Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 24, 2004
BASEBALL: Learning To Take

I've lately been reading Allan Wood's marvelous book Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox; more on that later. One point that fascinated me from Wood's book is his portrayal of Ruth, in his first season spending significant time as a position player, as a tempermentally impatient hitter, one who loved swinging at first pitches, something his teammates usually avoided and for which he was sometimes reprimanded.

Take a look at Ruth's batting numbers broken down in three parts: 1914-17, when he was a full-time pitcher who got extra at bats mostly by pinch hitting; 1918, when he was new to the lineup; and 1919 and 1920, his first two years as a regular; I'll run a projection to 600 at bats so you can really see the changes:

Actual Batting Stats

YearsABBBK
1914-173613168
19183175858
191943210158
192045815080

Projected to 600 At Bats

YearsABBBK
1914-1760052113
1918600110110
191960014081
1920600197105

When you look at these numbers in light of the portrait painted by Wood, two things emerge: (1) the rapid rise in Ruth's walk rate is a compelling testimony to how quickly fear of the Babe's power caused pitchers to work around him; and (2) the very quick improvement in both Ruth's BB and K rates shows what a quick study Ruth was. This wasn't a guy who gloried in waiting out the pitcher; Ruth learned to wait. And he learned that lesson in just a few years, while lesser players can take their whole careers to get the point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:02 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
Comments

Further evidence why Ruth is the greatest base ball player of all time.

Posted by: Dave at July 1, 2004 2:22 PM
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