Comments on: Mailbag: Biggest Differences Between HR Leader and Runner-Up This and that about baseball stats. Tue, 16 Jul 2013 17:01:55 +0000 hourly 1 By: Mike Felber Sat, 15 Jan 2011 08:30:15 +0000 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!

By: John Autin Sat, 15 Jan 2011 08:20:46 +0000 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:

By: FALCOR Fri, 14 Jan 2011 20:31:52 +0000 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.)

By: dukeofflatbush Fri, 14 Jan 2011 15:38:33 +0000 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.

By: Mike Felber Fri, 14 Jan 2011 08:45:20 +0000 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.

By: dukeofflatbush Fri, 14 Jan 2011 01:26:21 +0000 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'.

By: 704_Brave Thu, 13 Jan 2011 20:01:41 +0000 Duke,
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!

By: dukeofflatbush Thu, 13 Jan 2011 19:45:52 +0000 704_brave

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.

By: Johnny Twisto Thu, 13 Jan 2011 17:34:29 +0000 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.

By: 704_Brave Thu, 13 Jan 2011 17:26:34 +0000 @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...