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Ohtani vs. Ruth – Comparing Their Greatness

Both men were tall. Shohei Ohtani is two inches taller than Babe Ruth, and both weighed about the same, for a while, until Ruth “filled” out. Both are lefties. It’s always hard to match up statistics in different eras, but when people called Ohtani the next Ruth, I figured I would see how that looks someday.

Ruth’s home run was 6.7% for his career including all plate appearances. Ohtani is 5.7%. Amazing that Ohtani is that close, but he’s played fewer seasons. Still, that one surprised me. Another surprising stat is Ruth struck out less frequently than Ohtani. Maybe that’s a sign of the times, but it speaks to Ruth’s ability to make contact too.

In-home runs per at-bat, Ruth hit one every 11.8 at-bats, and Ohtani is every 15.3, he may never be able to touch that, but pitching is better now. If Ohtani can get it closer, it may be arguable at some point.

Ohtani hits left but throws right, photo by Augello

Who’s The Better Pitcher?

I love the compare option on www.baseballreference.com, but it doesn’t compare the two pitching, and I can’t compare Ruth to another pitcher. Oh well, still a great tool. 

There is no doubt that Ohtani throws harder. That’s a no-brainer. Ruth pitched for 10 years, but there were just some starts during that time. He had 163 appearances and won 94 of them! His .671 winning percentage is incredible. Ohtani is currently 24-13. That’s a .649 winning percentage. Considering the Angels are a bad team, he wins in this category.

Ohtani strikes out 11.3 per nine innings. A great number. Ruth was 3.6. He’s not in the same ballpark. 

Ruth’s lifetime WHIP was 1.15, truly impressive. Ohtani is a 1.11. Ohtani is becoming a better pitcher over time. He just learned how to throw a sinker.

Players hit .222 against Ruth lifetime. The league average was .278, but that’s a different era. The method in which hits were recorded and ballpark rules come into play here. It’s only .210 lifetime for Ohtani. MLB average is .247. Ohtani gets a slight advantage again. 

The 162 WL% of Ohtani is .517. For Ruth, it’s .516. Incredible. Ohtani is every bit the pitcher Ruth was and more. He will be the better pitcher. He already is.

To show the difference in the eras. Ruth bunted 113 times. Ohtani has never bunted in a major league game. Ruth was hit by a pitch 43 times, and Ohtani is at 12. Ohtani is getting hit more often in the last two years, so that same respect factor is there. 

Ohtani played in five seasons in Japan. We can’t ignore that. 

So is it fair to say Ohtani is the greatest pitcher-hitter since Ruth? It is. That’s the easy one. I get it. Overall, can Ohtani reach the heights that Ruth did overall? I don’t think so because he missed five seasons. 

Here is that list: 

  1. Coors
  2. Progressive
  3. Camden Yards
  4. CBP 
  5. Rogers Centre

(based on renovations, this list may be slightly different today, it’s just an example)

My takeaway is Ohtani is incredible. Every baseball fan should go out and see him. Too bad he’s stuck with the Angels. His numbers could be way better for a different team with a short porch for lefties. According to some 2020 stats here are the easiest home run ballparks for lefties.

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