The ability to hit with two strikes is a seemingly forgotten skill in today’s MLB.
MLB as a whole is .151/.159/.225 with two strikes sooo I’d say .240/.317/.352 is very good https://t.co/kJH7yzFLgd
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) April 29, 2018
However, some of the sport’s greatest hitters have felt comfortable at the plate, even when behind in the count.
They have the ability to still do damage and produce when the odds typically wouldn’t be in their favor.
MLB hitters frequently have a low average in two-strike counts, hitting just .177.
It is a skill that is difficult to master but proves the hitting talent of the player.
Here is an in-depth look at the three greatest two-strike hitters of all-time.
1. Tony Gwynn
Without question, Gwynn is the greatest pure hitter when behind in the count.
His numbers jump off the page and are seemingly other worldly.
During his career Tony Gwynn hit .302 when he had two strikes (2,053 PAs). pic.twitter.com/juyxCCOwHo
— Stirrups Now! (@uniformcritic) December 4, 2020
There has only been one hitter with a career batting average over .265 in two-strike counts; Gwynn hit an astounding .302.
To put this in perspective, Derek Jeter’s career average is just .234 when down to his last strike.
Over a five-year stretch from 1993-1997, Gwynn was nearly perfect with a .337 batting average in those situations.
In that period, no other hitter in the MLB had their regular batting average that high.
He had an uncanny ability to avoid the strikeout, getting punched out just 434 times in his entire career.
In the strike-shortened 1994 season, Gwynn hit .394 in 110 games.
The only knock against the left-hander was his lack of slugging.
Gwynn was never a power hitter, and his numbers reflect that.
He thrived off hitting singles through the “5.5 hole,” in between the shortstop and third baseman.
However, no matter what, you cannot take away his amazing ability to hit with two strikes.
2. Barry Bonds
It feels like Bonds’ name is included in every “greatest” hitting conversation, no matter the category.
The truth is that he deserves it.
In his time, Bonds was the most devastating and feared hitter in MLB history.
Barry Bonds 600th homer. pic.twitter.com/VmPhYJSSLb
— BaseBallBible (@Base_Ball_Bible) February 20, 2016
He was the unique union of uncharted power and plate discipline, making him a difficult out for opposing pitchers.
This was even true when they got ahead and put him in a two-strike hole.
Bonds is the all-time career OPS leader in two-strike counts.
This was especially noticeable during his string of four-straight MVP seasons from 2001-2004.
During this time, Bonds was routinely hitting better than the rest of the league, even if he started in the worst count.
If he were placed in just 0-2 counts, he would have still been 113% better than the league average in terms of weighted runs created (wRC+).
This is yet another insane Bonds stat that represents his dominance at a high level.
There are few others that compare to him with two strikes.
3. Todd Helton
Helton is a relatively lesser-known player on this list.
However, his two-strike stats back up his positioning with this group.
Todd Helton is a HOF’er! No doubt! I was fortunate enough to play with him for 2 months in 2000. He hit .372! He was the best player on the field every game we played together except when Barry Bonds was on the field. Great teammate and leader too! #shegone @MLB pic.twitter.com/1yWLWBKDOx
— Jeff frye/ #shegone (@O3jfrye) January 5, 2021
He is a mixture of the slugging and on-base stature of Bonds, with an average that more approaches Gwynn.
As of today, Helton is second all-time in OPS.
He was known as a doubles machine during his career, routinely hitting at least 40 each season.
Along with that, his career average with two strikes was around .260, one of the better totals besides Gwynn.
He was one of the best all-around threats at the plate and it translates to two strikes.
While he is still a fringe Hall of Famer for many, this is another part of his talent that should be considered.
These three players were all able to be successful with two strikes, even in eras where strikeouts began to rise.
Based on the stats that we have, they are arguably the three greatest two-strike hitters of all-time.