What Babe Ruth did that Ohtani never will

I know, Shohei Ohtani has revolutionized baseball and is a phenomenon.

I know, he has done something that has never been done

I know,


The Japanese born came to major league baseball as a dual player (pitcher and batter) with great expectations of how he would manage to combine being a rotation starter in the best baseball in the world, with having an offensive role at the same time.


After a great debut in 2018, where he grabbed rookie of the year honors (.285, 22 HR, 61 RBI with 4-2 WL, 3.31 ERA in 10 starts), a torn ligament and subsequent Tommy John operation prevented him from pitching in 2019 limited to 103 games on offense (.286, 18 HR, 62 RBI). When he returned in late 2020, he pitched 2 games with no luck (37.80 ERA) hitting .192 with 7 HRs in 44 games).


But 2021 arrived where the 24-year-old right-hander has amazed us leading the majors until the beginning of September with 44 homers and among the best in slugging, triples and stolen bases, combined with a formidable offense pitching line of 9-2 wl, 3.36. ERA and 10.6 k / 9, being the best pitcher in the Angels' rotation.


All the same parallels immediately emerge with the first great player to do something like Ohtani in the romantic days of baseball: Babe Ruth.



The Bambino debuted with the Boston Red Sox in 1915 at the age of 19 and in no time became a solid starting pitcher, winning 20 games twice and guiding the Red Sox to 3 world series titles (1915, 1916 and 1918). ).


Between 1916 and 1917 only Walter Johnson won more games than Ruth in the American League, (48 to 47) and only "Black Sox" Eddie Cicotte had a better ERA (1.62 to 1.88 for Bambino). We can say that he was top 3 in the league for two years in a row. In world series games his record was 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA.


But Ruth came with a reputation for being very effective with the bat as well.


At a time when the homerun was a rarity, he hit 9 stakes in 397 appearances between 1915 and 1917, equaling position players like George Sisler (who had 1,526 appearances); with a home run frequency of 44.1 PA / HR; the best in MLB in that span, beating even the great John "HomeRun" Baker who had 63.4.


His offensive line while he was a 100% starting pitcher was .299 / .355 / .474 with an OPS + of 154, almost more than 50% better than the league.


Can you see where I'm going? No?


Then in 1918 the Red Sox had the great idea to alternate Ruth in the pitcher and outfielder roles. (Oh by the way, the DH wouldn't appear until 60 years later.) We are talking about risking the best pitcher of his rotation for 3 seasons to be a dual player, something never seen at the time.


It was as if the Senators put Walter Johnson on first base on his day off, whom by the way was a pretty darn good hitter too.


In his first season doing both roles, Ruth led the league in home runs (11), Slugging (.555) and OPS (.966) playing just 95 games, while as a pitcher in 20 starts he had a 13-7 record with a 2.22 ERA. (122 ERA +).


Here the Bostonians realized that it was no business to continue using Ruth as a pitcher because of his offensive potential. Already in 1919 they let him make 15 starts, where he achieved 12 complete games, 9 victories and a very good 2.97 ERA (102 ERA +).

With the tree he broke the home run record with 29, in addition to being the leader in runs scored, RBIs, slugging, OPS, total bases with an OPS + of 217 (117% better than the league).



So we are talking about that, as a dual player, Ruth had two homer leads, slugging, broke home run records and still played defense ... Remembering that he came from winning 89 games, 2 times he won 20, ERA leader and shutouts in 1916 , and 3 world series rings.


It's difficult for Ohtani to emulate something like that ...


Already in 1920 came the great transfer to the New York Yankees, where Bambino forgot to pitch except for sporadic occasions, and became a baseball legend whose offensive records in part endure to this day.


We are in the presence of a one-of-a-kind player ... now I'm talking about Ohtani. His youth and athleticism, apart from a tiger determination, allow him to share his playing time in two extremely dissimilar functions, where he has to face batters one day, and the next face pitchers, run the bases and carry the offense of a team that he has lost his star player for most of the season: Mike Trout.


But I think we have to take a good look at what Ruth did before saying like parrots "the Ohtani thing was never done by Babe Ruth" ...

He didn't do it because Ruth was so superior to everyone else as a hitter, that being an excellent pitcher as he was, it was a worse business to be a dual player than to have him hit every day.


Ohtani is an offensive force, great power and great baserunner, and a pitcher who can compete in the Cy Young at some point. He will never be the best hitter.

Ruth was the best player in history who was decisive as a pitcher for several years and the best overall hitter for as many.


Let us compare wildly...but orderly.



Rubén Sánchez

Winterballdata


Stats thanks to baseball-reference.com




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