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Better Than the Babe

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  • Every thread on Baseball Fever 10 years or older is going to be completely erased- at least, every exigent thread of that era has been, to date. This is one I wouldn't want to see fall into that trap!

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    • Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds are likeliest among the last couple decades.


      Here's what our Member "pheasant" (who is both a tacit and explicit) Ruth supporter over the years!!!- eloquently wrote via PM re: Bonds (1990-1998). He stated, plainly, that Bonds' run during the 90's was, all things considered, the greatest run of any player in baseball history.

      "I am a huge fan of LQ. And I am even a bigger fan of well-rounded players. Mike Trout is my favorite player, which no disrespect towards Pujols. When using my adjustments, it is actually clean-Barry that virtually matches Ruth's peak. That's right--clean Barry.

      Like I mentioned earlier, Mays' career eclipses Ruth's, when looking overall career value. But I am huge peak person. So I chose Ruth by a small margin since Ruth had a long enough peak. Clean-Barry wasn't clean long enough, or I believe that he actually was on pace to eclipse the mighty Babe. Based on my forecasts, I had clean Barry topping everybody. However, a 9 year peak isn't long enough.

      I watched baseball long enough to see the improvements, even from the 1970s to the 1990s. The players are more athletic than even in Willie's day. The highlight reals from the 1950s-1970s on defensive plays that I've seen pale in comparison to even the last 5 years. I.e, take all of the great defensive plays from 1950-1970 that's on tape and I'll take the past couple of years any day. My tape would impress most people easily.My old man is 40 years older than I and even HE admits that the level of defensive play has gone up immensely. My old man was at a ton of games in which Dimaggio and Mays played. My dad once said that nobody will ever top Dimaggio, although it's tough to bet against Mays. He no longer says that. And he was one heck of a pitcher in his day(actually threw a slider in the 1940s, which is saying a lot).
      Last edited by csh19792001; 01-30-2014, 05:35 PM.

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      • I calculated Z Scores for Mike Trout and Babe Ruth. Ironically, they played almost the exact same number of games during their peaks (1920-1928 for Babe, 2012-2021 for Trout). I calculated this using the top 50 in qualifying players for WAR (Fangraphs), or wRC+ (Fangraphs), for each's respective timeframes in question:

        wRC+ Z-Score
        Ruth: 4.29
        Trout: 4.37

        WAR Z-Score
        Ruth: 4.51
        Trout: 4.59

        I also did the same for peak 5 consecutive year spans. 1920-1924 for Ruth for WAR and wRC+, 2012-2016 for Trout for WAR and 2017-2021 for wRC+.( Best for each in each respective metric.):

        wRC+ Z Score
        Ruth: 4.47
        Trout: 4.44

        WAR Z-Score
        Ruth: 4.34
        Trout: 4.32

        So, in reality, when factoring in top 50 competition, Trout has been at least as dominant at his best as Babe Ruth was at his.

        This despite Babe destroying Trout (and everyone else in history) in every possible traditional or "adjusted" metric out there.

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        • Screen Shot 2021-05-04 at 4.45.36 PM.png
          No way in hell Babe Ruth could EVER put up across the board percentile ranks like this, had they existed 100 years ago.

          Trout is much more skilled, and is every bit the hitter (at his best) that Ruth was (at HIS best).
          Last edited by Floyd Gondolli; 05-04-2021, 02:56 PM.

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          • Originally posted by Metal Ed View Post
            Torrez, I'm not arguing the point that Ruth WASN'T the best player of his era, or that somebody from one of those other leagues was better, or that those other leagues, on average, was better than the Majors. That's moving away from my intended point. My point was that expanding the population pool and diversifying the league makes the average player better - and thus puts less distance between the best in the league and the league average, making stand-out performances more difficult.

