Babe Ruth, the Hitter
Babe Ruth has always been best known for his homerun-hitting prowess — some say he figuratively “created” the homerun. During the course of baseball history, many players have sought to break Babe’s single-season (60) and career (714) homerun stats.
Ultimately, Roger Maris broke Babe’s single season record in 1961, while Hank Aaron broke his career homerun mark in 1974. Even so, it took decades for these great ballplayers to do it and for others to even come close. Even today, Babe’s stats are considered a benchmark of a batter’s season and ability.
In the early days of baseball through the first two decades of the 20th Century, very few homeruns were ever hit. So much so, that the concept of a homerun was considered an oddity and was actually not very appreciated by fans or baseball critics. When Babe entered the majors, however, he changed all that. When he became a full-time batter and started slugging the ball out of the park, homeruns became a regular part of the game and fans started paying attention.
For quite a while, Babe was the only one that hit them on any kind of consistent basis. The homerun statistics that Babe amassed over the course of his career put his amazing slugging abilities into perspective:
- Babe Ruth led the American League in homeruns for 12 seasons – 1918-1921, 1923-1924, and 1926-1931.
- In 1927, the year that Babe set his single-season record of 60 homeruns, he individually accounted for 14% of all homeruns hit in the American League that year.
- In order for someone to equal that percentage today, they would need to hit approximately 340 homeruns in a season!
- After the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920, the Babe single-handedly out-homered the entire Red Sox team for 10 of the next 12 seasons.
- Babe is the only player to ever hit 3 homeruns in a World Series game on two separate occasions — Game 4 of the 1926 World Series and Game 4 of the 1928 World Series.
- Babe’s single-season homerun mark of 60 lasted for 34 years, until Roger Maris broke it in 1961 by hitting 61 homers that season.
- Babe’s career homerun record of 714 lasted for 39 years until Hank Aaron hit 715 in 1974.
As time has passed, the homerun became a baseball standard and most of the Babe’s homerun stats have been broken, but his abilities as a hitter went far beyond this one stat. Unlike the Babe, most homerun hitters tend to lack the entire package of hitting strength (for homeruns) and hitting consistency (Hits, Batting Average and Runs):
- Batting Average (.342 career):
- In the Top 3 in the AL for 6 seasons.
- Tenth highest career Batting Average.
- Runs (2,174 career):
- #1 in the AL for 8 seasons.
- Third on the career Runs leader board behind Rickey Henderson and Ty Cobb.
- RBIs – Runs Batted In (2,213 career):
- # 1 for 6 seasons; in the Top 3 for 11 seasons.
- Second only to Hank Aaron in career RBIs.
- On-Base % – Percent of times a player reaches base when at bat (.474 career):
- #1 in on-base % in the AL for 10 seasons.
- Second only to Ted Williams in career On-Base %.
- Slugging % – Total bases reached per at bat (.690 career):
- #1 in the AL for 13 seasons.
- Remains #1 today in career Slugging %.
- OPS – On-Base Plus Slugging (1.164 career):
- #1 in the AL for 13 seasons.
- Remains #1 today in career OPS.
- Total Bases (5,793 career):
- #1 in the AL for 6 seasons; in the Top 3 for 11 seasons.
- Fifth on the career Total Bases list.
- Bases on Balls (2,062 career):
- #1 in the AL for 11 seasons.
- Third on the career Bases on Balls list.
- Runs Created* (2,756 career):
- #1 in the AL for 9 seasons.
- Remains #1 today in the career total Runs Created.
* Not an official baseball statistic, but this number is considered by some baseball analysts to be an accurate measure of a ball player’s overall offensive effectiveness, which is calculated by determining the total number of Runs a hitter contributed to his team. Clearly, Babe Ruth was not only a dominant homerun hitter, but he remains in the Top 10 for every major career hitting statistic.