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Babe Ruth's Résumé...With Modern MLB Media

What if today's BBWAA voted on awards during Babe Ruth's career?

The Babe would have much more hardware with today's rules.

I’m a big Babe Ruth guy. This shouldn’t be controversial, but baseball fans and media have a weird tic nowadays of dunking on the Babe in an attempt to undermine what he accomplished. He is, in my opinion, the undisputed GOAT on the baseball diamond and, when you factor in his cultural impact, the undisputed GOAT of all American sports (I say American ‘cause I don’t know shit about soccer or cricket). No one in any field, court, or diamond ever dominated over the course of their careers like the Great Bambino. No one influenced the cultural zeitgeist like the Sultan of Swat. No one lived larger than the Colossus of Clout.


And he could have been an even bigger deal if the rules were different and the voters knew a little more back in the day.


The top-right corner of the Babe’s Baseball Reference Page is less impressive than many of the game’s all-timers. This is no fault of his own; many modern awards and recognitions like the All-Star Game, Cy Young, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and Rookie of the Year did not exist for all or most of the early part of the 20th century when he played. What’s more, the MVP Award was not around for a good chunk of his career, and for a while it was a one-and-done deal. You weren’t eligible to win the award twice until 1929, when the Babe was in his mid-30s.


There’s also the issue of evaluation. Voters nowadays have far more data at their disposal off which to base their votes. We understand what makes a baseball player valuable better than we did throughout the 20th century and the early parts of the 21st century. You can thank Sabermetrics for that. We just know more.


Now to the point…


What if today’s voters and today’s rules were applied to Babe Ruth’s career? What would his résumé look like (currently, 1X MVP, 2X All-Star), in terms of vote-based accolades?

I broke it down, year by year:

 

1914


Hitting: 10 PA, .200/.200/.300, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 50 OPS+, 0 bWAR

Pitching: 23 IP, 2-1, 3.91 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 70 ERA+, -0.3 bWAR


19-year-old Babe Ruth's first cup of coffee in the Major Leagues. He had just 10 PA and threw 23 innings for the Boston Red Sox, thus maintaining his rookie status for the following season.


Awards: None


1915


Hitting: 103 PA, .315/.376/.576, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 189 OPS+, 1.7 bWAR

Pitching: 217.2 IP, 18-8, 2.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 114 ERA+, 2.4 bWAR


A nice little 4.1-win season for the 20-year-old rookie. The Babe showed his promise on the mound and the batter's box in his first full season with the Sox, working 217.2 quality innings and being a menace at the plate. Despite only hitting sparingly, he led the team in home runs.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Pitcher), Rookie of the Year


1916

Hitting: 152 PA, .272/.322/.419, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 122 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR

Pitching: 323.2 IP, 23-12, 1.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 158 ERA+, 8.8 bWAR


Easily the Babe's best season on the mound, he led the league in ERA, ERA+, games started, shutouts, H/9, and HR/9 (he didn't give up a homer all season). While he didn't hit quite as well as the previous season, he was still 22% above average with the bat and was tied for the team lead in home runs. Boston won the World Series in five games, with Ruth throwing a 1-run, 14-inning complete game in a Game 2 victory. Award voting for Cy Young and MVP would have been tight this season; Walter Johnson's 11-win year is tough to beat. But I'm giving the edge to the Babe due to his superior rate stats and the fact that he pitched in far more meaningful games.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Pitcher), Cy Young, MVP


1917


Hitting: 142 PA, .325/.385/.472, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 162 OPS+, 2.1 bWAR

Pitching: 326.1 IP, 24-13, 2.01 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 128 ERA+, 6.5 bWAR


Another stellar two-way season for the Babe, though not quite as dominant as the year prior. He was still a workhouse starting pitcher for Boston (league-leading 35 complete games), but his bat was quickly becoming undeniable.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Pitcher)


1918


Hitting: 382 PA, .300/.411/.555, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 192 OPS+, 4.7 bWAR

Pitching: 166.1 IP, 13-7, 2.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 122 ERA+, 2.3 bWAR


1918 was the most Shohei Ohtani-like season for Babe Ruth. The Red Sox started using his thunderous bat much more often and were rewarded with the league leader in home runs, SLG, and OPS in their lineup. The Babe did this while still mowing down hitters, albeit not as frequently. Ruth's best moments on the mound in '18 came on the biggest stage, as he went 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA across 17 innings in the World Series, which the Sox won in six games over the Cubs. He knocked in a pair of RBIs that series as well, for good measure.


