Author Archives: mikenuckols

About mikenuckols

Author of NuckolBall.

Top 5 Moments in Baseball History

May I start by saying how difficult this was. It is relatively impossible to narrow down every single moment in the history of baseball to five. So, as usual, this is completely my opinion and is subject to debate.

 

  1. Jackie Robinson Takes the Field, April 15, 1947

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This was no less than impossible. No moment in the history of sports will ever touch the importance and the power of this one. And that is because it had nothing to do with sports. This moment meant so much to the Civil Rights movement and to American society. The fact is, if it weren’t for Jackie Robinson, the entire world would be different.  This game, and what it means for the country, is a true testament to sports and baseball, and how utterly important it is to our society. It’s the national pastime, and will forever have a place in our country’s history thanks to Jackie Robinson.

 

  1. Babe Ruth Calls His Shot, September 28, 1932

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There is nothing quite like this. In Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate, pointed to center field, and then blasted a home run. Or did he? No one actually knows for sure. Many say he pointed to the wrong part of Wrigley Field, or he pointed at the pitcher, or he didn’t point at all. That isn’t the point (ha ha). The mythology created from this moment has fallen into baseball lore. It is the classic baseball story, because it truly captures the magical brilliance of baseball. It is the crown jewel of baseball stories.

 

  1. Bill Mazerowski Walks it Off, October 13, 1960

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As a kid playing in the backyard, I imagined so many heroic baseball scenarios for myself. But, like everyone else, I always went back to this: tied, bottom of the 9th, Game 7 of the World Series, and you hit a walk-off home run. That has happened once in baseball history. In the 1960 World Series, the Pirates and the Yankees were tied in Game 7 when Bill Maz stepped up to lead off the ninth. He proceeded to crush a ball over the left field wall and achieve the Pirates’ ultimate storybook ending. It was the true baseball dream.

 

  1. The Shot Heard Round the World, October 3, 1952

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In 1952, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers had become locked in a heated race for the pennant. In August, the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13 and a half games. Yet in a miraculous series of events, they forced a 3 game playoff to face the Yankees in the 1952 World Series. The Dodgers, after losing the first match up, forced Game 3. The game was the center of the world at the time and became the first-ever nationally televised baseball game. With millions watching, down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth with 2 runners on, the Giants’ Bobby Thompson nailed a line drive down Polo Grounds’ short left field line, giving them the 5-4 victory. The event became known as the “shot heard round the world.” Listeners and viewers around the planet heard Giants radio announcer Russ Hodges belt his famous “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”.

 

  1. Willie Mays Makes “The Catch”, September 29th, 1954

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Just two years following Thompson’s homer, another Giant made his case for the single greatest moment in baseball history. In Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the Giants and the Indians at Polo Grounds, a young center fielder by the name of Willie Mays made what is commonly known as the greatest defensive play in baseball history. Polo Grounds is an unconventional baseball stadium, with short porches down both lines, but a staggeringly long 450-foot fence in deep center. With the game tied in the top of the 8th, the Indians Vic Wertz hit a loooong fly to center field (approx. 420 feet), that would surely score the two runners on base. Mays, playing relatively shallow, raced an incomprehensible distance in such a short time and gathered the ball just before the wall, twirled around and launched it 300 feet to double up the man at second base. The play was so good, it arguably defined May’s career, a career that is generally considered to have been one of the greatest of all time.

4 Takeaways from this Weekend in MLB

  1. The Yankees are Healthy…and That’s a Problem

The Yankees enter their Sunday afternoon match-up versus the Astros on an 8-game win streak. The pitching staff has been revived after a brief 11-game struggle and the bullpen is as dominant as ever. Not to mention they’ve hit a home run in 25 straight games, tying a franchise record. And it isn’t just the dingers. The Bombers are making runs by stringing together hits, one of their problems last year. This lineup is as daunting as ever, and they are pulling away in the AL East. Right now, they look like the team to beat in the AL.

