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Mailbag: Biggest Differences Between HR Leader and Runner-Up

Posted by Neil Paine on January 11, 2011

Here's a question from Ehud:

"Jose Bautista was the AL home run king in 2010, while the second-place HR leader (Paul Konerko) had 15 homers less. Is that the biggest difference in history of HR kings?"

Not quite. While the 15-HR gap between Bautista and Konerko is impressive, it actually pales in comparison to some of the leads Babe Ruth had in his HR races.

In 1920, the same year he famously had 4 more HR by himself than any other AL team, Ruth also placed a 35-HR gap between himself and runner-up George Sisler. And the following year, Ruth repeated that feat, hitting 35 more HR than Ken Williams. All told, Ruth owns 5 of the 6 biggest differences between a league HR leader and the runner-up. Here's the full list of biggest disparities between #1 and #2:

Year Lg Leader Team AB HR Runner-Up Team AB HR Diff
1921 AL Babe Ruth NYA 540 59 Ken Williams SLA 547 24 35
1920 AL Babe Ruth NYA 457 54 George Sisler SLA 631 19 35
1926 AL Babe Ruth NYA 495 47 Al Simmons PHA 583 19 28
1928 AL Babe Ruth NYA 536 54 Lou Gehrig NYA 562 27 27
1956 AL Mickey Mantle NYA 533 52 Vic Wertz CLE 481 32 20
1924 AL Babe Ruth NYA 529 46 Joe Hauser PHA 562 27 19
1923 NL Cy Williams PHI 535 41 Jack Fournier BRO 515 22 19
1919 AL Babe Ruth BOS 432 29 Tilly Walker PHA 456 10 19
1949 NL Ralph Kiner PIT 549 54 Stan Musial SLN 612 36 18
1940 NL Johnny Mize SLN 579 43 Bill Nicholson CHN 491 25 18
1932 AL Jimmie Foxx PHA 585 58 Babe Ruth NYA 457 41 17
1930 NL Hack Wilson CHN 585 56 Chuck Klein PHI 648 40 16
1922 NL Rogers Hornsby SLN 623 42 Cy Williams PHI 584 26 16
2010 AL Jose Bautista TOR 569 54 Paul Konerko CHA 548 39 15
1925 NL Rogers Hornsby SLN 504 39 Gabby Hartnett CHN 398 24 15
1964 NL Willie Mays SFN 578 47 Billy Williams CHN 645 33 14
1933 AL Jimmie Foxx PHA 573 48 Babe Ruth NYA 459 34 14
1980 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 548 48 Bob Horner ATL 463 35 13
1965 NL Willie Mays SFN 558 52 Willie McCovey SFN 540 39 13
1927 AL Babe Ruth NYA 540 60 Lou Gehrig NYA 584 47 13
1899 NL Buck Freeman WSN 588 25 Bobby Wallace SLN 577 12 13
1997 AL Ken Griffey SEA 608 56 Tino Martinez NYA 594 44 12
1990 AL Cecil Fielder DET 573 51 Mark McGwire OAK 523 39 12
1978 AL Jim Rice BOS 677 46 Larry Hisle ML4 520 34 12
1958 NL Ernie Banks CHN 617 47 Frank Thomas PIT 562 35 12
1923 AL Babe Ruth NYA 522 41 Ken Williams SLA 555 29 12
1989 NL Kevin Mitchell SFN 543 47 Howard Johnson NYN 571 36 11
1977 NL George Foster CIN 615 52 Jeff Burroughs ATL 579 41 11
1950 NL Ralph Kiner PIT 547 47 Andy Pafko CHN 514 36 11
1943 NL Bill Nicholson CHN 608 29 Mel Ott NY1 380 18 11
1929 AL Babe Ruth NYA 499 46 Lou Gehrig NYA 553 35 11
1915 NL Gavvy Cravath PHI 522 24 Cy Williams CHN 518 13 11
2008 NL Ryan Howard PHI 610 48 Carlos Delgado NYN 598 38 10
2006 AL David Ortiz BOS 558 54 Jermaine Dye CHA 539 44 10
1995 AL Albert Belle CLE 546 50 Jay Buhner SEA 470 40 10
1966 AL Frank Robinson BAL 576 49 Harmon Killebrew MIN 569 39 10
1964 AL Harmon Killebrew MIN 577 49 Boog Powell BAL 424 39 10
2006 NL Ryan Howard PHI 581 58 Albert Pujols SLN 535 49 9
2001 NL Barry Bonds SFN 476 73 Sammy Sosa CHN 577 64 9
1988 NL Darryl Strawberry NYN 543 39 Glenn Davis HOU 561 30 9
1962 AL Harmon Killebrew MIN 552 48 Norm Cash DET 507 39 9
1942 AL Ted Williams BOS 522 36 Chet Laabs SLA 520 27 9
2007 AL Alex Rodriguez NYA 583 54 Carlos Pena TBA 490 46 8
1988 AL Jose Canseco OAK 610 42 Fred McGriff TOR 536 34 8
1984 AL Tony Armas BOS 639 43 Dave Kingman OAK 549 35 8
1968 AL Frank Howard WS2 598 44 Willie Horton DET 512 36 8
1938 AL Hank Greenberg DET 556 58 Jimmie Foxx BOS 565 50 8
1930 AL Babe Ruth NYA 518 49 Lou Gehrig NYA 581 41 8
1925 AL Bob Meusel NYA 624 33 Babe Ruth NYA 359 25 8
1998 AL Ken Griffey SEA 633 56 Albert Belle CHA 609 49 7
1981 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 354 31 Andre Dawson MON 394 24 7
1961 AL Roger Maris NYA 590 61 Mickey Mantle NYA 514 54 7
1955 AL Mickey Mantle NYA 517 37 Gus Zernial KC1 413 30 7
1954 NL Ted Kluszewski CIN 573 49 Gil Hodges BRO 579 42 7
1948 AL Joe DiMaggio NYA 594 39 Joe Gordon CLE 550 32 7
1944 NL Bill Nicholson CHN 582 33 Mel Ott NY1 399 26 7
1941 NL Dolph Camilli BRO 529 34 Mel Ott NY1 525 27 7
1936 AL Lou Gehrig NYA 579 49 Hal Trosky CLE 629 42 7
1997 NL Larry Walker COL 568 49 Jeff Bagwell HOU 566 43 6
1993 NL Barry Bonds SFN 539 46 David Justice ATL 585 40 6
1986 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 552 37 Glenn Davis HOU 574 31 6
1979 AL Gorman Thomas ML4 557 45 FRed Lynn BOS 531 39 6
1961 NL Orlando Cepeda SFN 585 46 Willie Mays SFN 572 40 6
1946 AL Hank Greenberg DET 523 44 Ted Williams BOS 514 38 6
1945 AL Vern Stephens SLA 571 24 Roy Cullenbine DET 523 18 6
1938 NL Mel Ott NY1 527 36 Ival Goodman CIN 568 30 6
1937 AL Joe DiMaggio NYA 621 46 Hank Greenberg DET 594 40 6
2005 NL Andruw Jones ATL 586 51 Derrek Lee CHN 594 46 5
2003 AL Alex Rodriguez TEX 607 47 Frank Thomas CHA 546 42 5
2002 AL Alex Rodriguez TEX 624 57 Jim Thome CLE 480 52 5
1996 NL Andres Galarraga COL 626 47 Barry Bonds SFN 517 42 5
1987 NL Andre Dawson CHN 621 49 Dale Murphy ATL 566 44 5
1986 AL Jesse Barfield TOR 589 40 Dave Kingman OAK 561 35 5
1978 NL George Foster CIN 604 40 Greg Luzinski PHI 540 35 5
1976 AL Graig Nettles NYA 583 32 Reggie Jackson BAL 498 27 5
1956 NL Duke Snider BRO 542 43 Joe Adcock ML1 454 38 5
1953 NL Eddie Mathews ML1 579 47 Duke Snider BRO 590 42 5
1940 AL Hank Greenberg DET 573 41 Jimmie Foxx BOS 515 36 5
1936 NL Mel Ott NY1 534 33 Dolph Camilli PHI 530 28 5
1934 AL Lou Gehrig NYA 579 49 Jimmie Foxx PHA 539 44 5
1911 NL Frank Schulte CHN 577 21 Fred Luderus PHI 551 16 5
1902 AL Socks Seybold PHA 522 16 Bill Bradley CLE 550 11 5
1901 NL Sam Crawford CIN 515 16 Jimmy Sheckard BRO 554 11 5
1898 NL Jimmy Collins BSN 597 15 Bill Joyce NY1 508 10 5
2010 NL Albert Pujols SLN 587 42 Adam Dunn WAS 558 38 4
2000 AL Troy Glaus ANA 563 47 Jason Giambi OAK 510 43 4
1998 NL Mark McGwire SLN 509 70 Sammy Sosa CHN 643 66 4
1995 NL Dante Bichette COL 579 40 Larry Walker COL 494 36 4
1994 NL Matt Williams SFN 445 43 Jeff Bagwell HOU 400 39 4
1991 NL Howard Johnson NYN 564 38 Matt Williams SFN 589 34 4
1983 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 534 40 Dale Murphy ATL 589 36 4
1972 AL Dick Allen CHA 506 37 Bobby Murcer NYA 585 33 4
1966 NL Hank Aaron ATL 603 44 Dick Allen PHI 524 40 4
1962 NL Willie Mays SFN 621 49 Hank Aaron ML1 592 45 4
1957 AL Roy Sievers WS1 572 42 Ted Williams BOS 420 38 4
1955 NL Willie Mays NY1 580 51 Ted Kluszewski CIN 612 47 4
1949 AL Ted Williams BOS 566 43 Vern Stephens BOS 610 39 4
1942 NL Mel Ott NY1 549 30 Dolph Camilli BRO 524 26 4
1941 AL Ted Williams BOS 456 37 Charlie Keller NYA 507 33 4
1915 FL Hal Chase BUF 567 17 Dutch Zwilling CHF 548 13 4
1888 AA John Reilly CN2 527 13 Harry Stovey PH4 530 9 4
1887 AA Tip O'Neill SL4 517 14 John Reilly CN2 551 10 4
1883 AA Harry Stovey PH4 421 14 Charley Jones CN2 391 10 4
2007 NL Prince Fielder MIL 573 50 Ryan Howard PHI 529 47 3
2002 NL Sammy Sosa CHN 556 49 Barry Bonds SFN 403 46 3
2001 AL Alex Rodriguez TEX 632 52 Jim Thome CLE 526 49 3
1990 NL Ryne Sandberg CHN 615 40 Darryl Strawberry NYN 542 37 3
1985 AL Darrell Evans DET 505 40 Carlton Fisk CHA 543 37 3
1985 NL Dale Murphy ATL 616 37 Dave Parker CIN 635 34 3
1983 AL Jim Rice BOS 626 39 Tony Armas BOS 574 36 3
1979 NL Dave Kingman CHN 532 48 Mike Schmidt PHI 541 45 3
1974 AL Dick Allen CHA 462 32 Reggie Jackson OAK 506 29 3
1974 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 568 36 Johnny Bench CIN 621 33 3
1970 AL Frank Howard WS2 566 44 Harmon Killebrew MIN 527 41 3
1970 NL Johnny Bench CIN 605 45 Billy Williams CHN 636 42 3
1968 NL Willie McCovey SFN 523 36 Dick Allen PHI 521 33 3
1963 AL Harmon Killebrew MIN 515 45 Dick Stuart BOS 612 42 3
1954 AL Larry Doby CLE 577 32 Ted Williams BOS 386 29 3
1951 AL Gus Zernial PHA 552 33 Ted Williams BOS 531 30 3
1950 AL Al Rosen CLE 554 37 Walt Dropo BOS 559 34 3
1947 AL Ted Williams BOS 528 32 Joe Gordon CLE 562 29 3
1945 NL Tommy Holmes BSN 636 28 Chuck Workman BSN 514 25 3
