I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.
Who Are the Greatest No. 9 Hitters of All Time?
The hitter penciled into the No. 9 spot in a baseball lineup is typically not a feared batter, so any offensive production a team can get from that hitter is welcomed. On most occasions, however, the production from the last spot in the lineup is few and far between. In the National League, the nine-hole is typically reserved for the pitcher, but since there is a designated hitter in the American League, the last batter in the lineup could be anybody. Unsurprisingly, the list of productive No. 9 hitters in the history of baseball is short. None of the best are prominent players in baseball's overall history and only one is close to being a household name. To give you an idea, among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances from the bottom of the lineup, none are .300 hitters. The record for career home runs from the nine-hole is 42.
To compile this list, I wanted to ensure players included spent a significant chunk of their career as a No. 9 hitter. Therefore, in order for players to be included on this list, they must have met both of the following criterion during their career:
- More than 1,000 plate appearances as the No. 9 hitter (70 non-pitchers all-time)
- At least 40 percent of career plate appearances came as the No. 9 hitter (33 non-pitchers all-time)
For the purpose of this article, I've excluded pitchers, and data was compiled through Stathead on Baseball Reference.
10. Cliff Pennington
- Years Played: 2008–18
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 1,535 plate appearances (48.85%), .249 average, 25 home runs, 47 steals
- Career Stats: 3,142 plate appearances, .242 average, 36 home runs, 84 steals
Cliff Pennington was selected as a first-round draft pick in 2005, and while he didn't live up to that billing and is perhaps best known for becoming the first position player to pitch in a postseason game, he was pretty good from the bottom of the lineup. His first career home run came off of Vicente Padilla from the nine-hole in 2009, and his 47 stolen bases rank 13th among every No. 9 hitter in baseball history (4th among those qualified for this list).
9. Einar Diaz
- Years Played: 1996–2006
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 1,416 plate appearances (62.7%), .268 average, 14 home runs, 75 doubles
- Career Stats: 2,257 plate appearances, .254 average, 21 home runs, 116 doubles
For more than a decade, Einar Diaz was split in his role as a primary or reserve catcher, but when he did play, he found most of his offensive production from the bottom of the lineup. His .268 average was 14 points higher than his career average and ranked third among players qualified for this article. By adding in some power, his OPS of .678 ranked fifth.
8. Bucky Dent
- Years Played: 1973–84
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 2,928 plate appearances (58.3 percent), .244 average, 29 home runs, 236 RBI
- Career Stats: 5,026 plate appearances, .247 average, 40 home runs, 423 RBI
Perhaps the most memorable moment ever from a No. 9 hitter belongs to Bucky Dent, whose three-run home run propelled the Yankees to victory in a 1978 regular-season tie-breaker game against the Red Sox. He then followed that up by winning MVP honors in the 1978 World Series, despite hitting ninth throughout the six-game series win over the Dodgers. He did make three All-Star teams, but Dent was otherwise fairly average—though his 29 home runs from the nine-hole rank fourth among players qualified for this list.
7. Glenn Hoffman
- Years Played: 1980–89
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 1,054 plate appearances (44.2%), .283 average, .332 on-base percentage, 57 doubles
- Career Stats: 2,383 plate appearances, .242 average, .291 on-base percentage, 106 doubles
Glenn Hoffman was actually a really good hitter out of the No. 9 spot, despite posting fairly pedestrian career totals. When batting ninth, Hoffman's batting average and OBP each improved by an astounding 41 points over his career marks. Hoffman ranks first among players qualified for this list in average, OBP and OPS (.715), and with splits like that, it makes you wonder why the Red Sox moved him around the lineup. He hit in every slot except third, and his best average anywhere else was a .250 mark in two games as the cleanup hitter.
6. Gary DiSarcina
- Years Played: 1989–2000
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 3,190 plate appearances (79.1%), .268 average, 23 home runs, 153 doubles, 41 stolen bases
- Career Stats: 4,032 plate appearances, .258 average, 28 home runs, 186 doubles, 47 stolen bases
Gary DiSarcina gave the Angels steady play at shortstop throughout his 12-year career, and even though he took the majority of his plate appearances as the No. 9 hitter, he proved he wouldn't be an offensive liability. Among qualified players for this list, DiSarcina has the second-highest percentage of plate appearances out of the ninth spot, but still managed the fourth-best batting average. He was an All-Star in 1995, the only season in which he hit better than .300. During that season, all but 25 of his plate appearances over 99 games came from the No. 9 slot.