 

  1. Pete Alonso is Incredible

Alonso hit yet another home run against the Cubs yesterday, as the Mets rookie slugger continues his magical 2019. Alonso has 26 home runs, already 4th for the most by a rookie before the All-Star break, with 2 more weeks left to top that record. To be completely honest, his season reminds many of Aaron Judge’s 2017 or Mark McGuire’s 1986. He is on pace to hit just about 52 home runs, which would tie the rookie record. Get used to big flies, Mets fans, ‘cause Pete Alonso will be hitting them for a real long time. 

 

  1. Cardinals Fans are the Best in Baseball

This weekend was Albert Pujols’ return to St. Louis. The entire baseball universe knew that St. Louis would make it a moment worth remembering, but no one could have guessed how awesome his return actually was. On Friday, Pujols was greeted by a packed Busch Stadium and 1 minute and 15 seconds of standing ovation. Yesterday, he hit a home run. The reception was incredible. After his bomb, the crowd requested the rare “away” curtain call. Cardinals fans made my weekend.

See the video.

  1. The NL Central is Up for Grabs

Speaking of the Cards, they got an important win Saturday afternoon, taking advantage of a Cubbies loss, and moved within two games of the division lead. The recent struggles of both Chicago and the Brewers have opened up what should be a great race for the NL Central. As of right now, Milwaukee, the Cubs, and the Cards all stand within a game of each other, and the smoking-hot Reds and solid Pirates sit at arm’s length, 4.5 and 5.5 games back, respectively. That begs the question: who is sitting at the top of the heap on October 2nd. Right now, no one has a clue.

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Who is Adley Rutchman, and Why Should I Care?

The MLB Draft was this past week. As usual, it was not nearly as covered as the NBA or NFL Drafts. And rightfully so. In the MLB, most people who are drafted aren’t playing in the bigs for another 3 to 4 years. But there might be one name that you heard a lot over the week, and that is Adley Rutchman. Rutchman was drafted first overall by the Orioles, and when I first saw it, I didn’t really think too much about the pick. But then I saw this video:

Yes, this guy was walked with the bases loaded. That is a special event.

Rutschman is a catcher for Oregon State, and he was the unanimous choice for all MLB mock drafters this season. And the numbers, even in college, back this up. He has (in 57 games) an OBP of .575, 17 home runs, a 1.326 OPS, and 58 RBIs. Last season he slashed .408/9/83 in 67 games.

Not only are those numbers some of the best we’ve seen in a while, he is also a catcher. He’s not a bad one either. Not to mention, he is very close to major league ready. Rutschman could be tearing up the league as early as 2021. He has already drawn Buster Posey comparisons, but the truth is, he has a real shot to be even better.

The Orioles got themselves a gem.

 

Reviews at the 50-Game Mark: AL West

How does the AL West look after 50 games? Here’s how we grade each team.

Houston Astros

I mean, how much higher can you get? The Astros were supposed to be this year’s best team and haven’t done much to prove otherwise. They currently sit 7.5 games up on the A’s and are tied for the most wins in baseball with 37. And nothing much has changed. George Springer (17 HR, 43 RBIs, 1.032 OPS) and Alex Bregman (17 HR, 38 RBIs) are playing out of their minds and could battle for the MVP, while Justin Verlander (2.38, 8-2) is leading the staff by putting up Cy Young numbers yet again. As a team, they lead the league in average (.277), OBP (.351), hits, strikeouts, WHIP, and opponent batting average. This is the best team in baseball.

A+

 

Los Angeles Angels

I despise the Mike Trout contract. Not because I don’t think he deserves it (he does), but because it means 12 more years of him wasting away on the Angels. Once again, Trout is putting up MVP numbers, and once again the Angels are going nowhere fast. They enter May 29th at 25-29, 11 games back in the west. The offense, headed by Trout, has seen some success. Second baseman Tommy La Stella is putting up career numbers, hitting .302 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs. Third baseman David Fletcher has a .318 average, which is good for 9th in the league. And as always, Trout has been insane. He’s got a 1.014 OPS, 3.4 WAR, and just recently hit his 250th home run. But, as usual, the pitching has been bad. They rank 24th in the league with a 4.99 ERA and no one has cracked 5 wins yet. So, I beg the Angels: Please, for the love of the baseball gods, do something.

