Baseball Notebook

Daily Baseball Blog

Babe Ruth The Pitcher

Babe Ruth was not only a great slugger but one of the best pitchers of his era and could have made the Hall of Fame as pitcher if given the chance.

Babe Ruth was not only a great slugger but one of the best pitchers of his era and could have made the Hall of Fame as pitcher if given the chance to only pitch during his career with Red Sox and Yankees.

The first instinct of baseball fans when talking about Babe Ruth is to talk about his hitting exploits. He is best known for hitting 60 homers in a season and 714 over his career.

However he was an excellent pitcher before he became an everyday outfielder.

He had a lifetime record of 94-46 and an ERA of 2.2770. His ERA is 16th best among all major league pitchers. Five of the pitchers with a lower ERA than Ruth pitched before 1900 at some point in their career.

The only active pitcher with a lower ERA is Mariano Rivera with a 2.2717 which is barely lower than the 2.2770 of Ruth.

Trevor Hoffman is 88th alltime with a 2.75 ERA. The next active player on the list is Pedro Martinez listed 140th with a 2.91 ERA. Johan Santana is 207th with a 3.11.

Ruth may have pitched in the deadball era for the most part but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good pitcher. He allowed only ten homers in 1,221 innings.

He pitched nine shutouts for the Red Sox in 1916 a record which stood till 1978 when Ron Guidry tied it.

He was 5-0 with the Yankees in games he pitched in 1920, 1921, 1930 and 1933.

Ruth was the AL ERA champion in 1916 for the Red Sox with a 1.75 ERA. He was not a strikeout pitcher with only 488 strikeouts over ten seasons.

The World Series brought the best out in Ruth when on the pitcher’s mound. He pitched 29 scoreless innings a World Series record which would stand for 42 years. His World Series record was 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA.

By the age of 22 Ruth had posted 67 wins in his last season as a fulltime starter in 1917. He posted 23 wins in 1916 and 24 wins in 1917. He would win 27 more games as a part time pitcher.

There is no doubt that Ruth could have been voted into the Hall of  Fame as a pitcher if he never became an everyday player. However he was an even better hitter.

In 1918 he had a 13-7 record as a pitcher and hit .300, hit 11 homers to lead the AL in homers and drove in 66 runs in only 317 at bats.

These are some of the highlights of  his pitching career:

11th alltime in winning percentage with a .671 winning percentage.

14th alltime in hits allowed per nine innings with 7.17 hits allowed per nine innings.

13th alltime in fewest homers allowed per nine innings with a 0.0737 mark.

It is debatable whether Babe Ruth would still be the alltime home run champion if he hadn’t pitched. Nobody at the time he was pitching was hitting many homers in the AL until he hit 11 in 1918.

Ruth made it easy to decide to switch him to being a hitter in 1919 when he hit 29 of the 33 homers hit by the Red Sox that season.

In summary there is no doubt in my mind that Ruth was the best player in baseball history. He is the only player that I know of that could have made the Hall of Fame either as a pitcher or a hitter.

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4 thoughts on “Babe Ruth The Pitcher

  1. How many other players can say that they have 94 wins as a pitcher and 714 home runs as a batter? Babe Ruth was one of a kind and in my opinion the greatest ballplayer that ever lived.

  2. Ron…I agree that Babe Ruth was the greatest player ever. You hear Ty Cobb called the greatest but he is 94 wins short of being the greatest in my book.

  3. I agree, did some searching and some lists have him as high as fourth! Easy choice for best player ever when you consider his pitching prowess.

    • Tom, I agree…How can anyone say anyone is better than Babe Ruth? Babe had the 17th best ERA in history of MLB and 11th best winning percentage of .671 with a 94-46 record and allowed 3 runs in 31 innings in World Series, with a 3-0 record and a 0.87 ERA. Babe had 89 wins by the age of 24, so would have had a shot at 300 wins as a pitcher.

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