Monday, August 29, 2011

The Best Right Fielder of All-Time: Babe Ruth vs. Hank Aaron

This is the toughest debate of any position.  When looking at right field, the question of who is the greatest comes down to two of the greatest players in the history of the game: Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.  One redefined the game by absolutely mashing pitches the way nobody else had until he came around, and the other was so consistent that he became the all-time home run king (the title should still be Aaron's, Bonds doesn't deserve it) and all-time RBI leader.

First, Ruth.  There's too much to write in one paragraph, but let's start by saying that he completely revolutionized the game.  He gave fans during the end of the dead ball era what they wanted to see, and that was long balls.  Despite playing in humongous ballparks (yes, he was helped by the short porch in right at "The House  That Ruth Built," but Yankee Stadium also happened to be 490 feet to center when Ruth played there) and being  out of shape for most of his career, he still held 56 MLB records when he retired in 1935.  He still holds the best ever career slugging percentage (.690), OPS (1.164), and WAR (wins above replacement, 190).  He also holds top 10 marks in home runs, OBP., AVG., runs scored, total bases, RBI, walks, and extra base hits.  He was, and still is, baseball's most famous icon.  (Ruth's stats)

Hank Aaron didn't put up the monstrous totals that Ruth did, but his consistency over 23 seasons allowed him to pass Ruth's home run record in 1974 and to become one of the greatest players of all-time.  He never hit more than 47 home runs in a season, but he did average 33 home runs a season from 1954 through 1976.  He never drove in more than 132 runs in one season, but he still averaged 100 a season and broke Ruth's RBI record.  He was a better base runner and defensive player than Ruth was, stealing 240 bases in his career while also winning three Gold Glove Awards in a row from '58-'60.  He was an All-Star every year from 1955-1975 and won the 1957 NL MVP. (Aaron's stats)

Both Ruth and Aaron are all-time greats, but in the end the choice for the greatest right fielder of all-time is Ruth.  Yes, Aaron hit 41 more homers and drove in 84 more runs than Ruth did, but it took him 3965 more at-bats to accomplish those feats.  Aaron may have been the most consistent player of all-time, but Ruth was a more explosive hitter.  From the time Ruth became a more full time hitter in 1918 to the time he retired in 1935, he averaged 39 home runs and 120 RBI per season.  He also slugged a ridiculous .699 over that time frame.  Aaron was great, but the Great Bambino was the greatest.

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