1943 AL Rudy York DET 571 34 Charlie Keller NYA 512 31 3
1935 NL Wally Berger BSN 589 34 Mel Ott NY1 593 31 3
1913 AL Frank Baker PHA 564 12 Sam Crawford DET 609 9 3
1911 AL Frank Baker PHA 592 11 Tris Speaker BOS 500 8 3
1907 AL Harry Davis PHA 582 8 Danny Hoffman NYA 517 5 3
1906 AL Harry Davis PHA 551 12 Charlie Hickman WS1 451 9 3
1906 NL Tim Jordan BRO 450 12 Harry Lumley BRO 484 9 3
1904 AL Harry Davis PHA 404 10 Danny Murphy PHA 557 7 3
1885 AA Harry Stovey PH4 486 13 Frank Fennelly CN2 454 10 3
1879 NL Charley Jones BSN 355 9 John O'Rourke BSN 317 6 3
1872 NA Lip Pike BL1 288 6 Count Gedney TRO 47 3 3
2004 AL Manny Ramirez BOS 568 43 Paul Konerko CHA 563 41 2
2004 NL Adrian Beltre LAN 598 48 Adam Dunn CIN 568 46 2
2003 NL Jim Thome PHI 578 47 Barry Bonds SFN 390 45 2
1999 NL Mark McGwire SLN 521 65 Sammy Sosa CHN 625 63 2
1996 AL Mark McGwire OAK 423 52 Brady Anderson BAL 579 50 2
1994 AL Ken Griffey SEA 433 40 Frank Thomas CHA 399 38 2
1987 AL Mark McGwire OAK 557 49 George Bell TOR 610 47 2
1977 AL Jim Rice BOS 644 39 Graig Nettles NYA 589 37 2
1975 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 562 38 Dave Kingman NYN 502 36 2
1973 AL Reggie Jackson OAK 539 32 Jeff Burroughs TEX 526 30 2
1972 NL Johnny Bench CIN 538 40 Nate Colbert SDN 563 38 2
1967 NL Hank Aaron ATL 600 39 Jimmy Wynn HOU 594 37 2
1965 AL Tony Conigliaro BOS 521 32 Norm Cash DET 467 30 2
1951 NL Ralph Kiner PIT 531 42 Gil Hodges BRO 582 40 2
1944 AL Nick Etten NYA 573 22 Vern Stephens SLA 559 20 2
1939 AL Jimmie Foxx BOS 467 35 Hank Greenberg DET 500 33 2
1931 NL Chuck Klein PHI 594 31 Mel Ott NY1 497 29 2
1926 NL Hack Wilson CHN 529 21 Jim Bottomley SLN 603 19 2
1924 NL Jack Fournier BRO 563 27 Rogers Hornsby SLN 536 25 2
1922 AL Ken Williams SLA 585 39 Tilly Walker PHA 565 37 2
1921 NL George Kelly NY1 587 23 Rogers Hornsby SLN 592 21 2
1919 NL Gavvy Cravath PHI 214 12 Benny Kauff NY1 491 10 2
1918 NL Gavvy Cravath PHI 426 8 Walton Cruise SLN 240 6 2
1916 AL Wally Pipp NYA 545 12 Frank Baker NYA 360 10 2
1912 NL Heinie Zimmerman CHN 557 14 Frank Schulte CHN 553 12 2
1910 AL Jake Stahl BOS 531 10 Ty Cobb DET 506 8 2
1909 AL Ty Cobb DET 573 9 Tris Speaker BOS 544 7 2
1908 NL Tim Jordan BRO 515 12 Honus Wagner PIT 568 10 2
1904 NL Harry Lumley BRO 577 9 Dave Brain SLN 488 7 2
1903 NL Jimmy Sheckard BRO 515 9 Pat Moran BSN 389 7 2
1901 AL Nap Lajoie PHA 544 14 Buck Freeman BOS 490 12 2
1893 NL Ed Delahanty PHI 595 19 Jack Clements PHI 376 17 2
1889 NL Sam Thompson PHI 533 20 Jerry Denny IN3 578 18 2
1888 NL Jimmy Ryan CHN 549 16 Roger Connor NY1 481 14 2
1887 NL Billy O'Brien WS8 453 19 Roger Connor NY1 471 17 2
1885 NL Abner Dalrymple CHN 492 11 King Kelly CHN 438 9 2
1884 NL Ned Williamson CHN 417 27 Fred Pfeffer CHN 467 25 2
1883 NL Buck Ewing NY1 376 10 Jerry Denny PRO 393 8 2
1882 AA Oscar Walker SL4 318 7 Pete Browning LS2 288 5 2
1875 NA Jim O'Rourke BS1 358 6 Joe Start NY2 314 4 2
1874 NA Jim O'Rourke BS1 331 5 John Clapp PH1 165 3 2
2009 NL Albert Pujols SLN 568 47 Prince Fielder MIL 591 46 1
2008 AL Miguel Cabrera DET 616 37 Carlos Quentin CHA 480 36 1
2005 AL Alex Rodriguez NYA 605 48 David Ortiz BOS 601 47 1
2000 NL Sammy Sosa CHN 604 50 Barry Bonds SFN 480 49 1
1999 AL Ken Griffey SEA 606 48 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 565 47 1
1993 AL Juan Gonzalez TEX 536 46 Ken Griffey SEA 582 45 1
1992 AL Juan Gonzalez TEX 584 43 Mark McGwire OAK 467 42 1
1992 NL Fred McGriff SDN 531 35 Barry Bonds PIT 473 34 1
1989 AL Fred McGriff TOR 551 36 Joe Carter CLE 651 35 1
1982 NL Dave Kingman NYN 535 37 Dale Murphy ATL 598 36 1
1976 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 584 38 Dave Kingman NYN 474 37 1
1973 NL Willie Stargell PIT 522 44 Davey Johnson ATL 559 43 1
1971 AL Bill Melton CHA 543 33 Norm Cash DET 452 32 1
1971 NL Willie Stargell PIT 511 48 Hank Aaron ATL 495 47 1
1969 AL Harmon Killebrew MIN 555 49 Frank Howard WS2 592 48 1
1969 NL Willie McCovey SFN 491 45 Hank Aaron ATL 547 44 1
1960 AL Mickey Mantle NYA 527 40 Roger Maris NYA 499 39 1
1960 NL Ernie Banks CHN 597 41 Hank Aaron ML1 590 40 1
1959 NL Eddie Mathews ML1 594 46 Ernie Banks CHN 589 45 1
1958 AL Mickey Mantle NYA 519 42 Rocky Colavito CLE 489 41 1
1957 NL Hank Aaron ML1 615 44 Ernie Banks CHN 594 43 1
1953 AL Al Rosen CLE 599 43 Gus Zernial PHA 556 42 1
1952 AL Larry Doby CLE 519 32 Luke Easter CLE 437 31 1
1946 NL Ralph Kiner PIT 502 23 Johnny Mize NY1 377 22 1
1939 NL Johnny Mize SLN 564 28 Mel Ott NY1 396 27 1
1933 NL Chuck Klein PHI 606 28 Wally Berger BSN 528 27 1
1929 NL Chuck Klein PHI 616 43 Mel Ott NY1 545 42 1
1920 NL Cy Williams PHI 590 15 Irish Meusel PHI 518 14 1
1917 AL Wally Pipp NYA 587 9 Bobby Veach DET 571 8 1
1915 AL Rube Oldring PHA 408 6 George Burns DET 392 5 1
1914 AL Frank Baker PHA 570 9 Sam Crawford DET 582 8 1
1914 FL Dutch Zwilling CHF 592 16 Bill Kenworthy KCF 545 15 1
1914 NL Gavvy Cravath PHI 499 19 Vic Saier CHN 537 18 1
1913 NL Gavvy Cravath PHI 525 19 Fred Luderus PHI 588 18 1
1909 NL REd Murray NY1 570 7 Beals Becker BSN 562 6 1
1908 AL Sam Crawford DET 591 7 Bill Hinchman CLE 464 6 1
1907 NL Dave Brain BSN 509 10 Harry Lumley BRO 454 9 1
1905 AL Harry Davis PHA 607 8 George Stone SLA 635 7 1
1905 NL Fred Odwell CIN 468 9 Cy Seymour CIN 581 8 1
1903 AL Buck Freeman BOS 567 13 Charlie Hickman CLE 522 12 1
1902 NL Tommy Leach PIT 514 6 Jake Beckley CIN 531 5 1
1900 NL Herman Long BSN 486 12 Elmer Flick PHI 545 11 1
1897 NL Hugh Duffy BSN 550 11 George Davis NY1 519 10 1
1896 NL Ed Delahanty PHI 499 13 Sam Thompson PHI 517 12 1
1895 NL Sam Thompson PHI 538 18 Bill Joyce WSN 474 17 1
1894 NL Hugh Duffy BSN 539 18 Bill Joyce WSN 355 17 1
1892 NL Bug Holliday CIN 602 13 Roger Connor PHI 564 12 1
1891 AA Duke Farrell BS2 473 12 Denny Lyons SL4 451 11 1
1890 AA Count Campau SL4 314 9 Ed Cartwright SL4 300 8 1
1890 PL Roger Connor NYP 484 14 Hardy Richardson BSP 555 13 1
1886 AA Bid McPhee CN2 560 8 Harry Stovey PH4 489 7 1
1884 AA John Reilly CN2 448 11 Harry Stovey PH4 448 10 1
1884 UA Fred Dunlap SLU 449 13 Ed Crane BSU 428 12 1
1882 NL George Wood DTN 375 7 Mike Muldoon CL2 341 6 1
1881 NL Dan Brouthers BFN 270 8 Charlie Bennett DTN 299 7 1
1878 NL Paul Hines PRO 257 4 Charley Jones CN1 261 3 1
1877 NL Lip Pike CN1 262 4 Orator Shaffer LS1 260 3 1
1876 NL George Hall PHN 268 5 Charley Jones CN1 276 4 1
1873 NA Lip Pike BL1 286 4 Levi Meyerle PH2 238 3 1
2009 AL Carlos Pena TBA 471 39 Mark Teixeira NYA 609 39 0
1991 AL Jose Canseco OAK 572 44 Cecil Fielder DET 624 44 0
1984 NL Mike Schmidt PHI 528 36 Dale Murphy ATL 607 36 0
1982 AL Reggie Jackson CAL 530 39 Gorman Thomas ML4 567 39 0
1981 AL Bobby Grich CAL 352 22 Eddie Murray BAL 378 22 0
1980 AL Reggie Jackson NYA 514 41 Ben Oglivie ML4 592 41 0
1975 AL Reggie Jackson OAK 593 36 George Scott ML4 617 36 0
1967 AL Harmon Killebrew MIN 547 44 Carl Yastrzemski BOS 579 44 0
1963 NL Willie McCovey SFN 564 44 Hank Aaron ML1 631 44 0
1959 AL Harmon Killebrew WS1 546 42 Rocky Colavito CLE 588 42 0
1952 NL Ralph Kiner PIT 516 37 Hank Sauer CHN 567 37 0
1948 NL Ralph Kiner PIT 555 40 Johnny Mize NY1 560 40 0
1947 NL Ralph Kiner PIT 565 51 Johnny Mize NY1 586 51 0
1937 NL Mel Ott NY1 545 31 Joe Medwick SLN 633 31 0
1935 AL Jimmie Foxx PHA 535 36 Hank Greenberg DET 619 36 0
1934 NL Mel Ott NY1 582 35 Ripper Collins SLN 600 35 0
1932 NL Mel Ott NY1 566 38 Chuck Klein PHI 650 38 0
1931 AL Babe Ruth NYA 534 46 Lou Gehrig NYA 619 46 0
1928 NL Hack Wilson CHN 520 31 Jim Bottomley SLN 576 31 0
1927 NL Cy Williams PHI 492 30 Hack Wilson CHN 551 30 0
1918 AL Babe Ruth BOS 317 11 Tilly Walker PHA 414 11 0
1917 NL Gavvy Cravath PHI 503 12 Dave Robertson NY1 532 12 0
1916 NL Cy Williams CHN 405 12 Dave Robertson NY1 587 12 0
1912 AL Frank Baker PHA 577 10 Tris Speaker BOS 580 10 0
1910 NL Frank Schulte CHN 559 10 Fred Beck BSN 571 10 0
1891 NL Mike Tiernan NY1 542 16 Harry Stovey BSN 544 16 0
1890 NL Oyster Burns BRO 472 13 Mike Tiernan NY1 553 13 0
1889 AA Harry Stovey PH4 556 19 Bug Holliday CN2 563 19 0
1886 NL Dan Brouthers DTN 489 11 Hardy Richardson DTN 538 11 0
1880 NL Harry Stovey WOR 355 6 Jim O'Rourke BSN 363 6 0
1871 NA Fred Treacey CH1 124 4 Levi Meyerle PH1 130 4 0

