Babe Ruth is one of the most well-known athletes of all-time. Baseball’s first true slugger would routinely out-homer entire teams during a season. He was a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher and hitter. His legendary exploits stand the test of time and, looking back, it’s difficult to believe he was real.
Relief pitcher Adam Ottavino is slightly less famous. He’s 17-20 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.300 WHIP in six seasons. But he’s not lacking for confidence. In a podcast with MLB.com, a claim was made every bit the size of the Great Bambino.
“I had an argument with a coach in Triple-A about Babe Ruth’s effectiveness in today’s game,” Ottavino said. “I said, ‘Babe Ruth, with that swing, swinging that bat, I got him hitting .140 with eight homers.’
“He was like, ‘are you nuts? Babe Ruth would hit .370 with 60 homers,’ and I’m like, ‘I would strike Babe Ruth out every time.’
“I’m not trying to disrespect him, you know, rest in peace, you know, shout out to Babe Ruth. But, it was a different game, I mean the guy ate hot dogs and drank beer and did whatever he did. It was just a different game.”
Ottavino has averaged 10.8 K/9 in his career. He does have some nasty stuff. But Ruth, well, was Babe freaking Ruth. In addition to all his ridiculous numbers, Ruth struck out just 1,330 times in 10,623 plate appearances. By comparison, he drew over 2,000 walks. Today’s power hitter would kill to make such routine contact.
Baseball players have made great strides in health and training. Ottavino would probably strike Ruth out a few times. But it is insane for him to suggest he’d get a K every single time. It’s also pretty nuts to suggest Ruth would fare worse in the pros than, say, Tim Tebow. Of course, there’s no way the Sultan of Swat would hit .370 with 60 dingers. No party in this argument is being reasonable.
The sad part is that we’ll never get this matchup. A living Ottavino would likely strike out a dead Ruth most times, if we wanted to get weird. But even then I bet there’d be a few walks peppered in.