            Okay, please bear with me as I go off on a long tangent to illustrate. I think we can both agree that the Ruths and the Bonds of any particular era are going to hit the worst pitchers in their respective leagues better than the best ones. Okay, occasionally there's a guy with a 5.83 era who, for whatever reason, seems to have Bonds' number - exceptions like that do occur. But they are the exceptions. Same thing with the best pitchers vs. the worst hitters. Occasionally we find that a schlub with a career .207 average is in the lineup against the Big Unit simply because he's gone 9-for-16 against Randy Johnson. These things happen, but they are the exception that proves the rule. In general, the worst pitchers are the easiest to hit off of - that's why they are the worst pitchers (obviously); and the best hitters are the hardest to pitch to - that's why they are the best hitters.

            I'm not going to pull up the numbers on this one, but I'm sure that we can both agree that if we divided the league into quintiles of ability - say, top 20%, bottom 20%, etc. - we would no doubt find that the Ruths and the Bonds have their highest slugging percentages against the bottom 20% of the pitchers in their leagues, not against the top 20%. If you had to play the All-Star team everyday, your numbers wouldn't be very good, and it would not be because you're not good.

            Vice versa, if we divided the hitters into quintiles, I'll bet that the lowest opposing hitters' BA against Randy Johnson comes from the bottom 20% of the hitters in the league - not the top 20%.

            You said that: "Yes, the Major Leagues in the 20's may have been even stronger overall had you tossed out the worst whites and taken the best from the other countries and put them in." MAY have been? Pardon my french, but that's horse poopie, my friend. OF COURSE they would have been.

            Okay, I'm definitely NOT trying to say that Ruth would have been out of a job if the league had been integrated. Or Lou Gehrig, or Walter Johnson. OF COURSE those guys still make the team, integrated or not, and of course they'd perform at the top of the league. But that "top" spot would not be as high as it once was. It would not be as far above the average as it used to be. Because the bottom feeders in the league are gone. The bottom percentile is gone, replaced by another league's best.

            Come on. Do you honestly believe that the WORST player in the white big leagues in 1920 was still better than the BEST player in the Negro Leagues?

            OK, let's toss race out the window. I don't want to play the race card anyway. Hey, I'm not even balck. Take another white league. Do you honestly believe that the BEST player in the white Pacific Coast League was not as good as the worst player in the white Major Legaues? That not a single low level player could have been replaced by someone more qualified? What's the East got that's so special? Remember, the guys in the PCL weren't in the majors, not because they weren't good enough to play in the majors but because transportation wasn't sufficiently developed to bring them in and even give them a chance to contend. It wasn't unitl the late 30's and early 40's that these guys came in.

            Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams got started in the PCL. Had they been born 20 years earlier, we might have never heard their names, because they never would have made the majors. Don't tell me that there weren't ANY players in the PCL who couldn't have been better than the WORST players in the Majors in the 1920's.

            In the last 7 years of its existence, the Negro Leagues gave up HOFer's Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Lary Doby, and - pause for emphasis - Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. What would the previous 40 years of the Negor Leagues have yeilded? Not a SINGLE player who might have been better than the WORST player in the majors at the time?

            OF COURSE the best players in the PCL and Negro Leagues were better than the worst players in the Majors, and OF COURSE diversifying the league would have made it stronger. No "maybes" about it. How many of the majors bottom feeders would have been tossed out, replaced by someone better ? I don't know. The bottom 10%, the bottom 20%, the bottom 40%? I don't know, how many guys in the Majors today AREN'T from the white Northeast U.S.? Probably a lot.

            OF COURSE Ruth and Gehrig would still have been in an integrated league, and OF COURSE they'd still be in the elite. But now, the bottom 20% or 30% or whatever of the competition - the ones that they've been slapping silly - have gotten better. They're not going to slug 1.000, or whatever, against those guys anymore. The same thing goes for the top pitchers - with the bottom feeding hitters in the league having gotten better, the top pitchers stand out from the pack less so than before. When the bottom gets better, and the average gets better, the distance between the best players and the worst players will shrink. The best will still be the best, but by a smaller margin.