(Ties were broken by which player had fewer AB.)

81 Responses to “Mailbag: Biggest Differences Between HR Leader and Runner-Up”

  1. Matthew Says:

    Are *all* league leaders on this list? Ryan Howard beat Albert Pujols by 9 HR in 2006, and I don't see it on here.

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    Ugh, for some reason it only picked up on AL leaders after 1901. Good catch, I'll have to get that fixed.

  3. Matt Says:

    It looks like you're missing NL results from the 20th and 21st centuries.

  4. Neil Paine Says:


  5. Tmckelv Says:

    It is still pretty impressive that Bautista has done something that hadn't been don in 50+ years (1956). Cy Williams is the only non-HOF player in front of him. And Cy had 4 HR titles while playing for 2 different teams (Cubs/Phils) and 2 different eras (dead ball/live ball). Good company.

  6. Frank Says:

    When two guys hit the same number of home runs, one is not first and the other second with a difference between them of 0. They are tied for first - the next lower total is second (or third is you want to quibble).

    When discussing "differences between a league HR leader and the runner-up", there has to be a difference.

  7. Frank Says:

    Plainly Yaz was not the "runner-up" when he won the triple crown.

  8. Whiz Says:

    @6 and 7,

    I don't think Neil was saying they weren't tied for first, he just needed a criterion to decide whom to put in the first column.

  9. John Q Says:

    @6 Frank,

    Good catch. In those last 32 entries there was no second place finisher because there was a tie for first place.

    This list omitted Tony Armas and Dwight Evans from the league leaders in HR from the 1981 season because there was a 4 way tie along with Grich and Murray. So in 1981 there was no 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place finishers in the HR race.

