With the recent death (and subsequent cryogenic freezing) of Ted Williams, there has been a good deal of debate as to who now gets to wear the crown of Greatest Living Hitter and the all of the free McDonalds french fries that come with it. The same debate occurred after Joe DiMaggio's death in 1999 and the masses settled on Williams who had entered the cuddly phase of his baseball existence.
Names like Mays and Aaron are often cited. Rose, Musial, and Robinson fans are heard from. Baseball Prosepectus did an article in which they selected Barry Bonds, using their Equivalent Average stat. adjusted for era and ballpark.
They are fine hitters all, but-and I know that this may now be sacrilegious-I am still not entirely sure that Ted Williams was the greatest before he died, and I am pretty darn certain that DiMaggio was nowhere near the greatest before he died. I ran a list of Batting Win Shares for all living players and the two recently demised legends. I know that this is not a thorough examination but I prefer it to something like Equivalent Average because it takes career length into account. When I have some time, I will try to do something taking into account Batting Win Shares, Total Baseball's Runs Created (adjusted for era and park), and Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average so that all of the camps are heard from. Also, I have a few picky points with Batting Win Shares, such as singles hitters (e.g., Rose, Gwynn, Raines) seem overvalued to me and certain players don't rank how you would necessarily expect (Matthews is ahead of Schmidt and Brett for example). However, it's a pretty good tool overall.
Here are the top 28 living players who were including in the top 50 all-time plus Williams and DiMaggio:
Other than the unexpected Rusty Staub, the rest are names that one would expect to see in such a list. The two latest Greatest Hitters do not exactly top the list. Ted Williams is a very respectable 4th, and that indicates to me that a reasonable argument could be made for him as the Greatest. But DiMaggio is buried at 26, and that tells me that Joe D was more about P.R. than performance, great player though he was.
The two names that sprang to my mind when the debate began, Mays and Aaron, appear in the top 3. I thought that the more logical choice would be Mays but Aaron is eminently qualified. It is also nice to see the often overlooked Stan Musial at number 2. Bonds does take the Greatest Active Living Hitter crown nipping out Rickey Henderson.