Friday, February 6, 2015

What if Babe Ruth never stopped pitching?

Everyone knows George Herman Ruth. The "Bambino," the "Sultan of Swat," the "Babe" is the most famous slugger of all-time. Many baseball fans also know that Ruth was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox at the beginning of his career. Hardly an extra arm, he was one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game before his batting efforts led him to a full-time position in the field. So, let's consider what direction Ruth's career might have taken if he had never put his pitching glove away.


Suppose that...
the 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound Ruth was just an adequate hitter. In that scenario, he may very well have remained in the Red Sox's rotation. If he would have ever been traded to another team, it would have been to join their pitching staff and not to assume a spot in their lineup.
Early in his career, he pitched full-time for three seasons and for parts of three other seasons. Including some other New York Yankees years, where he started an occasional game, his overall record was 94-46. He threw 1,221 1/3 innings, allowed 974 hits, 441 walks, struck out 488 batters and had a 2.28 ERA.
His two best seasons were 1916, when he went 23-12 with a 1.75 ERA, and 1917, when he went 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA. He pitched over 300 innings in both of those years.
Now, people can talk about the "Dead Ball Era" all they want. Few were capable of doing what he did on the mound. There were better pitchers than Ruth. But, many men who threw in his era weren't nearly as good as he was.

Hypothetically speaking....
Ruth's career numbers project to an average record of approximately 20-10 over a 154-game season.
Ruth played from 1914 through 1935. So, over the course of 22 seasons would he have won over 400 games? Maybe not. But, he seems likely to have won between 300-350 games. Those numbers would have gotten him into the Hall of Fame.
Would Ruth have been traded to the Yankees if he was a pitcher? Would that franchise have become a dynasty if he continued to dominate from the mound, rather than transform into a legendary home run hitter? Great questions that also never can be answered and are far more challenging to consider.
Ruth's pitching numbers serve as further supporting evidence that he was clearly one of, if not, the greatest ballplayers to have ever lived.

(I hold all copyrights to this article which originally appeared on Yahoo's platform in 2011. Photo courtesy of internetpopculture.com)

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