D+

 

Oakland Athletics

The A’s got off to a rough start, considering last season’s success. But, they’ve won 10 of their last 11, and look to be in as good form as ever. Matt Chapman has turned into one of baseball’s best dual-threats, hitting .271 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs. Frankie Montas will be an All Star, and has become the ace Oakland desperately needed last season, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.81 ERA. But, the one thing looming over this side of the bay is the ever dominant Astros. A slow first month gave the Astros a head start, and the A’s will not recover. Once again, they’ll have to try and make their presence known from the Wild Card Spot.

B

 

Seattle Mariners

Positives for the Mariners 2019? 1) Ichiro got to retire in Japan during a spectacular ceremony. 2) They have the 6th most runs in baseball. 3) They homered in each of their first 17 games, an MLB record. 4) They started 13-2. So, how are they 5th in the AL West at 24-34? For one, in their first 15, they were playing out of their heads. The glimmer of hope that they might end the longest playoff drought in sports was a mirage. But, to be more technical about it, their pitching has been atrocious. They are 28th in ERA, and the lack of defense has become apparent. King Felix’s best days are officially behind him, as the former Cy Young winner is 1-4 with a ERA over 6. He will have to re-invent himself to find any success. The Mariners blew it up in the offseason, and the results show it.

D

 

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have shown some promise. Joey Gallo, Arlington’s 2019 MVP, is playing incredibly well. Once again, he’s putting up great long ball statistics (15 HR, 35 RBIs), but he is also hitting well, with a .278 average and a 1.057 OPS. He could become a perennial all-star. Hunter Pence has been a great addition, hitting over .300. And another veteran, Elvis Andrus, has been putting up great numbers. So how are they just over .500? Pitching. They are 27th in the league in ERA, and their bullpen proved to be a problem. If this offense can miraculously continue to carry them into a position to contend on July 31st, they’ll need some pitching to do anything in the playoffs. But considering the expectations going in, it’s been a solid year.

B+   

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Reviews at the 50-Game Mark: AL Central

50 games in, we’ve graded each team in the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox 2019 have been…predictable. They don’t seem to be competing, as they are already 6 games under and have a less-than-great run differential(-56). BUT, there have been a great many bright spots. Tim Anderson seems to have turned the corner. He won AL player of the month in April, and still leads the AL in average (.337). Yoan Moncada, who had a disappointing 2018, has 9 home runs and 32 RBIs. And young pitcher Lucas Giolito seems to be finding his stride with a sub 3.00 ERA and a league leading 2 CG, a year removed from leading the AL in earned runs.

C+

 

Cleveland Indians

The Indians have not played to their potential in 2019. Or have they? Let’s be real: the Indians are over the hump. Although the 2016 AL Pennant team’s core is still relatively intact, they just don’t seem the same. Multiple injuries to starters have crippled the staff over recent years and the bullpen is a shell of its old self. Not to mention this team is truly front heavy. The loss or lack of production from key hitters from 2016 has proven crucial. It also isn’t helping that 2018 MVP candidate Jose Ramirez is slashing .197/4/15 with a .295 SLG%, and Francisco Lindor spent some good time on the DL. This team is 26-26, and that is exactly where they should be.

D

 

Detroit Tigers

To be completely honest, this is not a good team. But as mentioned, some players have showed up. Miko Goodrum had a wonderful first two weeks (before entering a prolonged slump), and Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera remain reliable hitters. On the other side of the ball, starter Spencer Trunbull has a sub-3.00 ERA in 11 starts and Matt Boyd has thrown a solid campaign so far, checking in at 4-4 with a 3.11 ERA. And maybe the most intriguing, closer Shane Greene, is 1st in AL with 16 saves and a 1.32 ERA. See you in 5 years.

