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Who is the best baseball player of all time? Show more Show less

Baseball, since the late 19th Century, has been a quintessential American pastime and, today, the MLB serves as the second-most popular major North American sports league. Within such a long and storied history of outstanding individual performances, many baseball fans naturally gravitate toward this question. From the absolutely reality-defying sluggers, pitchers, outfielders, and catchers, who is the best baseball player of all time?

Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player ever Show more Show less

Babe Ruth, the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the King of Crash, absolutely dominated the game of baseball since he was 23 years old and catapulted it into a new era of widespread popularity and Americana. His seemingly unbeatable performances still stand today as lore in the baseball community, and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports history.
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Babe Ruth's records are unbeatable

Babe Ruth's incredible feats of athleticism and control over the game have not been surpassed in almost 90 years, and it doesn't seem like they will be anytime soon.
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Context

The Argument

Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player of all time because his records will never be beaten. Ruth's slugging percentage (which measures total bases earned over total at-bats) clocks in at .690, while the next best slugging percentage came from Ted Williams at .634 - a full 5.6% differential. Additionally, the top 3 sluggers of all time are the only players on the list to average a .63+ percentage over their careers. Two of his other major statistical records (OPS and OPS+) take into account his on-base percentage (total times on base over total at-bats), adding his on-base percentage to his slugging percentage. Babe significantly outranks Ted Williams in these categories as well at 1.164 and 206, separated from him by 0.05 and a whopping 16 (both incredible statistical differentials). Perhaps the most important milestone the Bambino achieved from 1914 to 1935 was his unmatched wins above replacement (the number of wins he contributed over a replacement player) at 182.5! No one has even come close since his retirement, the second mark being Walter Johnson at 164.5, the third Cy Young at 163.8. The closest anyone came to Ruth's WAR was Barry Bonds at 162.8, who retired in 2007. [1]

Counter arguments

Babe Ruth's statistical records do not automatically make him the greatest of all time. Yes, stats like slugging percentage and wins above replacement are important in any player's overall career, but they are not the MOST important numbers for individual performance. Babe Ruth does not have all-time records for stats like RBI or home runs, which are arguably as important as the criteria listed here. Records that have stood for more than 100 years have been broken recently (like the Chicago Cubs' 108-year World Series title drought), so why not those standing for more than 80? The arbitrary delegation of some statistics as more important than others and the belief that individual records lasting for a long time are insurmountable possesses many flaws.

Framing

Statistical analysis dictates a player's historical value as an individual and to their team. Many statistical records can be broken each baseball season, but the marginal dominance Babe Ruth reached has never been approached in the almost 90 years since he played. SLG%, OPS, OPS+, and WAR are all essential statistics in any MLB career, and, since Ruth has been so far ahead of his peers for so long, he earns his spot as the greatest to ever do it.

Premises

[P1] Records lasting more than eight decades with incredibly large margins of victory (Ruth's SLG%, OPS, OPS+, and WAR) can never be broken. [P2] Unbreakable statistical records in fundamental gauges of player value are the most important factors in determining historical greatness. [P3] Therefore, Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player of all time.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Long-lasting records can be broken. [Rejecting P2] Some statistics are not more important than others in determining greatness.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.baseball-reference.com

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 6 May 2020 at 06:06 UTC