Monday, May 22, 2006

The greatness of Ruth

As Bonds passes the Babe, let's take a moment to reflect just how great a ballplayer Babe Ruth really was.

Career OBA: .474
Career SLG: .690
Total HR: 714
Total Hits: 2,873
Total Walks: 2,056

All this in a total of 8,399 ABs

To compare: Hank Aaron hit 755 HRs, but took 12,364 ABS, while walking only 1,402 times. His lifetime OBA was .374. and lifetime SLG was .555

Barry Bonds now has matched Ruth's HR mark, and has more walks at 2,354. Of course, he's had longer seasons in which to play, so his lifetime OBA is "only" .443 (He'll never catch the Babe on that one) and his SLG is a "mere" .610. In short, he's had a lot more games (2,767 vs. 2,503) and ABs (9,239 to 8,399) in which to work his trade.

Using GPA (no park adjustments) we see that Bonds has a lifetime GPA of .351, while Ruth has a lifetime GPA of a, well, a Ruthian .386.

For perspective, last year the best GPA over the entire season was Derrek Lee, at .355. Pujols' lifetime GPA so far is .342. Great, but unlikely to ever top Ruth's. An average Ruth year would win the MVP 4 times out of 5.

The more we understand and appreciate greatness with sabernomics, the more we appreciate just how awesome Ruth really was. It wasn't just the homers. He was simply put the greatest hitter who ever lived, and likely the greatest there ever will be.

This is of course not even considering the way Ruth changed the game in a way that has never been matched. It is not considering his pitching career. It is not considering other things, as well, such as dilution of the rosters, nor the unfortunate segregation of Ruth's day, nor the understanding of nutrition and exercise in today's game, nor any supplements, both legal and otherwise, which aid the modern ballplayer.

But such things are not clear, and their impact on the numbers are not clear. But what is clear is this: No one has in the entire history of baseball come close to Ruth's career numbers. In 70 years, he still towers over all other players, not as a standard, for no one has ever matched him, but rather as the ideal, the mountaintop no one has ever truly climbed, the apotheosis of what it is to be a hitter.


At 1:05 PM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

A few weeks ago, when Bonds was in town, I posted some stats comparing him, Ruth and Aaron in similar terms to those you cite. There is really no comparison between Ruth and anyone going strictly by the numbers to say nothing of personality.


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