  10. Neil Paine Says:

    Technically, you guys are correct. Here are the tied cases from the list above if we consider everyone with equal HR tied for the same rank:

    Year Lg Leader HR Runner-Up HR Diff
    1947 NL Ralph Kiner/Johnny Mize 51 Willard Marshall 36 15
    1931 AL Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig 46 Earl Averill 32 14
    1991 AL Jose Canseco/Cecil Fielder 44 Cal Ripken 34 10
    1932 NL Mel Ott/Chuck Klein 38 Bill Terry 28 10
    1984 NL Mike Schmidt/Dale Murphy 36 Gary Carter 27 9
    1959 AL Harmon Killebrew/Rocky Colavito 42 Jim Lemon 33 9
    1967 AL Harmon Killebrew/Carl Yastrzemski 44 Frank Howard 36 8
    1963 NL Willie McCovey/Hank Aaron 44 Willie Mays 38 6
    1935 AL Jimmie Foxx/Hank Greenberg 36 Lou Gehrig 30 6
    1952 NL Ralph Kiner/Hank Sauer 37 Gil Hodges 32 5
    1918 AL Babe Ruth/Tilly Walker 11 Frank Baker/George Burns 6 5
    1891 NL Mike Tiernan/Harry Stovey 16 Walt Wilmot 11 5
    1890 NL Oyster Burns/Mike Tiernan/Walt Wilmot 13 Herman Long 8 5
    1937 NL Mel Ott/Joe Medwick 31 Dolph Camilli 27 4
    1928 NL Hack Wilson/Jim Bottomley 31 Chick Hafey 27 4
    1927 NL Cy Williams/Hack Wilson 30 Rogers Hornsby 26 4
    1917 NL Gavvy Cravath/Dave Robertson 12 Rogers Hornsby 8 4
    2009 AL Carlos Pena/Mark Teixeira 39 Jason Bay/Aaron Hill 36 3
    1980 AL Reggie Jackson/Ben Oglivie 41 Gorman Thomas 38 3
    1912 AL Frank Baker/Tris Speaker 10 Ty Cobb 7 3
    1889 AA Harry Stovey/Bug Holliday 19 Charlie Duffee 16 3
    1982 AL Reggie Jackson/Gorman Thomas 39 Dave Winfield 37 2
    1975 AL Reggie Jackson/George Scott 36 John Mayberry 34 2
    1910 NL Frank Schulte/Fred Beck 10 Jake Daubert/Larry Doyle 8 2
    1981 AL Bobby Grich/Eddie Murray/Dwight Evans/Tony Armas 22 Gorman Thomas/Greg Luzinski 21 1
    1948 NL Ralph Kiner/Johnny Mize 40 Stan Musial 39 1
    1934 NL Mel Ott/Ripper Collins 35 Wally Berger 34 1
    1916 NL Cy Williams/Dave Robertson 12 Gavvy Cravath 11 1
    1886 NL Dan Brouthers/Hardy Richardson 11 Cap Anson 10 1
    1880 NL Harry Stovey/Jim O'Rourke 6 Charley Jones 5 1

    For the purposes of individual dominance, though, it really didn't make sense to used shared leaders. That's why in the event of ties, I sorted from fewest AB to most -- essentially making HR% the tie-breaker.

  11. dukeofflatbush Says:

    It would be interesting to see the percentages.
    I always thought The Bill James BLACK INK test was a little flawed in that way.
    In '81 Tony Armas gets the the same black ink Ruth received in '20 & '21.
    While Armas Held a tie of less than 5% of the runner(s) up, Ruth had 60 and 65% more HRs than the runner up.
    Also in '20 & '21, with the leagues much smaller, and relief pitching and lefty/righty match-ups not nearly the same, Ruth and Williams probably faced the same quality of pitching (quality being good or bad). Where as in a two division, relief heavy league, Armas and Thomas and the others probably had very different pitching adversaries.

  12. John Q Says:


    Technically or semantically there wasn't a "Runner-Up" in those seasons listed because there were no second place finishers.

  13. MrGJG Says:

    Amazing that in 2001 Sosa hits 64HR but he's still in the top 20 percentile of biggest gaps.

  14. John Q Says:

    There's so many interesting little tidbits on this list.

    Samy Sosa hit 60+ HR 3 times and never led the league in HR in any of those seasons. It would basically be thought of as inconceivable if you told someone in 1993 that One player in a span of 4 years would break Roger Maris' HR mark 3 times and finish second in each of those seasons.

    Dave Kingman hit 35 HR and finished 2nd in HR in 1986 and never played in the Majors again. Is he the only player to finish 1-2 in HR and be out of the majors the following season? Kingman believed he was blacklisted as to not allow him to hit 500 HR.

    I'm not Advocating Kingman's HOF canadicy far from it, but is he the only eligible player since 1921 to finish 1rst-2nd in HR six times+ and not be in the HOF?

    Mark McGwire led the majors in Home Runs in 1997 yet didn't lead any league in HR and actually finished 9th in the AL in HR. I'm not sure but I would think that has to be the only instance of that happening.

    Mantle hit 54 HR in 1961 and finished 2nd

    Thome hit 52 in '02 and finished 2nd

    I kind of forgot Nettles finished 1rst-2nd in '76-77.

    Howard Johnson's 1989 gets completely overlooked by the Mets franchise yet its one of the best seasons by a position player in their history.

    I'm not sure if I missed someone but it looks like the Royals have never had a Hr leader or a runner-up.

    The Padres never had a HR leader and only had one 2nd place finish with Nate Colbert in 1972.

  15. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Mark McGwire led the majors in Home Runs in 1997 yet didn't lead any league in HR and actually finished 9th in the AL in HR. I'm not sure but I would think that has to be the only instance of that happening.

    Eddie Murray led MLB in batting in 1990, but didn't win the batting title. He stayed put, but Willie McGee was traded and left his leading BA in the NL.

  16. Skip Says:

    @ 14

    In regards to "Howard Johnson's 1989 gets completely overlooked by the Mets franchise yet its one of the best seasons by a position player in their history."

    I'm not sure what you mean by "completely overlooked"...

  17. dukeofflatbush Says:

    John Q,

    A little off topic, but since you mentioned Big Mac leading the majors but not a league it reminded me of Murray having the highest BA in MLB but not winning a batting title.
    Also, 2008 had CC Sabattia leading both leagues in Shutouts. Both leagues, one season.
    Greg Vaugn also hit 50 while splitting time between the NL & AL.

  18. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Quick off the draw.

  19. Dr. Doom Says:


    Of course the Royals have never had a leader or runner-up. Their team HR record is pitifully low (too lazy to look it up right now).

    Also, It would be interesting to see these separated by standard deviation, rather than just by raw number. I'm curious - not curious enough to check it myself, but curious nonetheless. So if anyone has the info, I'd love to hear it.

    @17, you were quick off the draw too: I was going to unleash the Sabathia fact, but you beat me to it.

  20. Jimbo Says:

    I think Polanco led the majors in BA a couple of years ago but not either league due to a trade.

    And in your list of high homer totals that didn't lead the league, you left out Louis Gonzalez and his 56 home runs, I believe 3rd when Bonds had 73 and Sosa had 64.

    Sosa's run of 66, 63, 50, 64, and 49 home runs in a 5 year stretch is remarkable in so many ways. And yes, especially remarkable that his 50 and 49 led the league, but his 66, 64, and 63 were runner up!

  21. John Autin Says:

    @6, Frank -- "When two guys hit the same number of home runs, one is not first and the other second with a difference between them of 0. They are tied for first - the next lower total is second (or third is you want to quibble)." (emphasis added)

    I do want to quibble. In such a situation, the next lower total is third, period. It's not some technicality; it's the only meaningful way to look at it.

    I think Neale's original take on this issue was right. He is clearly making comparisons between the top two in the league in HRs, even if the headline says "...Leader and Runner-Up." If the top two are tied, the difference between them is 0; it doesn't matter that neither of them is exclusively #1.

    Why would we want to look at the #3 total? Consider this hypothetical scenario: For 10 years in a row, Able and Baker battle for the HR crown. Every year they are close to one another, and far above the rest of the league. One year, they tie for the HR title. If you were making from those 10 seasons a list like the one above, is there any reason that you would want to bring in the #3 total for that one year Able and Baker tied? I can't see it.

  22. John Q Says:

    @15, 17,

    Good one on that weird Eddie Murray leading the majors but neither league in 1990. Eddie Murray's season is even more strange because he wasn't the player traded Willie Magee was.

    In the post I was referring to leading the league the majors in HR but leading neither league. I'm not sure if McGwire is the only person to accomplish that.

    Duke, good one on CC, Vaughn

    Cone led the majors in k's in 1992 but led neither league.

    Sutcliffe tied for the lead in wins in 1984 but finished 4th in the N.L. Sutcliffe is also odd in that I think he's the only starting pitcher to win a Cy Young award without pitching enough innings to qualify for the ERA title or any other Rate stat.

  23. John Q Says:

    @16 Skip,

    Valid point on the blogosphere in relation to HoJo but I was referring more to the Mets team themselves rather than the blogosphere/saber community. Howard Johnson always seems to be depicted as a supporting player by the Mets organization.

  24. John Q Says:

    @20 Jimbo,

    Good points.

