Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bonds vs. Aaron (vs. Ruth)

A simple, non-controversial title for this post. has a pretty neat thing on all their player pages that allows you to "neutralize" a player's statistics or drop them onto any team since 1901. It then adjusts their number through a process described here and spits out what the player would have done had he been on that team in that league during that year for his entire career.

I think it's pretty cool and want to take a lighthearted look at the Bonds vs. Aaron (vs. Ruth) debate using that tool. I know it's not scientific and I don't mean it to be, but the way I went about "transporting" the players was in the following manner: To replace Hank Aaron with Barry Bonds, I first took Aaron's plate appearances for each season and determined what percentage of his career was made up by that season; then I took Bonds' adjusted career home runs if he could have played his whole life in that season and multiplied it by the percentage to determine the home runs for that season. Summing up each of Bonds as Aaron's season totals gives his career number. I should note that the Baseball Reference tool doesn't have 2007 data, so to give a career home run number I averaged those of the previous five seasons. Crude but whatever.

An example:

In 1962, Hank Aaron had 667 PA, or 4.8% of his career total. When Bonds' career is placed into 1962 for the Braves, he ends up with 781 home runs. 781 x .048 = 37. Thus he is said to have hit 37 home runs in 1962.

Here's the results:

Babe Ruth replacing Hank Aaron (1954-1976): 658 career HR
Babe Ruth replacing Barry Bonds (1986-2007): 696 career HR
Hank Aaron replacing Babe Ruth (1914-1935): 788 career HR
Hank Aaron replacing Barry Bonds (1986-2007): 779 career HR
Barry Bonds replacing Babe Ruth (1914-1935): 779 career HR
Barry Bonds replacing Hank Aaron (1954-1976): 739 career HR

Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron both tied for the highest single season, each hitting 55 in 1921 as they replaced Babe Ruth. The highest total Ruth had in a single year was 40 in 1997 and 1998 as Bonds.

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