What makes a successful or feared lineup? It’s hard to pin the answer on just one factor, like team average, slugging percentage, “OPS.” Those are just numbers.
Baseball historians, and probably fans, agree that it’s something more. A combination of averages, home runs, runs batted in…and a few famous or big-name players tossed in—beyond sabermetrics.
Here’s a look at some of the top teams in the batter’s box, from long ago and including some of the best-hitting lineups from more recent years.
And since baseball is more than just offense, not all these hard-hitting teams made it to the World Series…or even finished first in their League Division. Then again, some of the teams set records…or broke curses.
Pretty much everyone agrees that this team, which featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, was the best lineup of all time. They were nicknamed “Murderers Row.”
They won 110 games, took the AL pennant by 19 games and swept the Pirates in the World Series. Ruth hits 60 homers, the record at the time, and Gehrig set a record with 175 RBIs…to go along with his 47 homers. Maybe that’s why he was named the AL MVP.
CF Earle Combs
SS Mark Koenig
RF Babe Ruth
1B Lou Gehrig
LF Bob Meusel
2B Tony Lazzeri
3B Joe Dugan
C Pat Collins
- Five players hit over .300, with Gehrig leading the way at .373: Gehrig, Combs, Ruth, Meusel, Lazzeri
- Four players drove in more than 100 ribbies, with Gehrig's 175 on top:The others were Ruth, Meusel, Lazzeri.
Hall of Famers: Combs, Ruth, Gehrig and Lazzeri
It must be noted that the Yankees had outstanding lineups over so many seasons, which is why they have won 27 World Series. Other top-hitting Yankee lineup years were: 1928, 1936, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1961, 1977, 1996 and 2010.
1953 Brooklyn Dodgers
Despite losing the World Series to the Yankees in 1953, the Brooklyn Dodgers fielded one of the best lineups ever, led by Roy Campanella, who had one of the best-ever seasons by a catcher and won the National League MVP. These Dodgers won 105 games…the most ever for the franchise at the time. The names on the lineup sound like an all-star team:
2B Jim Gilliam
SS Pee Wee Reese
CF Duke Snider
LF Jackie Robinson
1B Gil Hodges
C Roy Campanella
RF Carl Furillo
3B Billy Cox
- Five players hit over .300, with Furillo leading the way at .344, the others were Snider, Robinson, Campanella, and Hodges
- Three players drove in more than 100 RBIs, with Campanella driving in 142. Snider and Hodges were behind him
players were in the 30-home-run club: Snider had 42, Campanella 41 and Hodges
1929 Philadelphia Phillies
The ’29 Phillies team shows what happens when you have a great lineup but not good enough pitching. They were a powerhouse-lineup that achieved some amazing stats. However, the offense was not nearly enough to propel the team into the playoffs as they finished a sub-par 71-82, leaving them fifth in the National League.
Still, you have to be impressed by the numbers.
2B Fresco Thompson
LF Lefty O'Doul
RF Chuck Klein
1B Don Hurst
3B Pinky Whitney
CF Bernie Friberg
SS Tommy Thevenow
C Walt Lerian
- Six Phillies batted over .300, with O’Doul leading the way at .398. Behind him were Klein, Whitney, Thompson and Hurst.
- Four players had 100+ RBIs, with Klein leading with 145, with Hurst, O’Doul and Whitney following
players belted 30-home-run club: Klein had 43, O’Doul 32 and Hurst 31.
1976 Cincinnati Reds
There are more than a few votes for the 1976 “Big Red Machine” as the greatest team of All-Time. Seven of the 8 position players were named to the All-Star Team—five as starters. But here’s a fact that might shock you. The great Johnny Bench only batted .234 that season and Tony Perez hit only .260.
No matter—they were part of a tough lineup that statistically on offense led the league is almost all categories, including runs, average, hits, home runs…even though not a player hit at least 30. They swept, and routed, the Yankees in the World Series.
3B Pete Rose
RF Ken Griffey (Sr.)
2B Joe Morgan
LF George Foster
C Johnny Bench
1B Tony Perez
CF Cesar Geronimo
SS Dave Concepcion
- Five players hit over .300, with Ken Griffey Sr. tops at .336. Rose, Morgan, Geronimo and Foster followed.
- Foster drove in 121 runs; Morgan (who was NL MVP that year) had 111 RBIs.
- Bench, Morgan and Tony Perez are in the Hall of
Fame. As far as Pete Rose goes…
1999 Texas Rangers
The ’99 Rangers had a formidable lineup that included catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who had his best season ever and was named AL MVP. They won 95 games and took the AL West Division title for the third time in four years
However strong their bats were, the Rangers pitching arms didn’t match up and the Rangers didn’t get past the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.
