As the MLB season gets going, let’s take a moment and look back at the greatest teams ever – so far, anyway. As it turns out, some teams of yesteryear had great batting averages, while some of the more recent teams socked the most homers. Take a journey through some of the greatest of the greats as we break down which MLB teams are the best in batting average, homers, stolen bases, and modern-day homers.
Hey Batter, Batter
Batting average is a pretty important stat when it comes to talking about baseball. While it doesn’t indicate the overall prowess of a batter (other stats like OBP or OPS can paint a more detailed picture of a player’s productivity), it does tell us if he’s a decent hitter. If you tally the whole team over the course of a season, you will get the team’s season batting average, and teams with a higher batting average, of course, hit better than teams with a lower average.
Looking at our stats here, you’ll likely notice all of these teams are pretty old – in fact, a few of them have moved “house” and re-established themselves in a new city. While we’ve looked at all data since the Dead-Ball Era ended (in other words, from 1919 to today), it’s striking the top five batting average teams are in the immediate decade after the Live-Ball Era became a thing. Reasons for higher averages at this time are speculative and varied and include: the recently outlawed spitball, which was incredibly hard to hit; cleaner baseballs, before this time, the reuse of baseballs if dirty; a change in baseball construction, including a higher grade of wool now wound by machine instead of hand; and enforcement of baseball defacement rules, which meant intentionally scuffing the baseball was more strictly frowned upon, leading to less movement and more hits.
The New York Giants (now known, of course, as the San Francisco Giants) have the highest team batting average of all time (0.319), a feat accomplished during the 1930 season. Out of their position players, nobody had an average lower than 2.65 (aside from a few guys who had less than 10 plate appearances), which is unusual these days – even the red-hot Red Sox, who were 18-5 as of April 26, 2018, have several players batting in the low .200s. Other high average teams include the 1921 Tigers, 1930 Phillies, 1930 Cardinals, and 1922 Browns (now known as the Baltimore Orioles).
We move away from the early days of the Live-Ball Era to more modern times to gather up the most prolific home run hittin’ teams. At the top of the heap, we find the 1997 Seattle Mariners, who fielded a team that included future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., a super prolific ball smasher with 56 homers in a season twice with Seattle (one of those seasons being 1997) and homers in the 40s four times as a part of the squad. You’ll also find Jay Buhner on this bomb-blasting team with 40 homers, and Paul Sorrento with 31. Six players, in fact, hit 20 homers or more during this season, and all told, they notched 264 home runs in 1997.
The 2005 Texas Rangers are right behind them with 260 home runs. Leading this particular team in homers that year was Mark Teixeira with 43, who played his first five big league seasons with the Rangers. Other players who contributed big to this home run total were Alfonso Soriano (36), David Dellucci (29), Hank Blalock (25), and Kevin Mench (25).
Two teams had 257 four-baggers in a single season: the 1996 Baltimore Orioles (Brady Anderson led the charge with 50 homers) and 2010 Toronto Blue Jays (José Bautista was the most prolific with the long ball, netting 54 home runs that season). The Orioles make another appearance on this list in the No. 5 spot with their 2016 squad, who sent 253 homers flying. Right fielder Mark Trumbo led the team in this statistic with 47 homers.
Stealing a Bag
Stealing a base is a fun aspect of baseball and can really impact the outcome of a game. Advancing from first to second, for example, gives the batter a runner in scoring position (RISP) and an opportunity for an RBI. It can also result in a sudden out and can deflate the hopes of the team on offense – for that out, anyway.
We tracked which teams racked up the most stolen bases over the course of a single season. The 1976 Oakland Athletics came out on top in this category with 341. Center fielder Billy North, who was a part of the team’s World Series victory just two seasons prior, had the most steals for the A’s this season with 75. Other players who contributed to the team’s overall total were Bert Campaneris with 54, Don Baylor with 52, and Claudell Washington with 37.
The 1985 Cardinals were the next-best in this category with 314. Interestingly, one player contributed one-third of the team’s overall total! Left fielder Vince Coleman, in his rookie year, stole 110 bases (and this wasn’t unusual for him over his first few seasons, going over 100 stolen bases three times). Willie McGee stole 56, and Andy Van Slyke stole 34 this season.
The Cardinals were prolific base stealers the following season, racking up 262 stolen bags. Coleman again stole over 100 in 1986 (which is interesting to compare to the second-most stolen bases – 31 courtesy of shortstop Ozzie Smith). In the stolen base department, the Cardinals are followed by the 1977 Pirates with 260 stolen bases and 1992 Brewers with 256.
Today’s Biggest Bats
Next, we looked at home run leaders over the last 10 seasons. The Blue Jays led the pack with 257 home runs in 2010. In addition to Bautista’s club-leading 54 homers, Vernon Wells hit 31, Aaron Hill hit 26, and Adam Lind hit 21. They’re followed by the 2016 Orioles with 253. The team’s heavy hitters (aside from the team-leading 47 off the bat of Mark Trumbo) include Chris Davis with 38, Manny Machado with 37, Adam Jones with 29, and Jonathan Schoop with 25.
The third most prolific home run hitting team over the last 10 seasons (as well as the fourth and fifth) is the New York Yankees. Their 2012 squad combined for 245 home runs and featured big numbers from Curtis Granderson (43), Robinson Canó (22), Mark Teixeira (24), and Nick Swisher (also 24). The 2009 Yankees aren’t far behind with 244. Heavy hitters here include Teixeira again (39), Alex Rodriguez (20), Swisher (29), and Hideki Matsui (28). Oh, and this specific squad won the franchise’s most recent World Series. The 2017 Yankees are fifth on this list with 241 homers. The biggest contributor that season was relative newcomer Aaron Judge with 52 home runs. His total was followed by Gary Sánchez with 33, Didi Gregorius with 21, and Brett Gardner with 21.
Our final entry here is the 2017 Houston Astros, who come in at No. 6 for a combined 238 homers. Home runs were frequent from the following players: George Springer with 42, José Altuve with 24, Carlos Correa with 24, and Marwin González with 23. By the way, this home run pounding club also won the World Series.
Get Your Gear Right Here
As you watch your favorite MLB team settle into the long baseball season and possibly hope for some big stats to come out (and, of course, a World Series win), make sure you have all the right duds from Fanatics, where you’ll find scads of awesome, authentic MLB gear.