5. Charlie Moore
- Years Played: 1973–87
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 1,830 plate appearances (40.8%), .272 average, .321 on-base percentage, 184 runs, 180 RBI
- Career Stats: 4,483 plate appearances, .261 average, .319 on-base percentage, 456 runs, 408 RBI
Charlie Moore brought an all-around approach to the nine-hole throughout his 15-year career. All but one of his seasons came with the Brewers, and late in the 1980 season, he produced a first for a No. 9 hitter. According to available data from 1901–present, Moore became the first player to hit for the cycle from the bottom of the order on Oct. 1, 1980. He's since been joined by Jeff Frye and Chone Figgins, and with two steals during his cycle, Moore is one of just players in baseball history to accomplish that (Cavan Biggio, 2019).
4. Rick Dempsey
- Years Played: 1969–92
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 2,391 plate appearances (44.2%), .238 average, .320 on-base percentage, 42 home runs, 216 RBI
- Career Stats: 5,407 plate appearances, .233 average, .319 on-base percentage, 96 home runs, 471 RBI
Though he was far from a prominent home run hitter, Rick Dempsey does have his place in the home run record books. He is tied for the most home runs ever hit by a No. 9 hitter (more on the other guy coming up), even though he only hit 10 or more in a season three times during his 24-year career. He is one of four players qualified for this list with more than 100 doubles out of the No. 9 spot, and by drawing the most walks (247), he was able to post the fourth-best on-base percentage, despite a 22nd-ranked batting average.
3. Pat Kelly
- Years Played: 1991–99
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 1,916 plate appearances (85.7 percent), .251 average, 27 home runs, 49 stolen bases
- Career Stats: 2,237 plate appearances, .249 average, 36 home runs, 61 stolen bases
Among players qualified for this list, Pat Kelly took the largest percentage of his plate appearances at the bottom of the lineup and produced the third-most steals and fifth-most home runs. Kelly's biggest moment from the No. 9 spot came in 1995 when he blasted a go-ahead, two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning of the third-to-last game of the season. That victory was the third of five straight to end the season, which helped secure New York's first postseason appearance since 1981.
2. Ozzie Guillen
- Years Played: 1985–2000
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 4,200 plate appearances (58.9%), .267 average, 170 doubles, 83 stolen bases
- Career Stats: 7,133 plate appearances, .264 average, 275 doubles, 169 stolen bases
Ozzie Guillen played more games and took more plate appearances from the bottom of the lineup than any other player in baseball history. In 76 of his 150 games as a rookie in 1985, Guillen hit ninth on the way to winning Rookie of the Year honors, and he was later an All-Star in 1988, '90 and '91. Guillen was a light hitter known more for his defense, but did record the fifth-highest average among qualified No. 9 hitters. In 1993, he had a hit out of the nine-hole in all but one game of the ALCS, but the White Sox lost the series. Guillen eventually won a World Series title while managing.
1. Mike Bordick
- Years Played: 1990–2003
- Stats as No. 9 Hitter: 2,705 plate appearances (41.7 percent), .258 average, 42 home runs, 265 runs, 278 RBI, 35 stolen bases
- Career Stats: 6,484 plate appearances, .260 average, 91 home runs, 676 runs, 626 RBI, 96 stolen bases
Mike Bordick is tied for the all-time lead for career homers from the No. 9 spot in the lineup (42), but his offensive balance is what makes him the best nine-hole hitter in baseball history. Bordick's .324 on-base percentage from the bottom of the lineup is second among qualified players, and he's one of four players with more than 100 doubles. During the 1997 postseason, Bordick hit .400 from the nine-hole in the ALDS, but in five other playoff series during his career, he hit below .200 each time—though he was used as the No. 8 hitter in all but three of those other 19 games.
The Top 10 players to hit out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup are listed above, but a handful of others who met the criteria for this list are worth mentioning.
Pat Meares played for the Twins and Pirates from 1991–2001, and was a solid No. 9 hitter for a lot of the time. Of his 3,560 plate appearances, 1,647 of them (46.3%) came as a No. 9 hitter. From the bottom of the lineup, he hit .263 with 13 triples and 26 stolen bases.
One of the better bottom feeders in today's MLB, Jake Marisnick has seen 58.4% of his plate appearances come from the nine-hole (1,100 of 1,884). He's hit just .232 from the bottom of the lineup, but does bring balance with 36 home runs, 47 doubles and 38 steals. Marisnick is currently an outfielder for the Mets, but has played the bulk of his career with the Astros.
Benji Gil only played eight seasons in MLB, but they were spread between 1993–2003. He took 1,292 of his 1,767 plate appearances from the ninth slot in the lineup (73.1%). Gil was a touted prospect, but was marginally above average for his career, and from the No. 9 spot, he hit .233 with 21 home runs, 53 doubles and 14 steals.
© 2020 Andrew Harner