2B Mark McLemore
C Ivan Rodriguez
LF Rusty Greer
RF Juan Gonzalez
DH Rafael Palmeiro
3B Todd Zeile
1B Lee Stevens
SS Royce Clayton
CF Tom Goodwin
- Four Rangers hit more than .300, starting with Rodriguez at .332. Gonzalez, Palmeiro and Greer followed.
- Four drove in more than 100 RBIs, with Palmeiro’s 148 RBIs on top, then Gonzalez, Rodriguez and Greer.
players belted at least 30 homers, starting with Palmeiro at 47, then Gonzalez
with 39 and Rodriguez with 35.
2004 Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox 2004 season will go down as one of the most memorable in baseball history, as they broke the “Curse of the Bambino” and did it in the most dramatic fashion . The team won 98 games and made the playoffs as the Wild Card. After sweeping the Angels, they came back from down 3-0 against the Yankees in the ALCS to advance to the World Series, where they swept the Cardinals.
Their lineup was anchored by their big two in Ortiz and Ramirez, but they were solid from top to bottom.
CF Johnny Damon
2B Mark Bellhorn
LF Manny Ramirez
DH David Ortiz
1B Kevin Millar
C Jason Varitek
RF Trot Nixon
SS Orlando Cabrera
3B Bill Mueller
- Three players topped .300 (though not by much) with Ramirez at .308 leading the group. Damon and Ortiz followed him.
- Ramirez had 43 home runs; Ortiz hit 41.
- They flip-flopped on RBIs, with Ortiz
getting 139 and Ramirez 130.
1995 Cleveland Indians
The ’95 Indians had two powerful players at the core of their offense: Albert Belle, who led the league in six offensive categories, and Manny Ramirez, who had a great year as well. The team had other big names on the roster.
The season was shorted by the baseball strike so only 144 games were played. The Indians won their division by 30 games, then swept the Red Sox and defeated the Mariners to face the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Glavine and Maddux ended the Indians’ great run in six games.
CF Kenny Lofton
SS Omar Vizquel
2B Carlos Baerga
LF Albert Belle
DH Eddie Murray
3B Jim Thome
RF Manny Ramirez
1B Paul Sorrento
C Tony Pena
- Six players hit better than .300. Murray led the charge with a .323 average, and he was joined by Belle, Baerga, Thome, Lofton and Ramirez.
- Belle hit 50 home runs, Ramirez had 31.
- Belle drove
in 126 runs; Ramirez had 107 RBIs.
2004 St. Louis Cardinals
The ’04 Cardinals won 105 games in and mowed down the National League in the process. They made it to the World Series, beating the Astros and Dodgers in the playoffs to get there, but then ran into the 2004 Red Sox.
You remember the rest of story. The Red Sox were the team of destiny that year and finally broke the “Curse of the Bambino” when they won the World Series, sweeping the strong Cardinals lineup, for their first WS Crown in years.
2B Tony Womack
RF Larry Walker
1B Albert Pujols|
3B Scott Rolen
CF Jim Edmonds
SS Edgar Renteria
RF Reggie Sanders
C Mike Matheny
- Four Cardinals hit over .300, and Pujols topped the list with a .331 average. Rolen, Womack and Edmonds followed him.
- Two Cards hit more than 40 homers: Pujols with 46 and Edmonds hit 42. Rolen hit 34.
Pujols and Edmonds each had more than 100 RBIs. Rolen had the most, with 124.
1997 Colorado Rockies
What happens when you combine powerful pitching with no pitching? You get the 1997 Rockies, who despite winning only 83 games and finishing third in their Division, put up some huge numbers on offense.
Coors Field in Denver may have had plenty to do with the output. Larry Walker, the NL MVP that season, had an incredible campaign, and his teammates joined in on the slugfest. But when your top pitcher only wins nine games, there’s not much you can do.
2B Eric Young
CF Ellis Burks
RF Larry Walker
1B Andres Galarraga
LF Dante Bichette
3B Vinny Castilla
SS Walt Weiss
C Kirt Manwaring
- Four of the core players reached the .300 mark, with Walker’s huge .366 on top. Galarraga, Bichette and Castilla followed.
- Three Rockies hit more than 40 home runs! Walker (49), Galarraga (41), Castilla (40). Burks belted 32.
- Four players busted through the 100
RBI mark. Galarraga with 140, Walker with 130, Bichette had 118 and Castilla,
Other great lineups that are worth noting.
1930 Cardinals, who had all eight position players hit more than .300!
1922 St. Louis Browns
1930 Giants, with six players hitting over .300.
More recent teams: 1995 Indians, 2000 Blue Jays, 2001 Seattle Mariners and 2003 Atlanta Braves
Resources: baseballalmanac.com; bleacherreport.com/articles/greatest hitting; baseballreference.com; espn.com/blog/sweetspot/ the-best-lineups; en.wikipedia.org; Sportcasting.com/the-mlb-teams