Baseball Judgments

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Historical myth #2: Pete Rose was a great hitter


By Roger Weber


Pete Rose is one of the most well known hitters in baseball history for a variety of reasons. He had the most hits of any player ever. He also had the most at bats and played in the most games. He had the longest hitting streak in the history of the National League – 44 games. He played on some of the best major league teams in the '70s and was nicknamed "Charlie Hustle." But he was also banned from baseball for betting. Since his expulsion there has been a large push for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame, a position he cannot attain.


Whether Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame is up for debate. His records are certainly worthy of note and his longevity and spirit on the field are also strong points for his inclusion. But whether his talent actually was Hall of Fame quality is another issue. That isn't what we're trying to decide here. With the following points I wish to show that Rose simply benefited more from his long career than from the incredible talent with which he is sometimes credited.


Let's first look at Rose's strengths.

1. He hustled. Yes he certainly did. But so would most fans if given a chance to play. Hustle should show up in his statistics, dragging doubles into triples, getting lots of stolen bases and being good on defense. Rose is first by far on the all time singles list, but only second on the all time doubles list and seventy-fifth on the all time triples list. Most of his hits were singles, proportionally more than most "great" players.


2. He got a lot of hits, 4,256 to be exact, though the number is foreign to many Cincinnati fans who focus on his "record breaking" hit 4,192. Actually he broke the record at 4,190, which we now know thanks to statisticians who double checked Ty Cobb's records. But as far ahead in hits as Rose is, he is even further ahead in outs. Quite simply, Rose had the most at bats. And he was a decent hitter, which over 24 years allowed him to set the hits record. Following are the top five players in at-bats as well as their career batting averages.


At bats


Pete Rose



Hank Aaron



Carl Yastrzemski



Cal Ripken Jr.



Ty Cobb




All the players in the top five either are or will be in the Hall of Fame except Rose, and Rose has the third best batting average of the five, so this may actually lend some support to Rose's case. But as you can see, Rose's hit record was more by virtue of his number of at bats than of his ability to get more hits per at bat than all other players. Yes, his batting average is good, about one standard deviation above average, but is the highest.


Of major cumulative offensive statistics, here are the rankings of Rose on the all time list:




At bats








Total bases








Home runs

Not in top 100







Grounded into double plays


Stolen bases

Not in top 100


Rose is first in the simplest categories, but his rankings fall as the hits get more valuable. And because he played so long, not only is he high in the hits rankings, but he is also at the top of the outs list (by far) and the "grounded into double plays" list.


When Rose's longevity is taken out of the picture, as it is through average figures, Rose's rankings look like this:




Batting average

Not in top 100

On base percentage

Not in top 100

Slugging average

Not in top 100


Not in top 100


His greatest strength appears to have been his long career and ability to play decently for 24 seasons. His effort is also a positive attribute, but Rose's abilities tend to appear better than what they were because of the length of his career.


Quite simply, Pete Rose was the most overrated player who ever played baseball.


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