    Polanco finished 2nd overall to Derek Lee in 2005 but didn't rank in either the AL or NL because he didn't have enough plate appearances in either league.

    I just went by the names on this 1-2 list but you're right Gonzalez finished third but he hit 57 not 56. Again hitting 57 HR and finishing third would have been inconceivable just a few years earlier in 1993.

  25. Geoff Young Says:

    @14: The Padres have had a HR leader, Fred McGriff in 1992.

  26. John Q Says:

    John A,

    The problem is the last 32 seasons on that list don't follow the same criteria as the other seasons on the list because were No "Runner Ups" because there were no Second Place finishers in those 32 seasons. There were only two players tied for the league leaders and then a third place finisher.

    Just like there was no Runner-Up in the 1979 MVP. You wouldn't say that Stargell was the "Runner-Up" to Hernandez. You would say that Hernandez and Stargell tied for the MVP and Dave Winfield finished Third.

    You could say the "Runners-Up" to the 1979 NL MVP and then list Winfield, Parish, Knight, Niekro, & Sutter as players in Contention for the MVP.

  27. John Q Says:


    Good catch, I forgot about Fred Mcgriff on the Padres.

    You know what's amazing, McGriff led the league with 35 HR in 1992 and since then, no player has led the NL with fewer than 40 HR. And it's interesting to note that there was a strike in two of those seasons and a player still hit at least 40 HR.

    To tell you how wacky things got in baseball, McGriff hit 32 homers in 1999 on the Devil Rays and finished 17th in the AL.

    McGriff finished tied for 3rd overall in 1992 with 35 HR. He hit 3 less (32) in 1999 and finished 38th overall!!

    There were 10 players with 30+ HR in 1992, In 1999 there were 45 players who hit 30+ HR!!

  28. mr.baseballcard Says:

    Interesting to look @ Cy Williams #7 and #13 on the original list. Lead the Senior Circuit 4 times in HRs, twice in OPS and once in slugging. Career OPS+ of 125 is pretty high for a player who gets no HofF rallying cry. Rather interesting career.

  29. John Autin Says:

    @26, John Q -- I get the fact that there were no "runners-up" for the last 32 seasons on that list. What I don't get is, why does that matter for the present discussion?

    Maybe I'm still missing your point. But it seems like you're insisting on a literal interpretation of the headline, at the expense of the real point of the discussion.

    My point may be clearer in this absurd scenario:
    Imagine that every player in the league hits exactly 20 HRs except for one guy -- we'll call him "Duane K." -- who doesn't hit any. Which statement would you say more aptly describes this situation?
    (a) "Wow, the HR champion was really dominant this year!"
    -- OR--
    (b) "Gee, almost everyone had exactly the same HR total!"

    To me, it's (b). And that's why I would put the top two totals into the list -- not the first and the last.

  30. barkie Says:

    I think Ruth must have looked by Paul Bunyan to the other players.

  31. Joseph Says:

    @ John Q, #14:

    The play index says that Kingman is the only player to ever hit over 30 HR's in his last season.

    I checked a lot of years and couldn't find anyone who finished 1 or 2 in HR's in his last year. I might have missed something, however, because I didn't look at every year.

  32. 704_Brave Says:

    In cases like Polanco and McGwire, it's absolutely ridiculous that the records from the other league don't carry over. Especially since we are now in the era of intra-league play. I fail to understand why this is still the case. I can see it back in the day when there was no intra-league play, but nowadays this is just silly.

    Perhaps someone on here can shed some light into this...

  33. John Q Says:

    704 Brave,

    I don't get your point about "intra-league" play. The word "Intra" means "within" as in "intra-state" commerce. Intra-State commerce refers to commerce within the borders of one particular state.

    I think you mean "inter" as in inter-league play, AL vs NL.

  34. John Autin Says:

    @20, Jimbo -- Placido Polanco had never led any league or the majors in any offensive category, per his B-R page. The year he hit .341, teammate Magglio Ordonez hit .363. When Polanco hit .331 (, he didn't qualify in either league, and he didn't have the highest BA in the majors; Derrek Lee led the NL at .335. (Michael Young led the AL at .331.)

    @32, 704_Brave: Do you want to get rid of AL and NL leaders entirely, and only recognize MLB leaders? Because that's the only way to resolve your complaint.

    Let's say Polanco had batted .340 in 2005, giving him the highest average in the majors. He didn't have 502 PAs in either league. Which league's batting title would you like him to get?

  35. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    Your chart points out two aspects of the true meaning of the phrase "Ruthian clout," much abused and misused by modern day play by play and "color" announcers.

    Babe hit so many more home runs than his closest competitors, and he hit them so much farther, 500+ feet on many occasions, that there truly has never been anyone like him and probably never will be.

    I also suggest that when there's a tie, like Killebrew and Yaz, you list them both as the leaders, and add the next-highest guy.

  36. John Q Says:

    29 John A.

    The post is a listing between the biggest gap between the HR Leader and the HR Runner-UP in a baseball season in baseball history.

    Since the last 32 listings were tied for the Home Run title they shouldn't be by definition on this list because all of those players were Home Run leaders during those particular seasons.

    You wouldn't say that Dale Murphy was a "runner-up" to Mike Schmidt in the 1984 HR title because Schmidt had a better HR%. Schmidt's HR% has no relevance as to who was the HR leader in the NL during the 1984 season.

    The last 32 listings should have been omitted because there were no Second Place finishers. In the case of 1981 there wasn't even a 3rd or 4th place finisher.

  37. topper009 Says:

    In 1927 Babe Ruth also hit 4 more HRs than the next team in the AL, the A's who hit 56 as a team.

    @17, Greg Vaughn hit 50 HRs for the pennant winning Padres in 1998, finishing 3rd behind McGwire and Sosa, maybe the most forgetable 50 HR season ever. He hit 41 splitting time between the Brewers (AL) and Padres (NL) in 1996 which was T-11 in MLB.

    Carlos Beltran hit 38 HRs between the Royals and Astros in 2004 (T-12 MLB)
    Carlos Lee hit 37 HRs between the Brewers and Rangers in 2006 (T-16 MLB)
    Manny Ramirez hit 37 HRs between the Red Sox and Dodgers in 2008 (T-4 MLB)

  38. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @ 31 Joseph
    We had an interesting discussion on Kingman a while back.
    His last three years he hit 35, 30, 35 HRs.
    Then he was not offered a contract.
    But I checked and he had in his final season, despite the 35 jacks, the lowest OBP and OPS+ of any player with that many HRs.

    @ 35 Phil
    I nit picked earlier in the thread, that # of HRs is a bit misleading and % of difference might shed a little more light on just how dominant Ruth was.
    In 1920, Ruth hit 65% more HRs than Sisler.
    Giving that a bit more context, if Pujols hits 47 HRs next year, an imaginary player would need 135 HRs to be 65% ahead of Pujols.

  39. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Not that Bill James' BLACK INK test is perfect, but I think it lays some nice ground work for HOF selection, I wonder if those players mentioned who received no credit for having led a league because of trades etc, should be given 'credit'?

  40. Jimbo Says:


    Isn't that 165% more, not 65%?

  41. Dr. Doom Says:


    The problem with percentage is just that, though. You can't really have someone hit 135 home runs. I wonder what one standard deviation for a home run in 1920 was, though. Then, we could see how many SDs above that he finished, and then see how far above Pujols (assuming that same 47) one would need to finish. My guess is that it would be more equivalent to someone hitting 80-100 HRs, rather than 135. But that's just a guess based on nothing but conjecture.

  42. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Hmm, my thought is that by standard deviations Ruth would be even higher, like the equivalent of 500 HR now or something silly. But that's probably just my statistical illiteracy.

  43. Johnny Twisto Says:

    OK, I'm probably not doing this right, but I gave it a try. In the 1920 AL, there was an average of .009 HR per AB (1 per 114 AB). Of qualified batters (61 of them), the standard deviation was .016. Ruth averaged .118 HR per AB. So that puts him almost 7 standard deviations above the average. Is that right or am I totally screwing this up?

    Incidentally, without Ruth, the standard deviation of the other 60 batters is just .008, half as much.

    So, perhaps doubling my error, I will apply the same system to the 2010 NL. The average was .027 HR per AB (1 per 37 AB). The standard deviation of 74 qualified batters is .017. Pujols averaged .072 HR per AB, about 2.6 standard deviations above the average. 7 SDs would be .146 HR per AB, or 88 HR per 600 AB. So Dr. Doom was right (again, unless I messed this all up).

  44. MikeD Says:

    This Ruth guy, seems to be on your list a lot. Any one know anything about him?

  45. MikeD Says:

    @38, Dukeofflatbush Says: His last three years he hit 35, 30, 35 HRs.
    Then he was not offered a contract.

    That's true, although it probably had as much to do with Kingman's personality than his ability. During his last year with the A's, he mailed a live rat to a woman reporter he didn't like. When confronted, he said it was a joke, but it was viewed by many as the final straw. No matter what his other stats said, a DH during that time who could crank out 30+ homers would have been brought back.

