Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

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supertyphoon

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Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 3:55 am

One of my favorite writers, Joe Posnanski, wrote a thought piece for The Athleic yesterday which addressed the question whether Ruth would be a star in today's game. He also gets some input and opinion from Bill James. Since the Athletic is behind a pay wall, I'll just quote his conclusion:

In the end, my guess is that great athletes would be great athletes in any era. If Jesse Owens grew up in today’s world, I think he’d be the fastest man alive. If Johnny Unitas grew up in today’s world, I think he’d be the NFL MVP. If Chris Evert grew up in today’s world, I think she’d be the No. 1 player on the planet.

If Babe Ruth grew up today, he’d be the biggest star in baseball and American sports. I deeply believe that.


This of course is the central conceit of SOM All-Time Greats. We argue whether Ross Barnes or Hugh Duffy would be superstars if they played against modern day pitching, defenses etc. And of course we all have an opinion, but in reality no one is right or wrong.
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rburgh

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 11:27 am

I have seen multiple videos of Ruth's swing. It's way too long for today's game. He'd be Adam Dunn at the plate if he continued to use it, totally helpless against any decent slider. One of the early pitchers to use a slider extensively was George Uhle, and Ruth's OPS against him was .829 in over 100 PA's.

But he WOULD be a superstar. On the mound. Or maybe, he would have been taught a shorter swing at an early age. And of course he'd be a whole lot fitter than the beer-bellied slugger we see in pictures. Two things are for sure, he had remarkable eye to hand coordination and he was strong as an ox. That translates pretty well into the category "hitting machine."

My issues with his cards in this game are simply due to the strategy of the days he began his career in. He basically demolished 50-60 years of the science of hitting, since he was the only hitter trying to hit the ball over the fence in the early 1920's. Hornsby and Gehrig quickly followed suit. And then there was the year when Cobb decided to hit home runs. I think it was1925, when he slugged .598 at age 38, second only to his otherworldly 1911 season at age 24. In 1925, which was coincidentally Ruth's worst season, Cobb led the AL in OPS and OPS+.

When pitchers are trying to keep you from hitting the ball on the ground the other way, and you are simply looking to pull everything in the air, magical things can happen. It was be like if some big LH slugger today decided to simply hit the ball the other way against a shift, and everybody continued to shift against him. He'd demolish the single season batting average record and the single season hit record.

But Ruth did continue to murder the ball for more than a decade, recording OPS's over 1.100 13 times in 14 years. So he was still a great hitter even when the pitchers adapted to the new style of hitting.
Last edited by rburgh on Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Chris Franco

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 12:15 pm

Great is great. God given talent is God given talent.
No question in my mind Ruth would dominate today as he did then.
What do those stats look like? I have no idea. But he would dominate. Just as he did then.
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anthony040409

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 12:58 pm

Consider this fences were much longer back in the day and with so many less teams pitching talented wasn't nearly as diluted then as now. With over 30 teams now let's be honest 200 innings pitched he is considered a work horse when Mike Marshall 40 years ago pitched 200 innings as a reliever. Pitching talent today would be double or triple a at best so someone with Ruth's talent that could both hit and pitch like he could would be the first 300 million ball player and would be worth it. Side note no player today is with 10 years 300 million dollars I actually hope the days of 20 million a year or more for 10 years or more are over so we see more money spent on both quality and quantity.
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mykeedee

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 1:57 pm

anthony040409 wrote:Consider this fences were much longer back in the day and with so many less teams pitching talented wasn't nearly as diluted then as now. With over 30 teams now let's be honest 200 innings pitched he is considered a work horse when Mike Marshall 40 years ago pitched 200 innings as a reliever. Pitching talent today would be double or triple a at best so someone with Ruth's talent that could both hit and pitch like he could would be the first 300 million ball player and would be worth it. Side note no player today is with 10 years 300 million dollars I actually hope the days of 20 million a year or more for 10 years or more are over so we see more money spent on both quality and quantity.


Not so fast dude, starting pitching does not last as many innings as it did back then, so not as many tired pitchers making borderline bad pitches to sluggers like Ruth. Specialized relievers working to his weak spots (which much better prep would find), faster pitches and better location and movement, in spite of dilution due to more players, pitching is as good, probably better than in Ruth's Day. All that being said, he was super talented, very astute as far as who was pitching him and how he was being worked, and with today's video and better coaching and more attention to kids with promise he would probably rise to an upper level as a player, if not superstar! But 300 mil...no way!!!
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DGF102052

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 5:14 pm

If Babe Ruth was playing today, he be lucky to bat .250 with 10 HR. But that's not bad considering he be 124 years old if he was playing today.
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anthony040409

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 7:18 pm

So let me get this straight a man hit 714 homeruns with center field fence was 455 feet power allies were 425 and foul line 400 these compared to now days centerfielder deepest park's today 405 cf 380 power allies and foul lines whooping 325 woo hoo. Add to that the man known as the Babe won over 100 games as a pitcher including a world series. I'm sorry if people say Bryce Harper is worth 300 million the Bambino is period. Lol.
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anthony040409

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 7:24 pm

Hell old giants stadium in ny had a 464 foot centerfielder wall 434 power allies and 415 and willie May's hit over 400 homers there before move out west. I'd love see him start his career at 20 or 21 play healthy 15 to 20 years and see his homerun total with DH its easily possible. His flybouts to warning tracks in old giants stadium would be tape measure shot today.
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andycummings65

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 7:43 pm

I've watched his swing, Gehrig's too. As Craig said, they are long.
They are long because they could AFFORD to be long.
And, because of the lower average pitching velocity back then, they had to actually generate MORE power themselves. Notice that the stars of today have somewhat sacrificed making contact (i.e.--more strikeouts) for more power. Ruth and his contemporaries could hit with more of a combination of contact and power than all but the best hitters do today because, on average, they were facing less velocity and movement.

I think, after a long period of adjustment to the speed, they could do anything the stars of today are doing.
If I remember right, Posnanski's query was if Ruth was dropped into 2019 just as he was in, say 1927, would he struggle.
BUT, if Ruth was born in 1995 instead of 1895 and grew up adjusting to the speed of pitching today, he wouldn't need that period of adjustment IMO.

Ever try to play competitive baseball and slow pitch softball during the same general time period? I used to laugh when the young baseball players would come out and try to hit slow pitch softball pitching. Their timing was off, though their swings were good. I probably got laughed at too when I started having to transition from baseball to softball.
(I'm not saying 1930's baseball was like softball). What I am saying, timing is (close to) everything. As good a question, drop Bryce Harper into 1927. He'd need a period of adjustment too, though not as much (MUCH easier to adjust to slower pitching than faster pitching IMO, thought there is an adjustment either way.
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andycummings65

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Re: Would Babe Ruth be a superstar if he played today?

PostFri Feb 08, 2019 7:52 pm

Also, better health care, nutrition, and strength training have made an incalculable difference in the size and health of humans today.

Babe Ruth was 6'2, listed as 215lbs, though he probably weighed more than that in the 1930s.

Jimmie Foxx was called The Beast, and he was 6'0, 200lbs. IAN KINSLER is 6'0, 200lbs.

Bryce Harper is bigger than Babe Ruth in his prime.
Aaron Judge is 6'7, 285lbs.
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