Greatest Lead off hitter of all time?


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
I've seen a lot of people having different opinions about who's the best lead off hitter of all time. I was wondering who you guys think is the best leadoff hitter and why?

This should be interesting because I believe that a lot of members have different opinions about this question, let make this a good knowledgable topic guys.


Ichiro certainly has a case, despite his low walk numbers, Cobb would be a good pick, Brock wouldn't be a bad choice, and Rickey Henderson also has a great arguement.

I'm going to go with the latter and say Henderson.

Henderson had not only incredible speed, but was also an extremely smart baserunner and basestealer. He also had pretty good power, decent average, great OBP, had very good plate discipline and would take a walk if he had to. He was the type of guy that would beat out a throw from the shortstop, steal second, steal third, and then score on a sac fly.

Not to mention he only struck out just over 1,600 times in about 3,100 games.


Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton established the model for a leadoff hitter. The role of the leadoff hitter is to score runs. Hamilton is one of only 3 players to score more runs than games played. He scored over 100 runs every year he played full time. In addition to his lifetime .344 and 912 SB, he got on base with a good batting eye recording over 100 BB 5 times.

I remember in the mid 1980s when Bob Costas made the announcement that Rickey Henderson was the greatest leadof hitter ever. He must not have remembered Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle didn't steal bases but, he has more hits than any other player, switch hits, and was the smartest base runner I've ever witnessed. Sometimes he would stop between bases to draw a throw then prolong a rundown while a team-mate scored.
I don't think Henderson could change a game the way Rose could. I rank Rose a very distant 2nd behind Hamilton.

Rickey Henderson may have better statistics lifetime but, Kenny Loften, Willie Wilson, and to a lesser extent, Jose Reyes could change the game when they got on base. I thought Tim Raines was better than Henderson through the 1980s. Just because of longevity, I rank Henderson a distant 3rd behind Pete Rose.


To me the answer is simple. Watch the Induction ceremonies in Cooperstown in 2009 for your answer.

Rickey changed the game. He was one of the most exciting ballplayers ever. Until I see something that would change my mind, Rickey Henderson is the greatest leadoff hitter ever.


Sexy Beast
For me, Rickey is an easy choice. He could steal bases like none other, and had a great power/speed combo, to go along with so few strike outs and so, so many walks. He was expected to score 1.67 runs a game, and he did. Billy Hamilton would also be a good choice, as would Lou Brock. BTW, natnsoxfan, Ty Cobb wasn't a lead off man for the Tigers.


Ricky Henderson and its not even close. I would say Ichiro is #2 for me with his defense and everything involved, but what Ricky did was the best. You could argue he was the best baseball player with his ability to get on base, hit for power, and stealing he is obviously in a class by himself.


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
I have to go with Henderson as well, not just because of the numbers, but for what he did. If you would program someone to be your perfect leadoff hitter it would be Henderson. He's second all time in walks with 2,190 career walks, first in career runs with 2,295 career runs. He was the 1990 American League MVP. He led the league in stolen base 12 times, in walks four times and in runs five times. He also had close to 300 home runs in his career, 1100 rbi's. He once had 130 stole bases in a season which is un-heard of these days. He was a complete player, and in my opinion the best leadoff hitter of all time.


Ty Cobb was the feature hitter in the lineup #3. The leadoff hitters for the Detroit Tigers when Cobb played were former olympic runner, Davey Jones and Matty McIntyre, then Donie Bush, then Lu Blue.

Maury Wills changed the game back... and Lou Brock followed.

I feel that Ichiro is the best leadoff hitter today.

Who was the best leadoff hitter by decade?

1880-John Monte Ward or Arlie Latham?
1890-Billy Hamilton
1900-Ginger Beaumont?
1910-Clyde Milan or Max Carey?
1920-Lu Blue?
1930-Lloyde Waner, Doc Cramer, or Luke Appling ?
1940-Barney McCosky or George Case?
1950-Richie Ashburn or Nellie Fox?
1960-Maury Wills or Lou Brock?
1970-Pete Rose
1980-Rickey Henderson
1990-Kenny Loften
2000-Ichiro Suzuki



I must say rickey henderson. He brought an electricity to the game that was unmatched at the time


I don't know enough about Billy Hamilton's career to analyze him in this context. I know he was a tremendous 19th century player and probably still deserves to rank among the Top 10 CF's of all time... though certainly not among the Top 5 (Cobb, Speaker, DiMaggio, Mays and Mantle, in that chronological order).

But leaving the question of Hamilton out of the mix, my answer is an easy one:

Rickey Henderson. Raines is #2, and was a tremendous player who belongs in the Hall of Fame. But he is to Rickey what Jimmie Foxx was to Lou Gehrig: a very similar player who played at the same time and, although great, was clearly the lesser of the two.