    I always wished Kingman had stuck around a couple more seasons as a DH. He would have eclipsed 500 HRs eventually, and by doing so he would have removed the automatic entry into the HOF for anyone hitting 500 HRs. As it was, I believe he was the first player ever to hit 400 HRs who was not elected.

    His career really only started a few years prior to the DH. He should have been sent off to the AL and played 150 games a year as a DH. Probably would have approached 600 HRs with the regular playing time. The ultimate all-or-nothing hitter. Easily the best distance power hitter I've seen along with McGwire. Can only imagine how many HRs he would have hit if his career peak happened in the 90s.

    Doesn't matter. I swear if the guy hit 700 HRs, he'd never make the HOF because he not only could do little else with the bat, he was just a butcher with the glove. Fun to watch, though, no doubt.

  46. Jimbo Says:

    Yeah Kingman would've roided up for sure if he played in the 90's..

    It looked like he was done his last year though, based on his BA, OBP, etc.

  47. kds Says:

    Mike D. #44: edit, "This girl Ruth, keeps showing up..."

  48. Biff Says:

    The most impressive part of the 31 homers Mike Schmidt hit in 1981 in 102 games (out of a possible 107) was that he almost eclipsed the San Diego Padres TEAM total of 32 in 110 games, It will be the last chance anyone had to outhomer a team, even though it was a strike year.

  49. Mike Felber Says:

    "Baseballs Ultimate Power" by renowned baseball Historian Bii Jenkinson is a great read. He researched all the furthest HRs ever, eyewitness, microfilm, using physics. He also rated the fastest & longest thrower, but mainly there are bios & descriptions of all the furthest clouts ever, ranked by there distance prowess.

    I just cannot fathom how Ruth could be #1 without any modern (some destructive) training, & using amongst the heaviest bats ever. but he was the most well documented athlete of the era, so many papers covered his shots.

  50. Tweets that mention Mailbag: Biggest Differences Between HR Leader and Runner-Up » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive -- Says:

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  51. Bradley Says:

    I would suspect that 1927 featured the biggest difference between #2 and #3. Ruth had 60, Gehrig had 47 and their teammate Tony Lazzeri was third with just 18.

  52. Bradley Says:

    Gehrig outhomered 4 of the other AL teams in 1927.

  53. Bradley Says:

    I'm still astounded by the dominance of the New York Yankees in 27. Even without Ruth and Gehrig the Yanks still hit 51 homers, which is more than four teams and ties another. And even without Lazzeri they hit 33, which is more than three teams.

  54. John Q Says:

    @48 Biff,

    Good call on Schmidt's 1981 season which kind of gets lost in the shuffle because of the strike. I remember having the '81 season in strat-o-matic and Schmidt's card was awesome. Raines' card in '81 was also a killer card because of his unbelievable SB ratio. Rick Monday's card sticks out in mind because it was basically a HR/BB or nothing. Monday had 11 HR in just 130 at bats in '81 and 24 walks in 156 plate appearances.

  55. John Q Says:

    @45 Mike D.

    I was always kind of surprised that it took so long for an AL team to acquire Kingman and just put him as the everyday DH. If anybody was perfect for the DH position it was Kingman. I guess Kingman was kind of a jerk as well and probably was not too happy about being a full time DH.

    Kingman was such an odd player/person. The one thing I remember about Kingman was that when he played for the Mets he lived on a houseboat on Flushing Bay. I think the reason had something to do with avoiding NY Tax because he hadn't established residency in NY.

  56. dukeofflatbush Says:


    My father was one of the all time Kingman haters and unfortunately one of the biggest Mets fans.
    He told me countless stories of Kingman's antics, including the houseboat story. According to second hand accounts, Seaver nearly had to do everything for Kingman when the Mets first brought him over. Including checking him into hotels and buying him street clothes. Apparently Kingman couldn't even do that without help.
    I also told a story, too long to retype, a few threads ago, where Kingman purposefully destroyed a young fan's baseball that had all the 70's Mets autographs on it.
    I think if he were playing today, Kingman would be diagnosed with some sort of developmental or social problem. Maybe medication could of helped?

  57. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @45 MikeD

    That would make one of the great what-ifs of all time. If Kingman had been plugged in as DH, what kind of Frankenstein-Kong monster would be the result. Those late '80 A's, had some of the biggest PED users on those teams. McGwire, Canseco, Stan Javier, and though I didn't see them on the Mitchell report, I always suspected Tetleton, Steinbach- whom had that out-of-nowhere 35 HR season. Also Tony Phillips had cocaine issues and mix in two future World series managers; Baker and Boche.
    Quite a mix.
    If Kingman started juicing with Canseco, played DH till 42, he could of retired 5th all time in HRs. Making it very hard to keep him out of the Hall, despite, what of would of become a sub .300 OBP.

  58. 704_Brave Says:

    @33 - John Q -

    Duly noted...was referring to inter-league play, thanks for correcting.

    @34 - John Autin -

    "Do you want to get rid of AL and NL leaders entirely, and only recognize MLB leaders? Because that's the only way to resolve your complaint.
    Let's say Polanco had batted .340 in 2005, giving him the highest average in the majors. He didn't have 502 PAs in either league. Which league's batting title would you like him to get?"

    Now that leagues play each other, there is no reason why a player who gets traded mid-year has to leave his stats from his previous team/league in that league. So, while having individual league leaders is fine, the stats should travel if the leagues play each other... It's not like getting called up from the minors right?

    To answer your question though, I feel that Polanco should have won the AL batting title if he had 502 PA in the majors and finished the season in that league.

  59. 704_Brave Says:

    @John Autin,

    To clarify my stance on Polanco (and I'm using a hypothetical example, not what actually happened in 2005): if he would have led the league he ended up in at the end of the year including his first league's stats, then he should have won that league's batting title.

    My point is I just don't understand why stats don't carry over in the age of inter-league play.

  60. John Q Says:

    @56 Duke,

    Kingman grew up in Oregon during the 50's-60's so he might have had difficulty adjusting to life in big cities especially on the East coast. He moved around quite a bit in his career which kind of reinforces the point that he was a club-house cancer.

    It would have been interesting if he played for the Dodgers because he would have played for every Californian team as well as every team of NY origin, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants.

    Another oddity about Kingman was that he was on the '71 Giants which had a team that had 5 players, Mays, McCovey, Kingman, Foster, and Bonds that would end up with 300+ HR in their respective careers. I don't know if that ever happened before 1980.

  61. John Autin Says:

    704_Brave, @58-59: Thanks for your reply. Two followup questions, if you don't mind:

    1. Could you phrase your position as an official rule governing the determination of a league leader?

    2. Would your rule apply to counting stats, too, or just to rate stats like batting average?


  62. dukeofflatbush Says:

    704 Brve
    You don't need to make this hypothetical
    Look at Eddie Murray 1991.

  63. Mike Gaber Says:

    @ 62 Dukeofflatbush

    I looked at Eddie Murray 1991 and don't see that he had much of a season that stood out for the Dodgers.
    He wasn't traded in 1991. Played the full 1991 season for the Dodgers.

    What am I missing on the "Hypothetical" point???

    Eddie Murray's stats on

  64. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Sorry, I meant Eddie Murray's 1990 season. In it, he led all of baseball with a .330 AVG.
    I was referencing #59 704_Brave's hypothetical Polanco leading the league scenario (see above).
    In 1990 Willie McGee was traded from St. Louis to Oakland at the deadline.
    At the time he was leading the league with a .335 AVG.
    In oakland he hit .274, dropping his combined AVG to .324.
    George Brett led the AL with a .329 AVG.
    Hence Murray's MLB best .330, which he is not credited with, which I agree with, despite being a huge Murray fan. I only mention it, because 704 was looking for a hypothetical and there already was a precedent.
    I guess his only quibble is now that there is interleague play, AVGs should not be split, but summed. And my answer to that is, it is way to small a sample to consider.

  65. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Johnny Twisto,


    I really hope you see this, other wise I really wasted my time.
    Something does not seem right and I don't mean the math, that is sound.
    You are always good for looking outside the box. So maybe you can explain why it doesn't quite feel right to me?

    I used 200 PAs to cut out pitchers from the 20's and to make the tables a bit smaller.

    The 78 AL batters’ HR total for 1920 with > 200 PAs

    pop# 78
    sum tot 351
    mean 4.5
    std. dev. 7.0688

    The 161 AL batters’ HR total for 2010 with > 200 PAs

    pop# 161
    sum tot 1984
    mean 12.32298
    std. dev. 9.4485218

    1920 Player averaged 4.5 HRs. Ruth’s 54 was > 7 standard deviations from average.

    2010 player averaged 12.322 HRs. Bautista’s 54 was > 4.4 standard deviations from the average.

    If Ruth played in 2010 with the same deviation from the standard, he would have near 80.

