actually won the MVP in 2004 with the Anaheim Angels, batting .337, slugging .598, homering 39 times, and driving in 126 runs.
When all was said and done, Vladimir was one of the most well rounded and awesome hitters of our time.
He finished with a .318 average and 449 homers. This ties with one of our previous subjects, Jeff Bagwell, for 40th on the all-time list. His slugging percentage of .553 is 23rd in history. How impressive is this? Hank Aaron was .555. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays both finished at .557.
Vladimir Guerrero was a slugger. Had he played more seasons, I guarantee we probably don’t get to his name until the top 10 somewhere. However, there are some monsters ahead of him.
Stay tuned as we finally get to the top dozen soon!
photo credit: MLB.com