Interestingly, Ruth's pitching and outfield play makes him eligible to win a Silver Slugger at two positions, something only J.D. Martinez has ever done (DH and OF in 2018). The Babe would have had a quite the haul in 1918.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Pitcher), Silver Slugger (Outfield), World Series MVP


1919


Hitting: 543 PA, .322/.456/.657, 29 HR, 113 RBI, 217 OPS+, 9.1 bWAR

Pitching: 133.1 IP, 9-5, 2.97 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 102 ERA+, 0.8 bWAR


This was the final season of Babe Ruth's two-way exploits. He was serviceable on the mound, though not as elite as in year's past. At the plate, however, he was a world-beater. Ruth broke the MLB home run record for the first time in his career with 29 bombs. Chasing this record caused him to focus on hitting more and more as the season went on; in hindsight, definitely a good decision.


Ruth would have once again been eligible for the double Silver Slugger distinction. His record-breaking performance might have warranted his second MVP award in most seasons, but with him and Walter Johnson (10.9 bWAR), both on bad teams, there's a chance this one wouldn't have gone his way. I'll give it to Johnson to not sound like too much of Ruth fanboy.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Pitcher), Silver Slugger (Outfield)


1920


Hitting: 617 PA, .376/.532/.847, 54 HR, 135 RBI, 255 OPS+, 11.9 bWAR

Pitching: 4 IP, 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 94 ERA+, -0.1 bWAR

Babe Ruth being traded to the Yankees was the most important trade in sports history.

You may have heard of the most important deal in baseball history: the sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Cash-strapped owner Harry Frazee shipped Ruth the Yanks for $100,000 before the start of the 1920 season, the most expensive deal ever at the time. This launched the Yankees dynasty and sent the Red Sox into a World Series drought, the "Curse of the Bambino," that lasted until 2004.


The Yankees did away with the whole two-way player nonsense. The Babe, now purely a slugger, responded by nearly doubling his home run record, hitting 54 bombs. To put this into perspective, an 86.2% increase on an all-time record in the proceeding season is like Peyton Manning following up his NFL passing touchdown record of 55, set in 2013, by throwing 102 in 2014. Or like Steph Curry shooting 749 three-pointers the year after setting the single-season mark of 402. Or Joey Chestnut eating 75 hotdogs in the 2020 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, then coming back the next year and throwing back 140.


So yeah, I'm thinking he wins the MVP. He hit more home runs this season than every team in the American League, and all but one team in the National League. The Phillies combined for 64 dingers, sadly.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP


1921


Hitting: 693 PA, .378/.512/.846, 59 HR, 168 RBI, 239 OPS+, 12.9 bWAR

Pitching: 9 IP, 2-0, 9.00 ERA, 2.56 WHIP, 49 ERA+, -0.3 bWAR


Another year, another home run record set by the greatest ballplayer who ever lived. Ruth added five more bombs to his single-season record total in 1921, while also breaking the career home run record (at the age of 26 and in his third season as a full-time hitter). He even chipped in 17 stolen bases for good measure. Yes, the Babe was more athletic than you imagine he was. He didn't become the cartoony fat guy hitting moon shots until later in his career.


The Yankees went to their first World Series with Babe Ruth in '21, but fell to the New York Giants. He pulled his weight, though, hitting .313/.476/.500.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP


1922


Hitting: 496 PA, .315/.434/.672, 35 HR, 96 RBI, 182 OPS+, 6.4 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


Babe Ruth had a tumultuous start to 1922. Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the iron-fisted MLB Commissioner at the time, warned Ruth to not go barnstorming after the 1921 World Series. There was a good chunk of change in this exploit, though. The Babe did it anyway, heading to upstate New York with other big leaguers to face off against some of the elite Negro League teams, showing off his mad skills to adoring crowds. Commissioner Landis was not to be trifled with and suspended the game's biggest star for the first six weeks of the season. The Yankees didn't seem to care too much, as they signed the Babe to a three-year deal that same offseason that was more than twice the size of the next biggest contract ever. They also named him captain.


Ruth might not have had enough playing time before the Midsummer Classic in order to warrant selection, though he still would've ended up with a Silver Slugger for outfielders. He led the Yankees to their second straight World Series in 1922, but would again come up short. This time he would not do his part (2-for-17 with just one RBI).


Awards/Recognitions: Silver Slugger (Outfield)


1923

Babe Ruth's 1923 season like a video game

Hitting: 699 PA, .393/.545/.764, 41 HR, 130 RBI, 239 OPS+, 14.1 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


Yeah, that's a 14.1-win season for the Colossus of Clout. Ruth got in tip-top shape before this season, the first in the newly-built Yankee Stadium. His .393 batting average was the highest of his career, and although his power numbers weren't quite as prodigious as in year's past, he still led the American League in home runs and SLG% by a wide margin and was just an all-around better player (17 steals, 13 triples, and the best defensive season of his career).


