MLB: The 10 Greatest Hitters of the 1990s
Major League Baseball saw a tremendous rise in offensive production in the ’90s, especially toward the end of the decade. At that time, players were bulking up and hitting more home runs than ever before. Many of those players went on to have borderline Hall of Fame careers — even if there are questions about performance enhancing drugs and some weird injuries that kept them out for long periods of time. Here are our 10 greatest hitters of the 1990s (with a minimum 900 games played).
- Mark Grace
He may not have had the home run totals of others on the list, but his resume dictates that he make it. Grace only clubbed 117 home runs in the ’90s, but he also hit .310 with a .385 OBP, a 122 OPS+, and he led the entire decade in total hits accumulated with 1,754. Gracie’s best year came in 1995, when he led the league with 51 doubles and hit .326/.395/.516. He accumulated 35.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as a first baseman during the decade, which of course also includes defensive value, which isn’t factored in to our list.
- Mark McGwire
From a purely good hitter who was lesser on power to a powerful masher who wasn’t nearly the hitter as the rest on the list, Mark McGwire was one of the true sluggers of the era. All baseball fans will recall the home run race of 1998, when he set a new record for homers hit in a single season with 70 — at least until the record was broken in 2001. Splitting his time between the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals in the ’90s, McGwire hit .268/.411/.615 with 405 home runs and 46.3 WAR, all while playing in an average of just 122 games per season.
- Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza didn’t get to play in the major leagues during the entire decade. He played the fewest games of anyone on the list — at just 981 — but he’s still one of the most notable players from the decade. Playing primarily at catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and briefly the Florida Marlins, Piazza hit .328/.391/.575 with 240 home runs in the ’90s. He is likely the best offensive catcher to ever play the game, and he finished the decade with a total 41.5 WAR — less than others on the list, but still great considering his total games played.
- Edgar Martinez
One of the more underappreciated hitters of his era due to his status as primarily a designated hitter, Edgar Martinez was one of the rocks of the ’90s Seattle Mariners. He hit .322/.430/.532 with 196 home runs during the era with a 154 OPS+, and his best season came in 1995 when he hit .356/.479/.628 — leading the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, and doubles. He compiled 51.6 WAR in those 10 years, which includes the 1993 and 1994 seasons when he totaled only 131 games played.
- Larry Walker
Larry Walker may be best known for how his offensive numbers skyrocketed as a benefit of moving from playing his home games in Montreal to Colorado. He had what is likely the best three-year stretch of any player on this list, hitting .369/.451/.689 with 109 home runs from 1997–99. He won the league MVP for his efforts in ’97 and finished the decade with a .961 OPS and 261 homers amassed. His WAR total for the decade came in at 47.7.