In baseball, the batting average (BA) is defined by the number of hits divided by at bats. It is usually reported to three decimal places and pronounced as if it were multiplied by 1,000: a player with a batting average of .300 is "batting three-hundred." A point (or percentage point) is understood to be .001. If necessary to break ties, batting averages could be taken to more than three decimal places.
Outfielder Ty Cobb, whose career ended in 1928, has the highest batting average in Major League Baseball (MLB) history.[note 1] He batted .366 over 24 seasons, mostly with the Detroit Tigers. In addition, he won a record 11 batting titles for leading the American League in BA over the course of an entire season. He batted over .360 in 11 consecutive seasons from 1909 to 1919. Oscar Charleston is second all-time with a career batting average of .364. He had the highest career batting average in the history of the combined Negro leagues from 1920 to 1948. Rogers Hornsby has the third highest BA of all-time, at .358. He won seven batting titles in the National League (NL) and has the highest NL average in a single season since 1900, when he batted .424 in 1924. He batted over .370 in six consecutive seasons.
Other notable players include: Shoeless Joe Jackson batted .356 over 13 seasons before he was permanently suspended from organized baseball in 1921 for his role in the Black Sox Scandal. Jud Wilson played professionally from 1922 to 1945 and twice played on Negro World Series championship teams. Lefty O'Doul first came to the major leagues as a pitcher, but after developing a sore arm, he converted to an outfielder and won two batting titles. Turkey Stearnes twice led the Negro National League in batting average. Ed Delahanty's career was cut short when he fell into the Niagara Falls and died during the 1903 season. Ted Williams remains the most recent player to bat .400 in a major-league season. Babe Ruth hit for a career .342 average and held the major-league record for career home runs from 1921 until 1974.
|Rank||Rank among leaders in career batting average. A blank field indicates a tie.|
|Player||Name of the player.|
|BA||Total career batting average.|
|*||Denotes elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame. |
|Bold||Denotes active player.[note 2]|
Different sources of baseball records present somewhat differing lists of career batting average leaders. There is consensus that Ty Cobb leads this category. Further rankings vary by source, primarily due to differences in minimums needed to qualify (number of games played or plate appearances), or differences in early baseball records. Baseball-Reference.com includes the Negro League teams considered major leagues by Major League Baseball, as reflected in the below listing (top 100). Career batting average leaders (top 10) per some alternate sources can be found at Batting average (baseball)#All-time leaders.
- List of Major League Baseball players with a .400 batting average in a season
- List of Major League Baseball career on-base percentage leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career slugging percentage leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career OPS leaders
- "Career Leaders & Records for Batting Average". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
- "Ty Cobb Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
- "Oscar Charleston Career Stats". Baseball Reference. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
- "The Negro Leagues Are Major Leagues". Baseball Reference. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
- "Rogers Hornsby Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
- "SportsCenter Flashback: The Chicago Black Sox banned from baseball". ESPN Classic. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
- McKenna, Brian. "Lefty O'Doul". SABR.org. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
- "Ed Delahanty". baseballbiography.com. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
- Goldstein, Richard (July 6, 2002). "Ted Williams, Red Sox Slugger And Last to Hit .400, Dies at 83". The New York Times Company. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
- "The Negro Leagues Are Major Leagues". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 2021-06-29.