            Adjusting for the league mean - using OPS+ and ERA+ - only adjusts for the balance between offense and pitching in the league at the time. When we talk of OPS+ and ERA+, we are looking no longer at the balance between hitting and pitching, but at the balance between the top performances and the rest of the league. And that balance will almost always favor old players over modern ones. As the popuation from which players are drawn expands, and as talent pool thickens and the talent in the leagues becomes denser, the performance of the best players in the league, relative to their peers, is going to be dragged down by the fact that the average is now better. Going back to my IQ example, a man with an IQ of 165 in a room full of men with an average IQ of 100 has an IQ+ of 165, but at a Mensa meeting, his IQ+ is 165/150 = 110. It's not that he's gotten dumber; the competition has gotten stiffer.

            This affects both pitchers and hitters, because mean-adjusted stats compare players to their peers. That's why the best OPS+ guys are Ruth, Williams, Gehrig; that's why the best ERA+ guys are Grove and Walter Johnson (ok, Pedro Martinez, but that's because he's still young; as hs career moves forward, his numbers will drop).

            Actually, OPS and ERA are kind of limited. It's better to look at a broader stat, like Win Shares - something like 75 or 80 of the top 100, I can't remember, Win Shares totals are from before 1950. That's doesn't make any sense unless one realizes that the most talented players from that time were playing in a relatively talent-poor environment, allowing them to dominate their game that much more.

            In my first post in this thread, I said that any argument over whether Ruth was the greatest ever is going to boil down to how much one thinks the league has improved. I should rephrase that and say that it will degenerate into an argument over how much the average and below average players in the league have improved.

            >>>>>>More teams, along with free agency, does make for a more competitive environment, but in a different way - because of diversity, not because of talent level. Thus, there are more teams and more divisions. In the 20's, the best teams had to play against eachother more often since the league was smaller.

            But wouldn't have the opposite effect- wouldn't that drag down the winning percentages of the best teams, rather than raise them? I don't see how this is a refuation of what I was saying. Actually, it seem to strengthen my argument. If currently, the best teams play the worst teams more often, we should be seeing even bigger gaps in winning percentages.

            >>>Why should we always assume that today's athletes, or today's world for that matter, has it tougher than yesterday's - with all our access to better technology, medicine,

            Because those things are irrelevant when comparing players to their peers. ALL of today's athletes have these advantages, AND THEY ARE COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER. (god, someone please tell me how to italicize these things, I don't mean to shout.)

            It's not like Ruth was the only drunk, hot-dog-eating guy in a league full of athletes with access to modern medicine and training, and it's not like Randy Johnson and Barry Bonds are the only guys with access to modern medicine in a league full of drunken hot dog eaters. These things don't convey an advantage when we are talking about mean adjusted stats, BECAUSE MEAN ADJUSTED STATS COMPARE YOU TO YOUR PEERS AND ALL YOUR PEERS HAVE THESE "ADVANTAGES" TOO. (please help me italicize, I'm retarded.) It would be like saying track athletes have an advantage because they wear cleats now, and cleats help you run faster. Well, that's the playing field now.

            >>>>>Getting back to baseball, you bring up good food for thought to munch on, Metal Ed. But to me it boils down to this -- Ruth beat the best in his day, Bonds beat the best in his day.

            Yup, they are the best of their times. What this argument boils down to is: Ruth was way above the rest of the league in his day, more so than Bonds is above the league in his HIS (Bonds') day. The question is, how much higher is the playing field, and is it enough to send Bonds, or Schmidt, or Mays, or whomever you like, above Ruth? As I said when I jumped onto the thread, it comes down to how much higher you think the playing field has become - how much harder is it now to BE that much higher than the average player? How much better IS the average player?

            I don't know the answer. I'm not REALLY looking to convince everybody that Mike Schmidt and Barry Bonds are the greatest players who ever lived - because I'm not even sure if I totally believe it myself. I'm also far from convinced that Babe Ruth was the best, or that Josh Gibson was the best.

            I'm just trying to steer you away from the attitude that says "Look at their OPS+, look at how they dominated their leagues, badda-bing badda-boom, Babe's the best." It's not that simple. Mean-adjusted stats are helpful in adjusting for the balance between pitching and hitting for that era - not for the balance between the greats and the rest of the league.
            This guy was a brief, transcendent voice here. I dearly miss his perspicacity and erudition.

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