The Babe socked the first home run in the now-old Yankee Stadium in the home opener of '23, leading to the moniker "The House that Ruth Built." This magic season culminated in the Yanks' first of 27 World Series titles, a series in which Ruth hit three homers with a 1.556 OPS. He won an actual MVP this season, so no need to give him a hypothetical one. 1923 was arguably the Babe's absolute peak as a ballplayer, and his award haul reflects that.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP, Gold Glove (Outfield), World Series MVP


1924


Hitting: 681 PA, .378/.513/.739, 46 HR, 124 RBI, 220 OPS+, 11.4 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


Another dominant season for George Herman Ruth. He won his only batting title in 1924 and upped his power numbers a bit from the year prior. He just missed out on a Triple Crown, losing in RBIs to Goose Goslin, who knocked in 129. The Yankees' offensive production took a step back this season, which probably affected Ruth's RBI total. They were unable to defend their World Series crown.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP


1925


Hitting: 426 PA, .290/.393/.543, 25 HR, 67 RBI, 137 OPS+, 6.4 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


1925 was tumultuous for Ruth, to put it mildly. He fell off the wagon that offseason with his partying, eating, and drinking habits, and didn't play his first game 'til June 1st. He was in and out of the hospital for months and just wasn't the same when he finally stepped on the field again. This was not a bad season for the average ballplayer, by any stretch, but it was far beneath the Babe's rate of production. Most years he still would've won a Silver Slugger for outfielders, but not in a year of Harry Heilmann, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, and Al Simmons all playing full, productive seasons.


He did pick things up as the season went on (he hit .341 with 10 home runs over his final 30 games), but it was far from enough for the 7th place Yankees.


Awards/Recognitions: None


1926


Hitting: 652 PA, .372/.516/.737, 47 HR, 153 RBI, 226 OPS+, 11.4 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


The Babe whipped himself back into shape after his disastrous '25 season. He worked out with legendary trainer Artie McGovern over the offseason and showed up in 1926 ready to resume destroying baseballs. And destroy them he did.


He led the league in almost every important offensive stat and swiped 11 bags. The Yankees went back to the World Series for the first time since that magical '23 season, but fell to the Cardinals in seven games. The Babe did his thing, hitting four home runs and putting up a 1.448 OPS.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP


1927

Hitting: 691 PA, .356/.486/.772, 60 HR, 165 RBI, 225 OPS+, 12.6 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


The 1927 Yankees have long been considered the Gold Standard when it comes to team excellence. Led by the "Murderers Row" in their lineup, they clinched the pennant by Labor Day and finished the season 110-44-1.


As for the Babe, he broke his own home run record yet again, hitting 60 out of the park, and once again hitting more homers than every other American League team. His mark of 60 would stand until Roger Maris knocked 61 into the seats in 1961. The unstoppable Yankees swept the Pirates in the World Series, led by Ruth and his .400/.471/.800 slash line.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP, World Series MVP


1928


Hitting: 684 PA, .323/.463/.709, 54 HR, 146 RBI, 206 OPS+, 10.2 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


Another year of dominance for Babe Ruth and the Yankees. He again led the league in home runs and was more than twice as good as the average hitter (206 OPS+). New York repeated as World Series champs, this time sweeping the Cardinals. The Babe did alright, hitting .625 (10-for-16) with three dingers.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP, World Series MVP


1929


Hitting: 587 PA, .345/.430/.697, 46 HR, 154 RBI, 193 OPS+, 8.1 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


This represented a "down" year for the Babe and the Yanks. He still led the American League in his usual stats (bWAR, HR, SLG, OPS, and OPS+), and New York went 88-66. It wasn't enough to go for a World Series three-peat, however, despite the Babe's excellence.


1929 was significant because it was the first time Babe Ruth wore his iconic #3, given to him because of his usual spot in the lineup. Uniform numbers were adopted by the Yankees to make it easier for fans in the upper deck to recognize the players.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP


1930


Hitting: 676 PA, .359/.493/.732, 49 HR, 153 RBI, 211 OPS+, 10.3 bWAR

Pitching: 9 IP, 1-0, 3 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 150 ERA+, 0.2 bWAR


Babe Ruth and Yankees couldn't come to an agreement over a new contract for a chunk of the offseason. The squabbling eventually ended, with the Babe and New York ownership compromising at a two-year, $160,000 contract. His salary in 1930 was over 240% higher than the next most expensive player, which is still the widest margin in sports history.


The Bambino did not disappoint, upping his numbers across the board after an "underwhelming" MVP-caliber season in 1929. He even had a cameo on the mound late in the season, casually throwing a 3-run complete game to beat none other than the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Talk about salt on the wound.