    Not as big as it seemed, but still impressive.
    I’m sure doubling the # of the population skewed the results, but hey.

  66. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Duke, I'm not sure what doesn't feel right to you?

    Anyway, I did it by HR/PA, you did it by raw HR. I really wasn't sure which would be the better choice for such a study. I'm hoping somewhat with a better concept of statistics (mathematically speaking, not baseball) can tell us the best way to look at this. Especially how Ruth alone so changes the standard deviation -- should he be included when calculating the SD?

  67. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Thanx Johnny,

    What doesn't feel right is 80. I think If Bonds could get to 73, then 80 doesn't sound so... RUTHIAN. I guess I was expecting a number over a hundred.

    I did do the math for 1920 without Ruth to see how much of a difference he made to the curve.
    With Ruth: a StDe of 7.0688
    Without Ruth: a StDe of 4.2874

    I haven't checked to see what would happen if Bautista was taken out, but I imagine the greater population alone would lessen the effects.

  68. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Since I can't sleep, I'll try looking at Bonds 2001 via both our methods.

    Mine uses league average of HR per AB, then takes batters who qualified for the batting title. Avg HR per AB was .034 (1 per 30 AB). Standard deviation of qualified batters was .026. Bonds was about 4.5 SDs above average. In that league, 7 SDs above average is about 130 HR.

    Yours looks at all players with > 200 PA, then takes the avg and SD of their HR totals. The average was 15 HR and the SD about 13. Bonds was about 4.5 SDs above average. 7 SDs above average is about 105 HR.

    Basically, the HR environment was different in 2001 than now, and you're right that a "Ruthian" level of dominance would be over 100 then.

    There's the question, especially when dealing with Bonds, of whether it makes more sense to look at HR per AB or per PA.

  69. bells Says:

    Hey folks, first post here after following for a few years.

    So I teach stats at university, and (useless anecdote alert) one of the antiquated educational videos we show teaching standard deviation actually has Steven Jay Gould talking about .400 hitting as it relates to the standard deviation.

    Anyway, to pitch in my 2 cents, with regards to Bonds and Ruth comparisons (hopefully I'm addressing the question properly):

    #66 - Yes Ruth should absolutely be considered when calculating SD. The SD is a fundamental measure of variability in a sample, like an 'average deviation' away from the mean. Including outlier scores is crucial in this - without Ruth, the SD would be incredibly low and he'd be way more SDs away from the mean than the already monstrous 7. But because his crazy outlier score is so far from the mean, that means the 'average' deviation in the sample is wider. It's like a mean - if you had 4 scores and they were all 20, you'd have a mean of 20. But if you had 3 20s and a 60, your mean would be 30, even though most of your scores were below that. It's representative of the skew in the sample, just like having a standard deviation of 7HRs (like in post 65) represents the skew of Ruth, when really without him it'd be 4.28, waaay smaller. He's compared to the sample he's a part of, so he must be included in it.

    #68 - it would make more sense, I think, to compare HR/AB (or HR/PA) with regards to SD than it would just HR, if you're using an arbitrary cutoff (like 200PA). With just HR, you could theoretically have a lot of guys at 200PA and not getting tons of HR bringing the average down, whereas in another year you might have more guys with more PA and more HR, a bit more randomness. I think HR/AB lessens that.

    As for the topic itself, it's just a testament to how insanely original Ruth was. I don't believe he'd be 7SDs above today's average; everyone has generally gotten better in terms of refined training and fitness, first of all, so if Ruth stands as close as possible to the limits of human 'excellence' in HR hitting, everyone else has gotten closer to him. But more importantly, people grow up learning how to hit home runs. In Ruth's time, it seems like he was simply outside the box in what he did. So although to repeat how unbelievable his performance in 1920 was in Bonds' 73 year would be like hitting ~130HR, that would assume that nobody else really understood how to hit them, as seemed to be the case in 1920 (I know I'm oversimplifying, but you know what I mean). It seems more likely that if he played in that era, assuming that he had all the advantages (training/PED/whatever) that everyone else did, and took advantage of them, I think a total closer to 80-90 would be likely.

  70. Mike Felber Says:

    That makes sense Bells, thanks. You might like to peruse "The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs". Same guy who did the book I suggested in #49. I believe he is a bit biased, but has valid points too. Ruth did face the best pitchers/relief of his day, grueling travel conditions, little or bad training..The author took his blows in '21, & put them in a typical park. There are of course 2 questions that get conflated: 1) How Ruth would do if reincarnated today, & 2) how good he would do with the same training advantages as today, absent PEDs.

    Still it is hard to imagine that with those primitive, heavy bats, he likely hit the ball FURTHER than anyone. It is widely accepted that the greater distance a ball with travel off a bat that is heavier is more than counterbalanced by the loss of bat speed by using said model. If true, & heavily weight trained & sometimes PED enhanced athletes today (who must be far stronger than Ruth in pure muscular terms) cannot generate the same power with a heavy bat, how did he do so? How did others like Foxx, Mantle, Hondo, Allen (ranked thusly behind Ruth according to Jenkinson), do so well with relatively (though not Ruthian weight usually) bats?

    In the book referenced above, it said Ruth picked put a "toothpick" of 32 oz. from a teammate once. He hit 2 HRs, one 525'. Now, even for Ruth that is titanic (though not near his very best). But still, if he could hit a rare distance blow like that in 1 game-could he have hit it even further if he always used said lumber?

    About Kingman: he was the guest speaker at a Little League end of year awards dinner when i was a kid. We were excited, he seemed easy going, though I recall my parents being none to thrilled with his attitude of "I was never none too smart at school, aw shucks, looks like I did O.K." (not actual quote).

  71. Dr. Doom Says:

    @43, 65, 69

    Thanks, guys. Bells, it's nice to have someone who's a mathematician around. Most of us here just love baseball, and while a lot of us like numbers/statistics, we're not experts. I like standard deviations because they're a lot more accurate, in my opinion, than raw numbers or percentages. Regardless, though, thanks for adding some work on this. I would have, but I was a little busy yesterday, and not feeling up to it. So thanks for taking my suggestion and adding even more info. I appreciate it.

  72. 704_Brave Says:

    @61 John Autin and @64 Duke -

    My only issue is that the 2 leagues are now intertwined and they play each other during the regular season now...with interleague stats counting along the way. Why does a guy's stats start over if he gets traded between leagues, but not when he stays in the same league?

    Eddie Murray in 1990 was a good example, but the rules were different then as there was no interleague was a tough luck situation for him.

    Good discussion, just doesn't seem correct anymore...

    One more hypothetical though...let's say the Twins never re-signed Joe Mauer and this year was his contract year. The Twins can't sign him for what he wants, so they trade him to the Cardinals before the deadline because they are out of it and they want value back. Problem is that he's hitting .404 in the AL but he doesn't have 502 PAs. He hits .409 the rest of the way in STL but doesn't qualify for the batting title in either league. Is he the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams? I suppose the AL could add empty PAs to get him to 502 and qualify for the batting title, but say that drops him below .400...what to do?

    I suppose that would just be one of baseball's oddities...

  73. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Yes, he would be a .400 hitter. But no, he wouldn't win a batting title. I understand your issue with it, and I'm not saying you're wrong, but I feel no great desire to "fix" it. Batting title or not, his season would definitely be remembered, so I don't think the little trophy matters.

    Bells, thanks. I knew someone with more knowledge on the subject had to be around.

  74. dukeofflatbush Says:


    The issue for me, is why call it the AL batting title, if you want to count games, pitchers, parks, teams, batter protection, no DH, etc...
    If you'd like to argue for not counting interleague stats as part of the player's league total, hmmm - maybe. I dislike interleague play very much and the 'charm of it' has long since worn off for me. I see no point to it, other than parading the Yankees around the country and a handful of nice rivalries - that are becoming old fast.
    This is only a recent problem due to the increase in player transactions and teams conceding contention half way through a season.
    It would seem inconceivable to trade a guy with 35 HRs at the all-star break 20 years ago, but now its just considered forward thinking.

  75. 704_Brave Says:

    It seems as if the trade deadline has gotten pushed up even as recently as this winter with the Adrian Gonzalez (1 year left on deal) and Zack Greinke (2 years left) deals within a couple weeks of each other. I'm not a fan of baseball's economics, but in this day and age some teams just won't or can't contend. But perhaps that's another discussion.

    As for interleague play, I'm all for it...but the DH is the problem. It's been what, 38 years of the 2 leagues playing 2 distinctly different games? I'm sorry, but the AL game is very simple for managers, strategy, decision making, etc. It's become a boring game strategy-wise as a result. I like the NL game much better just because of the pitcher's spot and the strategy that comes along with it...

    Oh well, looks like that's yet another topic for discussion and another reason why I love this site!