C

 

Kansas City Royals

The Royals should not be judged on their poor 18-35 record. At least their offense shouldn’t. They are 29th in the league in ERA and have continued a long slump in which they have gone aceless. BUT, the offense has seen a lot of promise. 3B Hunter Dozier has had an incredible 2019, hitting .318 with an OPS of 1.005 and 33 RBIs. He is lined up to get his first All Star appearance. Whit Merrifield continues to produce and young stud Adalberto Mondesi has 41 RBIs. If this team finds pitching, I would not want to be in their division in 2021. All this combined with the rebuild of the Tigers and ChiSox, could flip this division’s reputation as baseball’s worst.

C+

 

Minnesota Twins

Wow. The Twins enter May 28th with the best record in baseball, something no one could’ve seen coming. So that begs the question: Are they for real? The answer is YES. They lead the AL in run differential, home runs, slugging, and are second in average. Their staff is 3rd in the league in ERA and 6th in SO. They could not be hotter. I still don’t think they will end the season first in the league, but they are going to run away with this division. With breakout seasons from basically everyone, this is a dangerous team. Jorge Polanco is hitting .332 with a WAR of 3.4, and has emerged as an MVP candidate. Eddie Rosario has 45 RBIs and 16 home runs. Max Kepler recently won AL Player of the Week, and the so-far-steal-of-the-offseason C.J. Cron has 13 homers and 34 RBIs. Jake Odorizzi is putting up career numbers, as he is 2nd in the league with a 2.16 ERA and is 7-2. Martin Perez and Jose Berrios have also found their stride. This is a World Series contender.

A+

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Reviews at the 50-Game Mark: AL East

We are 50 games into an exciting season. Here’s how we grade each team in the AL East.

Baltimore Orioles

2019 has been less than fun for Orioles fans. Going in, it was well known that the O’s were about to start a long rebuild. All that has happened since affirms how painful the rebuild will be. As of May 24th, the Birds are last in ERA, have a run differential of -108, and hold the league’s worst record at 15-35, dropping 17.5 games out of first place. The lone bright spot has been Trey Mancini, who is hitting .301 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs. But odds are, he won’t be an Oriole in August. The O’s were over .500 for a good 4 days. Odds are, that’ll be the season total. The Orioles season is going exactly as everyone predicted: poorly.

C-(relatively)

 

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox suffered a serious World Series hangover. Their 6-13 start would be the bad news. But since then, the reigning champs hold a 21-10 record, and have begun to look like their former selves. Slow starts from guys like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale have seemed to turn around. The Bo Sox offense currently ranks fifth in the league and they have jumped to third in the division and fifth in the AL. Along with last year’s stars, new guys such as Michael Chavis have begun to tear up the league. So far, Chavis has been the Sox MVP, batting .279 with 10 homers and an OPS of .943. A week or two ago, this would’ve been a depressing update for Beantown. Today, they look to be on their way to compete for another World Series.

B

 

New York Yankees

The Yankees have had the most lucky/unlucky season of all time, except I wouldn’t call it luck. The Yankees were, and still are, the most injured team in baseball. Every starter not named Torres, Voit, or Gardner has missed significant time, as well as 4 starting pitchers and a setup man. And, for the first couple of weeks, the Yanks record reflected that. Starting 6-9 in their first fifteen, the Yanks have torn it up since, posting a 26-8 record. All of that thanks to guys not named Aaron Judge or Luis Severino, like Gio Urshela and Domingo German. Urshela has filled in for last year’s ROY runner-up Miguel Andujar by posting a .333 average, with 19 RBIs in limited at-bats, including some premium clutch hitting. German has a major league-leading 9 wins, backed by a 2.60 ERA. Not to mention, proven stars like Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez are having great seasons. They lead the AL East, and look as if they intend to keep that up.

A

 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays have had a quiet season. They sit at a disappointing 20-30 at the 50 game mark, and have shown some glaring holes. They are hitting a rock bottom .218, and are 25th in the league in runs. Although posting a respectable 4.07 ERA, they have truly lacked run support all season. For example, Marcus Stroman has a 2.81 ERA but is 2-6. But there is an upside. Main attraction Vlad Guerrero Jr. got off to a slow start, but has picked it up big time. Just recently, he won AL Player of the Week honors. Despite a poor, uneventful start, things are always looking up with such young talent.

