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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 Bambinoís 714 home runs and .690 slugging average? Would Ted Williams have gotten 700 homeruns if it wasnít for World War II and the Korean War? Would Ruth have hit 800 home runs if he didnít 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 itís 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 canít say that Ruth would of hit 50 homeruns a year from 1915-1919. You just canít. That was the dead ball era no one hit homers like that. From 1915-1918 the most home runs hit was 12 by Wally Pipp. In 1919 Ruth had a semi-full year at the plate. He hit .322, 29 homeruns, drove in 114 in only 432 ABs. Now hereís what I did. Itís a bit confusing but bear with me. 1920-1933 were Ruthís best and full-time years.† So you take how many ABs he had from 1920-1933, then you divide it by 14. So thatís 6,851 divided by 14. Thatís 489. So in Ruthís full time seasons he averaged 489 ABs. Now in 1919 Ruth hit 29 homeruns in only 432 ABs. Thatís one homerun in every 14.8 at bats. Now you divide 489 by 14.8 and thatís 33. So Ruth would have hit about 33 homeruns per year from 1915-1919. Now Iím no scientist or mathematician, but itís a pretty decent estimate. Now, you take the number of homeruns that Ruth hit from 1920-1933, and you get 637. You add 165 (33 multiplied by 5) and you get 802 homeruns. Itís only a rough estimate.† You also do the same for any other statistic that you would like to figure.

So, if Ruthís 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 itís 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 1943-1945 because of World War II. Itís 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. Thatís an average of .367, 36 homeruns and 127 RBI per season.

†However, weíre 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 canít assume he wouldíve 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 letís 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 canít 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, letís compare Ruthís and Williamsí 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, itís too close. I think I need some more statistics before Iím forced to pick one.

Both Williams and Ruth batted left-handed and played in ball parks that would favor left handed batters. Since many ďexpertsĒ love to see how great hitters hit on the road opposed to what they did at home, letís compare.

Ruth had 547 more at bats on the road than Williams did. Considering that, weíll 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.† Letís 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. Ruthís SLG is WAY ahead of Williamsí. Ruth therefore had a higher OPS by a pretty good margin.

Iím 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 letís average each players three best years into one.

Ruth - .375†††† 53††† 155†††††† .521††† .795††††††††††††† Williams - .363†† 39††††† 134†††††† .513†† .684

Okay, now Iím 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 well-rounded hitter than Ruth was. However, Ruth was just a better hitter overall. Numbers donít 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.

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