This was his age-35 season, but the Babe clearly had something left in the tank.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP


1931


Hitting: 663 PA, .373/.495/.700, 46 HR, 162 RBI, 218 OPS+, 10.5 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


The King of Crash just get on mashing into his late 30s. He again led the league in HR, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and bWAR. The Yankees just couldn't keep up with the juggernaut A's, despite their thunderous duo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the heart of the lineup.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), MVP


1932


Hitting: 589 PA, .341/.489/.661, 41 HR, 137 RBI, 201 OPS+, 8.5 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


1932 was really the first season of Babe Ruth's career as a hitter in which he wasn't the most unstoppable offensive force on Earth. Jimmie Foxx launched 58 jacks with a 1.218 OPS for the A's. This was the first time the Babe played a full season as a hitter and didn't lead the league in bWAR, SLG, HR, OPS, and OPS+. Mind you, he still missed some time throughout the season with injuries and was 101% better than a regular hitter (201 OPS+), but his rate stats, as a whole, showed signs of decline. He was 37 after all.

Did the Babe call his shot? We'll never know for sure.

But the Babe, throughout his career, had a singular penchant for rising to the occasion, no matter how big it was. Hell, sometimes he raised the stakes himself, as was the case for the fabled "Called Shot," which occurred in the '32 World Series against the Cubs. The Yankees swept them for their third title in six years, the fourth in Ruth's Yankees tenure, and the 7th of his career overall. The Bambino hit two home runs with a 1.233 OPS, but it's hard to give him the WS MVP over Lou Gehrig, even when factoring in the most gangster moment in baseball (sports?) history. Gehrig hit three bombs with an astonishing 1.718 OPS.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield)


1933


Hitting: 576 PA, .301/.442/.582, 34 HR, 104 RBI, 176 OPS+, 6.2 bWAR

Pitching: 9 IP, 1-0, 5 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 81 ERA+, 0 WAR


Babe Ruth was now just a very, very good hitter. Not the cheat code he once was. He still led the league in walks for the 11th time in his career and finished second in home runs (Foxx hit 48). But the glory days were decidedly over.


This was the first year of the All-Star Game, and the Babe was chosen to start in right field. In typical Babe Ruth fashion, he hit the first home run of the Midsummer Classic. He would also produce another spot-start, complete game victory on the mound against the Red Sox, just to remind them of their franchise-altering mistake one last time.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield), All-Star Game MVP


1934


Hitting: 472 PA, .288/.448/.537, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 160 OPS+, 5 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


A .288/.448/.537 slash line is a career year for 99% of players. For the Babe, though, this meant the end was in sight. His body was breaking down due to years of hard living, and although his bat still packed a punch, he couldn't move in the field or on the bases, or handle a full schedule of games. Credit him for self-awareness; he accepted a pay cut that brought his salary all the way down to $35,000. This still made him the highest-paid player in the Majors, even at less than half of his peak amount.


He performed well enough to earn some recognition. But just barely.


Awards/Recognitions: All-Star, Silver Slugger (Outfield)


1935

Babe Ruth's sad final days as a baseball player.

Hitting: 92 PA, .181/.359/.431, 6 HR, 12 RBI, 119 OPS+, 0.1 bWAR

Pitching: N/A


The sad final year of Babe Ruth's career. He had long pined to manage a team as a player/manager, but was never taken seriously in this regard. Then the Boston Braves came calling, and a trade was made between them and the Yankees with a mutual understanding between Ruth and the Braves that he would begin as an assistant/player, before eventually taking over as a full-time manager and executive.


This never materialized, as it was possible the Braves only signed Ruth to sell tickets and never took him seriously as a managerial candidate, despite what they told him. The Babe struggled mightily when he was able to even make it onto the field. His last heroic gasp as a big leaguer came on May 25th in a game against the Pirates. He went 4-for-4 with three home runs, the last of which cleared the upper deck at Forbes Field, the first one to ever leave the park completely. This would also be the 714th and final home run of the Babe's career.


He retired a week later, and despite his continued desire to manage a ballclub, would never get a chance in that regard.


Awards/Recognitions: None

 

Babe Ruth's Trophy Case


When tallying up all the hardware hypothetically accrued throughout Babe Ruth's career, his résumé is as follows:


Rookie of the Year

18x All-Star

21x Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

11x MVP

Cy Young

7x World Series Champion

4x World Series MVP

All-Star Game MVP


Maybe there would've been some voter fatigue. It's the reason all-time greats like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Mike Trout, and others don't have a couple more MVP awards on their mantles. People, even super-smart-sportswriter people, get tired of voting for the same guy every year, even if he remains the best in the sport.


Buuuut this is my universe and I don't get voter fatigue. George Herman Ruth is the greatest and most important baseball player ever. And now, his make-believe Peanut Gallery résumé reflects that.


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