D+

 

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have straight-up had a terrific first 50 games. They lead the league in ERA with a 2.98, 0.4 better than any other team. Young talent like Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows have been best case scenarios as well. Before getting injured, Glasnow had a 6-1 record, with a 1.86 ERA and 55 SO in 8 starts. Meadows has been a force, posting a .321 average with 9 home runs and 24 RBIs, paired with a 1.031 OPS. Also, young infielder Brandon Lowe has shown impressive power with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs. The Rays managed to hold first place for the majority of the season, but a late surge by the Bombers have knocked them down to number 2 in the division. Despite this, the Rays continue to overperform. In my mind, this season and start is no fluke. This is a good team, and they should compete for the AL title this year, and years to come.

A-    

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Baseball’s Top 10 Single-Season Performances

The history of baseball, and its players, are most commonly described by careers and decades. And it’s a shame that in baseball, and actually all sports, people don’t talk about single season performances. Because as incredible as careers are, single season domination might be even more intriguing. Here are baseball’s top 10 single season performances:

HM: Ty Cobb, 1911

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Before I start the top ten, I need to give out 2 Honorable Mentions. This is the first. Cobb in 1911 was pretty incredible. Despite the era, Cobb’s .420 average is mind-boggling. He also stole 83 bases, knocked in 127 runs, slugged .620, hit 24 triples, and had 248 hits–a record that stood for 90 years until Ichiro broke it in 2001. Cobb led the league in virtually every stat, and led his team to the World Series. This was Cobb’s peak, but not peak enough to crack the top ten.

HM: Charles Radbourn, 1884

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This is a bit of an outlier. I made a cut-off point of 1901, but I couldn’t leave Radbourn’s 1884 season out. Radbourn (and I understand how different the game was back then) finished with a 60-12 record. And that’s not the best part. In his 73 games started, he completed ALL 73, and had a 1.38 ERA. He pitched 678.2 innings, struck out 441 batters, and had a 19.1 WAR. Radbourn’s season was too good not to mention.

  1. Steve Carlton, 1972

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In 1972, the Phillies won 59 games. Steve Carlton won 27 of those games. That really captured Carlton’s 1972 performance. Carlton, surrounded by hopeless players, managed to scratch out a league-leading 27 wins. And it’s not like the other numbers weren’t impressive, he had a 1.97 ERA and threw 346 innings. But the fact that he was able to pitch so well despite his team’s poor play makes this even more incredible. (And you thought Jacob DeGrom carried the Mets last year.)

  1. Mickey Mantle, 1956

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In 1956, Mickey Mantle won the triple crown. He hit 52 homers, knocked in 130 runs, and hit .353. He also finished with a 11.3 WAR. Nobody else in the league came close. At all. The MVP vote was more than unanimous.

  1. Carl Yastrzemski, 1967

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In 1967, Yaz also won the triple crown. But, Yaz didn’t just finish first in average, RBIs, and Home Runs. He also was tops in runs, hits, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. You know, everything. But the one stat that really shows how dominant he was is his 12.5 WAR, the third best of all time. Can you guess who won MVP?

  1. Babe Ruth, 1923

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Don’t worry, this isn’t the Babe’s only appearance on this list. But, Babe’s 1923 is one of the most underrated performances of all time. The first part of the story is his WAR: a staggering 14.1, the highest by more than a whole point. Babe won his first MVP in 1923, and he deserved it. He hit a career best .393, knocked in 130 runs, and hit 41 home runs. He also had a .545 OBP, slugged .764, and had an OPS of 1.309. Ruth’s 1923 was one for the ages.

  1. Roger Hornsby, 1924

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Roger Hornsby’s numbers in 1924 were a bit underwhelming. He knocked in just 94 runs and hit just 25 homers. But, Hornsby did end up hitting .424, a best in the modern era, and got on base just over 50% of the time. But, to get real sense of how good he was, you have to understand how much better he was then everyone else. He finished with a 12.1 WAR, and was only matched that season by Babe Ruth. It is a crime Hornsby did not win an MVP

  1. Walter Johnson, 1913

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The bottom 5 were tough, but the top 5 were not. In my mind, these 5 seasons are clearly the best 5 of all time. And, I’ll start with Walter Johnson’s 1913. In 1913, Johnson won his first MVP. He won the pitching triple crown with 36 wins, a 1.14 ERA, and struck out 243 batters. He completed 29 games, and had 11 shutouts. Dominant. Oh, and he had a 15.1 WAR. Dominant.

