Shohei Ohtani and Babe Ruth are two of the best two-way players of all-time. Here’s Shohei Ohtani vs Babe ruth, who is better ? Check it out.

Shohei Ohtani vs. Babe Ruth, who is better ?

Ohtani is a once-in-a-century player in a year when we need to be awed, inspired and distracted. Comparing him to the Babe is no longer enough.

This has been a trying baseball year. The news feed streams headlines about sticky substances, Trevor Bauer, Marcell Ozuna, Jared Porter, Mickey Callaway, Roberto Alomar, an expiring labor deal, the slowest games ever (3:08 average to play nine innings), the most strikeouts ever, and the fewest hits since the DH was added in 1973.

As disheartening as the mire can be, this year also gifts us the wonder that is Shohei Ohtani.

He is a once-in-a-century player in a year when we need to be awed, inspired and distracted. He is a ballplayer in the most fundamental sense of the word.

Shunning specialization in a society that craves and rewards it, Ohtani pitches, hits and runs, and does all of it with the irrepressible joy and purpose of a Little Leaguer.

Shohei Ohtani vs Babe Ruth 

Under the circumstances, those two should be example enough that seeing a starting pitcher receive a significant number of plate appearances is enough of a rarity that it’s fair to look at Babe Ruth with the Ohtani comparisons. 

The interesting thing is, Ruth didn’t pull double duty that much in his career. There was overlap between him being a full-time pitcher and full-time right fielder, but it wasn’t much. 

Shohei Ohtani vs. Babe Ruth, who is better ?

Ruth was essentially just a pitcher from 1914-1917. From 1920 through the end of his career (1935), he appeared in five games on the mound for a total of 31 innings. That leaves 1918 and 1919 when he was a two-way star. That’s it. 

  • In 1918, Ruth took 382 plate appearances, hitting .300/.411/.555 (192 OPS+) with 26 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers, 61 RBI, 50 runs and six steals.
  • He also was 13-7 on the mound in 20 appearances (19 starts) with a 2.22 ERA (122 ERA+), 1.05 WHIP and 40 strikeouts against 49 walks in 166 1/3 innings. His all-around game was good for 7.0 WAR, which was fourth in the AL behind Johnson, Stan Coveleski and Scott Perry. 
  • In 1919, Ruth had a nearly-full offensive workload of 543 plate appearances, hitting .322/.456/.657 (217 OPS+) with 34 doubles, 12 triples, 29 homers, 113 RBI, 103 runs and seven steals.
  • In 17 pitching appearances (15 starts), he was 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA (102 ERA+), 1.55 WHIP and 30 strikeouts against 58 walks in 133 1/3 innings. His 9.9 WAR trailed only Johnson. 

Now, let’s look at Ohtani’s 2021 season in similar fashion to how we listed Ruth’s two. 

  • Ohtani had 639 plate appearances, hitting .257/.372/.592 (158 OPS+) with 26 doubles, eight triples, 46 homers, 100 RBI, 103 runs and 26 steals.

Shohei Ohtani vs. Babe Ruth, who is better  ?

  • In 23 starts on the mound, he was 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA (141 ERA+), 1.09 WHIP and 156 strikeouts against 42 unintentional walks in 130 1/3 innings. His 9.1 WAR was the best in baseball. 

If we were truly trying to do a side-by-side comparison, there’s all kinds of context through which we’d need to wade.

A veritable ocean of it. On a truly superficial level, however, it’s easy to see that Ohtani was the better pitcher.

He was also not as effective with the bat on a rate basis — no one in history matched Ruth’s effectiveness with his bat compared to his peers, as his record 206 career OPS+ illustrates — though he put up more volume on the counting stats, namely the 46 homers.

All things considered, it’s reasonable to argue the most impressive season of the three, from a two-way standpoint, would be Ohtani’s 2021. 

Moving forward, though, is where Ohtani’s legacy is determined. This is no longer a gimmick. He’s forging a historic path.

If he pulls off anything resembling what he did in 2021, he’ll have done the two-way thing for a full two seasons — just like Ruth — and he’ll have done it in a much tougher climate. 

By Rishabh

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