  76. dukeofflatbush Says:

    To Bells,

    To some extent I agree with you that HR/AB(PA) would be more accurate, but there is so many AB/PAs to count and assign to the right players.
    Your argument is sound, that @ >200 plate appearances, from year to year that # will fluctuate, but I feared there are guys who have Shane Spencer type years (10 HRs in 90 ABs), whom, in my opinion don't accurately depict a hitter. Guys having a cup of coffee as it were, will be generally encouraged to swing a bit harder in their limited time. Counting the sum instead of the percentages, I figured would be more accurate, as the Shane Spencer's will surely even out over a long enough time line. I also thought in the 1920 season, using 200 as a cut off would eliminate pitchers, showing a more accurate depiction of a 1920 'hitter'.

    I do agree with you about Ruth being the ultimate outlier for the reasons you stated. Like when the forward pass came into vogue in football, you couldn't compare Quarterbacks.
    Ruth certainly changed how the game was played, everyone knows Cobb gripped his bat in a manner that almost certainly didn't allow for HRs, and didn't change that when they changed the ball or Ruth changed the game.
    Which brings up a very important point in discussing HRs; How many homers in the 1920-21 seasons were the inside the park variety. Looking at the number of triples - I'd speculate 10% - 15% of HRs were not classic "over the fence" HRs. Even Ruth had 17 triples.
    I don't know exact dimensions, but from what I hear, several stadiums had a nearly infinite centerfield, so a 200 ft gapper looks the same on paper as the RUTHIAN 500fter.
    As far as some of the other comments, wondering if the 'homogenizing' of baseball has weeded out the freak outliers, I love to look at some of the examples Bill James uses.
    For instance, he said Mickey Mantle was a 'screen-ape' as a teenager in a mine. This was explained to me as the guy who swings a sledge hammer, breaking the larger rocks into smaller pieces, etc... but this would explain Mantle's freak strength. Today you would never see any teen, let alone a gifted teen, working in a mine. Not that I advocate teen manual labor.
    Also, James stated Henry Aaron played highschool and low A ball with his hands in the wrong positions. This might explain how Aaron had the 'fastest' wrists in baseball. Today a kid would be stopped at age 4 from swinging 'incorrectly'.

  77. Mike Felber Says:

    Well...Mantle's labor, like some of the things Foxx did, helped make men with great potential very strong. But 1) Even a fair # of teens today are stronger than them today (in #s, not in % of teens) due to the science of weightlifting & PEDs. Though in specific skills our legends might be comparable, like in breaking rocks or forearm strength, they just did not have the scientific training, diet (many meals, protein, shakes) & of course PEDs to approach the strength & certainly size of the large muscles groups of any decent strength athlete, powerlifter, bodybuilder, many football players...

    This is roughly reflected in height & weight. They were just about 200 lbs & ~ 5'11" & 6'0". Around the same as Honus Wagner. Today many with similar bone structure & body fat outweigh them, sometimes by a great deal.

    Which is distinct from how far they could hit a baseball, or how good they are at the game. The Law of Diminishing Returns applies here.

  78. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Hey Mike,

    I do agree with you that today's youth has much better diets, exercise regimes, etc... but that doesn't necessarily translate to 'better.' Each body responds a bit differently to stressors. I know guys who lift 3 weeks before vacation, and get into relatively good shape quickly. Others I know work out year round and never find the right combo of results to loose weight or gain strength.
    I can only speculate, but yes Mantle had the raw strength, but something as unique as 'screen ape' as a teenager is quite remarkable. It just was the right combo, the right muscles at the right time.
    When you talk about body weight and mass index and muscle density, you forget guys like Soriano. He was a twig when he came up with the Yankees. Well, at least compared to his peers.
    Honus Wagner was the exception. the general population height has 'grown' in the US a great deal since 1900, but the increase in size athletics is ridiculous. I remember the 80's Redskins offensive line was called the "HOGS" cause they were considered so large. Today those same Hogs would be the smallest O-line in the league by far.
    Some others mention Ruth using a heavy bat and speculate if he used a lighter one, what kind of damage he could of done. The reason is it is generally accepted distance comes more from bat speed than bat density or overall weight. But if one had the same bat speed with a 32oz bat and a 48oz bat, the 48oz bat would send the ball traveling farther.
    Could it be Ruth was TOO strong for the lighter bats? Would he of pulled everything foul? He was rumored to be fooled often by off-speed pitches; out-in-front, so it is a possibility his potential was maxed out using his bat.

  79. FALCOR Says:

    I may start a riot here (and I'm a crazy fan of the Bambino) but I think that if you put Babe Ruth in the game today, he'd be an average player (he does pain me to say this of legends).

    I think that Ruth was awesome compared to his peers and I attribute his awesomeness to an "out-of-the-box" hitting technique but also slower fastballs/less effective breaking balls. And I think it's the same in every damn sports: Marginal players today would be legends in the past.

    And I picked on Ruth because it makes more of an impact but I could say to same thing about other baseball legends of the beginning of the century (Imagine Walter Johnson throwing to hitters who are focusing on hitting the ball on the ground all the time, etc.)

  80. John Autin Says:

    704_Brave: "I like the NL game much better just because of the pitcher's spot and the strategy that comes along with it..."

    I'll post a couple of passages from well-known baseball men -- not as if their opinions should settle anything, but just as a different view that you mind find worth considering:

    (1) "Everyone in the world disagrees with me, including some managers, but I think managing in the American League is much more difficult for that very reason (having the designated hitter). In the National League, my situation is dictated for me. If I'm behind in the game, I've got to pinch hit. I've got to take my pitcher out. In the American League, you have to zero in. You have to know exactly when to take them out of there. In the National League, that's done for you." - Jim Leyland

    (2) "I'm not an advocate of the Designated Hitter Rule; I'm only an advocate of seeing the truth and telling the truth. What the truth comes down to here is a question of in what does strategy reside? Does strategy exist in the act of bunting? If so the Designated Hitter Rule has reduced strategy. But if strategy exists in the decision about when a bunt should be used, then the DH rule has increased the differences of opinion which exist about that question, and thus increased strategy...[the research shows] that there is more of a difference of opinion, not less, in the American League." - Bill James in The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (1986)

    (quotes copied from:

  81. Mike Felber Says:

    Falcor, i think that the athletic improvement you site is generally true, but would be somewhat less in baseball. Since raw strength & speed have impact, but not nearly as much as in football, basketball, let alone when they are measured directly, like lifting & sprinting, channeled through other skills.

    The average is better, but hand eye coordination & baseball talent is only helped, sometimes & somewhat, by improving physicality. It is ME who hates to say that my avatar would do relatively worse than Ruth, since, basically only 1 excellent pitch would not make it. Ruth saw some great pitching, & would he be unable to adjust to more heat & some better stuff? Would guys today be able to hit screwballs & spitters as well? Ruth had the reflexes to hit a Johnson-& he 1st saw him when the balls were often dark & mushy.

    Thanks for the feedback Duke. One reason I answer as above, is that despite all the advances, Ruth hit the furthest, then maybe Foxx, Mantle, Hondo, could never go back even as far as, say, Butkis, & say his basic ability was as good as today's guys. Toa ddress your points:

    The exponentially superior training today means that any pro, with some experimentation, could build stronger muscles & be in better aerobic shape, increase agility, balance, etc...I have lifted for years, & know a great deal about variations in what works: my point is that we are light years ahead. Ruth was not "too strong", which implies lifting, pushing, pulling: he was undoubtedly unimpressive compared to even modern baseball players at these things. But something about the speed AND mass of his body, how effectively he could deploy it, made a single 'strength', ball hitting, unparalleled.

    I love Mantle, & he may have had the best raw baseball skills EVER: great speed & power & switch hitting. I am just saying that with specific training, some other teens today could be a screen ape. Not so much without modern training & eating though.

    I did not claim that all players were large, but on average they are much larger & stronger than before: one vet said during the steroid era "Our big guys were like small guys today"". Of course there are always a few lean guys-though even they have access to so much better training, video, etc...

    You are right about Wagner (who lifted Dumbbells though) & the O line, Yes! but I do feel that Football has a lot of unrecognized drugging. Some substances. cannot be tested for (HgH), or are unknown.

    Lastly, regarding Ruth & bat weights: you are recapitulating what i said about lighter bats adding more distance since swinging faster adds more power than the extra mass. I do not know that Ruth could not adjust to a lighter bat: they believed wrongly then that they were worse for power. I think he could.

    IF somehow he would not be able to connect as often for a fair, solid hit or homer, then you would be right that a heavy bat helped him maximize his baseball potential. Yet I was talking about his DISTANCE hitting potential: unless there is something wrong with conventional wisdom & the available evidence in some cases-& i cannot see that this is true-then Ruth hit the ball further than anyone with the HANDICAP of using amongst the heaviest bats ever.

    His hitting 525' with a light bat using it in a single game is evidence to this effect. Even Ruth rarely did this. What if he used it every time & got familiar with?

    Some are debating how good Ruth would be today. I am saying that there are very good historical records that he hit the ball further than anyone, ever, with inferior equipment. And that there is something astonishing about that. Though unlike something like how much a guy can lift, theoretically possible.

    But still hard to believe!