  1. Pedro Martinez, 2000

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This is the most recent season on the list, and that’s important to remember. The fact that Pedro was able to put up these numbers in 2000 is just incredible. He finished 2000 with a 1.74 ERA in 29 starts, and an 18-6 record. He had an 11.7 WAR and struck out 284, giving him a K/BB of 284/32. That means for every 1 player Martinez walked, he struck out 9. The closest person to that mentioned so far is Johnson, with 6 Ks per walk. Pedro was not only unhittable, but he was unhittable in a time period of pure hitting. 

  1. Lou Gehrig, 1927

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When you think of the 1927 Yankees, you think of Babe Ruth and his 60 home runs. The fact of the matter is, Babe didn’t even have the best year on his team, let alone the whole league. The person who overtook him: Lou Gehrig. Gehrig was nothing short of incredible. The Iron Horse had just finished his first season and there was no stopping him. Gehrig punched in 173 runs, hit .373, and bludgeoned 47 homers. He also had a .765 SLG% and an OPS of 1.240. He was unstoppable. Ruth may have been the face of the 1927 Yankees, but Gehrig was the motor. There is a reason he, and not Ruth, went home with an MVP award.  

  1. Bob Gibson, 1968

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Bob Gibson had the best season for a pitcher of all time in 1968. First, the numbers. In the history of baseball, 36 pitchers have finished a season with an ERA less than 1.50. The top three are Tim Keefe(0.86), who pitched in 1880, Dutch Leonard(0.96), in 1914, and Mordecai Brown(1.04) in 1906. Then, in 4th place is Bob Gibson with a 1.12 ERA in 1968. The next 32 pitchers on the list all pitched before 1920. And it’s not like Gibson just barely got under the threshold. He got WAY under it. But that wasn’t it for his season. Gibson finished 22-9, threw 28 complete games, 13 shutouts, and struck out 268 batters. Between June 6th and July 30th Gibson pitched 11 games. In those games he pitched every single inning (that’s 99), won every start, and allowed 3, yes 3, earned runs. That is an ERA of 0.27. That is mind-blowing. That is ridiculous. The final, and most incredible thing about Gibson’s 1968 is this: In 1968, the National League ERA was 2.99. If you were to erase Gibson’s numbers, the National League ERA is 3.03.  Bob Gibson’s 1968 is the biggest outlier in baseball history

  1. Babe Ruth, 1921 and 1920

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So, who could top Bob Gibson’s brilliant 1968? What person could ever touch that? Babe Ruth, that’s who. Oh, and he did it twice. It was so hard to choose between the two seasons, I just mashed them together. Ruth’s 1920 and 1921 were revolutionary. In 1920, Ruth was a force of nature. He hit .376, had 54 home runs, and knocked in 135 RBIs. He slugged a mind-boggling .847, had an OBP of .532, and had an OPS of 1.379. He also had a WAR of 11.9. So how did he follow up his historical, record-setting performance? By doing it again, and maybe better. In 1921 Ruth slashed 59 home runs, 168 RBIs, and hit .378. He had a .512 OBP, .846 SLG, and and OPS of 1.359. His WAR was even better, posting a mark at 12.9, the second best by any position player ever (following himself of course). But Ruth’s ‘20 and ‘21 seasons were not great just because of the numbers, they were great because of how revolutionary they were. In 1920 and 21, Ruth broke baseball out of the deadball era. He started hitting for power rather than average (but it’s not like he slacked in that regard), and it changed the game forever. The reason Bob Gibson 1968 is so extraordinary is that Ruth made it that way. No one will come close.

 

Sources: Baseball Reference, SB Nation