Who Was The Greatest Hitter Of All Time?
Ruth vs. Williams
by Tony Aubry, BaseballEvolution.com
March 21, 2006
Usually, when that question is asked, you think of two
people. You would think of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth. They were both
TREMENDOUS hitters. However, who was better? Are you going to take the
Splinters .344 career batting average and .482 on base percentage? Or, do you
prefer the Bambino’s 714 home runs and .690 slugging average? Would Ted
Williams have gotten 700 homeruns if it wasn’t for World War II and the Korean
War? Would Ruth have hit 800 home runs if he didn’t pitch? 900 possibly? Read
the article if you want to find out these questions and, more importantly, the
biggest question of all: Who was a better hitter, George Ruth or Ted Williams?
Now,
if you take 10 people who call themselves baseball fans and ask them who the
greatest hitter of all time was, I think it’s safe to say 6 or 7 would say
Williams. Now if you ask them who was a better hitter Ted Williams or Babe
Ruth, you would probably get a different response for some odd reason. I used
to contradict myself the same way, until I researched this topic. First lets a
take a look at their career totals.
Ruth G
AB R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
2,503
8,399 2,161 714 2,201 .342 .474 .690
Williams
G AB R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
2,292 7,706 1,798 521 1,798 .344 .482 .634
You can argue that Ruth missed 4 years of his prime
due to the fact that he was pitching. You can’t say that Ruth would of hit 50
homeruns a year from 19151919. You just can’t. That was the dead ball era no
one hit homers like that. From 19151918 the most home runs hit was 12 by Wally
Pipp. In 1919 Ruth had a semifull year at the plate. He hit .322, 29 homeruns,
drove in 114 in only 432 ABs. Now here’s what I did. It’s a bit confusing but
bear with me. 19201933 were Ruth’s best and fulltime years. So you take how
many ABs he had from 19201933, then you divide it by 14. So that’s 6,851
divided by 14. That’s 489. So in Ruth’s full time seasons he averaged 489 ABs.
Now in 1919 Ruth hit 29 homeruns in only 432 ABs. That’s one homerun in every
14.8 at bats. Now you divide 489 by 14.8 and that’s 33. So Ruth would have hit
about 33 homeruns per year from 19151919. Now I’m no scientist or
mathematician, but it’s a pretty decent estimate. Now, you take the number of
homeruns that Ruth hit from 19201933, and you get 637. You add 165 (33
multiplied by 5) and you get 802 homeruns. It’s only a rough estimate. You
also do the same for any other statistic that you would like to figure.
So, if Ruth’s first full season was in 1915 as an
outfielder, his numbers could have looked something like this.
Projected Ruth HR R RBI BA
802 2,476 2,522 .339
Now I took a few points off his average because I think it’s
safe to say that the pitchers would have been better . Anyway, not too shabby,
eh? Ruth would be the leader in homeruns, runs, and RBI.
Williams also lost a few years of his career. He lost a few
more than Ruth did. Williams did not play from 19431945 because of World War
II. It’s pretty easy to estimate what Williams would have done if he did in
fact play those years. You take 1941 and 1942. The two years he played before
the war and 1946, the year he came back from the war. In 41, 42, and 46 he had
1,492 ABs, 547 hits, 111 homeruns, and had 380RBI. That’s an average of .367,
36 homeruns and 127 RBI per season.
However, we’re not finished. He also was in the Korean War,
poor Ted. He left on April 30, 1952, and came back August 5, 1953. He played
43 games during those two seasons. He hit .406, but we can’t assume he would’ve
went on to hit .400 for both of the seasons at age 34 and 35. The year before
he left for Korea he played in 148 games and the year he came back he played in
only 117. That averages out to 132 games a year. So let’s assume if he played
in 1952 and in 1953 he would have played 132 games each year. In 1951 and in
1954 Williams averaged 29 homeruns, a .329 batting average and 107 RBI per
year, for those two years. We can’t just average those two years in because
Williams did actually play in 43 games. So we have to subtract 43 from 264
(projected number of games played) Therefore, in the 222 games that Williams
missed, he would have hit 59 additional home runs, 181 runs and 191 RBI.
Now, let’s compare Ruth’s and Williams’ projected careers.
Projected
Ruth HR R RBI BA
802 2,476 2,522 .339
Projected
Williams HR R RBI BA
691 2,397 2,410 .346
Wow!
Ruth would have still killed Williams in the homerun department, but Williams
definitely caught up in RBI and runs. Phew, it’s too close. I think I need some
more statistics before I’m forced to pick one.
Both
Williams and Ruth batted lefthanded and played in ball parks that would favor
left handed batters. Since many “experts” love to see how great hitters hit on
the road opposed to what they did at home, let’s compare.
Ruth
had 547 more at bats on the road than Williams did. Considering that, we’ll
give Williams the extra ABs and project what he would have done.
H BB 2B 3B HR BA OBP
SLG OPS
Ruth 1,475
1,019 269 66 367 .338 .463 .682 1.145
Williams 1,430
1,128 236 41 312 .328 .466 .615 1.081
If you
believe that the numbers a batter has on the road is a better reflection of
what he can actually do, rather than what he does in his home ballpark, then
Ruth has pulled ahead of Williams. Let’s examine the numbers. Hits and walks
are pretty much even. Ruth has a good lead in 2B, 3B, and HR. He actually hit
higher than Ted by ten points. The OBP is about even. Ruth’s SLG is WAY ahead
of Williams’. Ruth therefore had a higher OPS by a pretty good margin.
I’m not going to bother to compare how they did against the
league because NO ONE has a chance against Ruth in that category. I will
compare their three best seasons.
BA HR RBI OBP SLG
BA HR RBI OBP SLG
Ruth Williams
1921
.378 59 171 .533 .849 1941 .406 37
120 .553 .735
1923
.393 41 131 .545 .764 1946 .342 38
123 .497 .667
1927
.356 60 164 .486 .772 1949 .343 43
159 .490 .650
Whoa! Those
are some pretty damn good years. To get a better view let’s average each
players three best years into one.
Ruth 
.375 53 155 .521 .795 Williams  .363 39
134 .513 .684
Okay,
now I’m convinced. Ruth was the better hitter and there are no ifs, ands, or
buts about it. If you wanted to, you could say that Ted was a more wellrounded
hitter than Ruth was. However, Ruth was just a better hitter overall. Numbers
don’t lie. Ruth is the best hitter the game has ever produced.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Tony resides in Queens, New York and can be reached at comments@baseballevolution.com.
