Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Babe Ruth: Revolutionary My Ass

The conventional school of thought is that Babe Ruth was a larger than life character that completely revolutionized the game of baseball. Was he really revolutionary or just a very talented yet over rated opportunist?

Babe was the best home run hitter in a league that had changed the rules when he began his shift from pitcher to every day outfielder. The league was in transition with rules changes that included banning the spit ball, more frequent changing of used/scuffed balls, the change of the "foul ball on two strikes = an out" to the modern "foul ball on two strikes = another pitch", along with new and smaller ballparks sprouting up around the league.

The Fat Man even got his own stadium. "The House That Ruth Built" was really built for Ruth's strengths and to mask his weaknesses (mostly defensive). No one has ever had that advantage, ever, let alone for the entire prime of their career. It's no secret why old Yankees Stadium had such a short right field porch and such little space between the stands and the foul line in right field. The Big Boy loved to pull balls into right field and they didn't want to allow down the line singles to turn into triples. It would be the equivalent of the Yankees building New Yankees Stadium with less foul territory between home and third and shortening left field to speed up the "A-Rod race to the Home Run Crown".

When you have a rules shift that benefits offense and a change in the approach towards the game, the most direct benefactors are the young players who were never conditioned to play in the old fashioned (in this case "small ball") way. He was the best of the first wave and the best prepared to take over playing in a league that had shifted its focus to becoming more fan friendly, home run friendly, and offense friendly.

Bottle will have you think he revolutionized the game and that he hit 60 home runs when the next closest player hit 8 forcing everyone in the league to change what they were doing. The truth is that by time Ruth hit 60, Rogers Hornsby had hit 42 and the players in the game were fully entrenched in the less offensively inept game. A look at league total stats starting at 1918 through 1922 shows the following:

1918 - 7,382 Runs, 235 HR, 254 Batting Average
1919 - 8,668 Runs, 447 HR, 263 Batting Average
1920 - 10,761 Runs, 630 HR, 276 Batting Average
1921 - 11,928 Runs, 937 HR, 291 Batting Average
1922 - 12,057 Runs, 1,055 HR, 288 Batting Average

To me...looks like that's the way the league was trending and the talented and powerful Babe Ruth, was the best of that trend...not the innovator.

Now, in no way am I saying he wasn't great. The fact that his single season home run record was beaten out by a guy who had a fluke home run hitting year (Maris) and his career total was beaten by possibly the most consistent hitter in baseball history (Aaron), are testament to how great of a power hitter he was.

Note - I don't count any of the obvious juice seasons and neither should you.

All I'm saying is he wasn't a player who changed the game. He was a great player who was prepared to and took full advantage of the game's changes.

So to all old white men and Bottle, Babe Ruth was great, but he revolutionized nothing, and stop trying to tell me otherwise.

As told by Hater J


  1. Babe Ruth was absolutely revolutionary.

    In 1919 he more than doubled the single season home run record, hitting 29 (the previous was 12). In 1920 he reset the record at 54, while the guy in second hit 15 (!!!). In 1921 he hit 59, the guy in second hit 23. A few years later he hit 60, which would be the single season record for 34 years.

    Prior to Ruth, the career home run leader was Roger Connor with 138 home runs. Ruth hit 714.

    Gehrig, one of the greatest hitters ever, hit in the same era and in the same ball park (and also a lefty), and he had 221 less home runs than Ruth. Also, as Mr D pointed out, his home runs were evenly split between home and the road. It clearly wasn't the park.

    Prior to Ruth coming along, the best players in the league were guys who hit for high averages and had little to no power (like 2 homers a year and less than 100 rbi's). Ruth transformed baseball into a power hitters game.

    To boot, before leaving pitching behind, he had led the league in ERA and had a 3-0 record with a .87 ERA in the World Series.

    Still, none of these are his most impressive stats (in my opinion). This is: In 1920, Ruth hit more home runs individually than any one American League team collectively. He hit more homers than any team in baseball except for the Phillies. Think about that. Choose any team that year and he hit more home runs than the whole team combined. That is absolutely crazy. It took years for the league to catch up...

  2. Also, as we were laughing about earlier, the big power hitter before Ruth came along was a guy named Home Run Baker. His big year was when he hit 8.

  3. Ruth actually held the game back, a generation of ball players thought they could get it done by being out of shape, and just "showing up". Imagine how great Mantle could have been if he knew he had to take care of him self.

  4. @ Bottle - Years? Do you see the numbers trending upward every single year? He was a phenomenal home run hitter. The fact that he was better at hitting homers than everyone makes him great, not revolutionary.

    Funny you mention Gherig. Can you name the player who batted behind him? Ruth, batting in front of Gherig, got a lot of pitches to swing at given he had one of the greatest hitters in the game's history as his insurance policy.

    If you want to discredit that thought, its fair to say that Gherig was a great power hitter in his own right. Ruth's stats indicate he was a better home run hitter. How is him being just being better than everyone at hitting bombs revolutionary?

    If they move the three point line in a few feet and a guy like Steph Curry hits 100 more 3 pointers than anyone in the league and sets an NBA record for three pointers made along with a scoring title, does that make Steph revolutionary or just a great shooter in the right place at the right time?

  5. You spics don't know what you're talking about

  6. Holy Cow! What a bunch of huckleberries!

  7. Today I consider myself the luckiest man to ever be blogged about.

  8. Now I know why nobody ever comments here, it's too crowded.