Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ruth vs. Aaron and Bonds

After I compared the home runs of Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds as percentages of league totals, I thought it might be interesting to do the same for George Herman Ruth.

As more and more players exceed 500, 600 and even 700 lifetime homers, the Babe is starting to get lost in the shuffle. With very few people still alive who ever saw him play, some skeptics are dismissing his feats, using such caveats as the color line that unfortunately existed in organized baseball at the time.

Overlooked in the onslaught of modern home run marks is the enormity of Ruth's impact on the way baseball was played. Casual baseball fans might know the long ball was somewhat of a rarity before the Babe started hitting them. But even after certain aspects of the game made it easier for hitters after 1920, the balls weren't flying out of parks at anything resembling the rates of today. Throughout Ruth's career, in no season did the American League average more than 100 home runs per team, and usually the figure was well below that. Meanwhile, he was hitting them out at a pace very comparable to Aaron and Bonds.

Even in 1918, the year the Red Sox started to convert him to a full-time outfielder, the Babe was wowing 'em with his bat. His 11 home runs that year might seem like a few good weeks' worth of work nowadays, but it was an eye-popping total considering that the entire AL hit only 96 (that's a dozen per team). And considering that Ruth also posted a 13-7 record that year, with 18 complete games in 19 starts, then won two more games in the World Series.

Anyway, I tried to make Ruth's figures comparable to Aaron's and Bonds' by adjusting the number of teams to 12, even though eight existed throughout Ruth's career. (For the heck of it, I also ran straight percentages for Ruth, and they're truly astounding.)

Here is the chart for Ruth. Please click on the image for a larger view:

For Aaron and Bonds, see yesterday's post. And you'll see there is no comparison, really.

Trivia question 55:
In what season did Babe Ruth post his final victory as a pitcher?

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