Sometimes players from different eras can be compared accurately because their eras were similar.
Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez played when offense was dominant.
Gehrig played 14 full seasons – 1925-1938, while Alex, whose first full season was 1996, is in his 15th full season.
Rodriguez has already hit more home runs than Gehrig and may break Henry Aaron’s career record for home runs, but those facts should never be used to conclude that Alex Rodriguez was better than Lou Gehrig.
Best Home Run Season
Gehrig hit 493 career home runs, with a single season high of 49, while Alex has hit 589 home runs, with a single season high of 57.
When Gehrig hit his 49 home runs in 1934, Jimmy Foxx was the only other major league player to hit over 40 home runs.
Alex Rodriguez hit 57 home runs in 2002, but Jim Thome hit 52, Rafael Palmeiro hit 43, and Jason Giambi hit 41. The almost-forgotten Sammy Sosa led the Senior Circuit with 49, followed by Barry’s 46, and Lance Berkman’s and Shawn Green’s 42.
Home runs were not as common during Lou Gehrig’s era. Lou’s home run ratio was one home run every 16.20 at bats. Alex’s is one home run every 14.37 at bats.
The left-hand hitting Gehrig played his entire career with the Yankees, which meant that his his home park, where the distance was only 344 to the low fence in right field, and a mere 295 feet down the line, gave him a friendly target, but the distance to deep right center field was 429 feet.
A-Rod, who hits from the right side, has played in Seattle’s Kingdome, Safeco Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees new park.
Safeco Field is a not a launching pad for home runs, but the Kingdome and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington were hitter-friendly. Yankee Stadium, after its renovation was completed in 1976, made it easier for right-handed hitters to hit home runs. The Yankees’ new home is sometimes referred to as a “launching pad.”
A-Rod gets the nod over Gehrig with respect to home runs, but as Alex knows, there is more to winning than home runs.
Gehrig hit .340 with a .447 on base average. Alex has hit .305 with a .389 on base average.
Gehrig’s American League batted .286 and had a .356 on base average. Alex’s American League hit .272 and had a .341 on base average. Gehrig has a big edge.
Gehrig had a .632 slugging average compared to the league’s .413. Rodriguez has slugged .574 compared to the league’s .433. Gehrig has a big edge.
Gehrig averaged 149 RBIs a season with a high of 184, which is still the league record. He had over 100 RBIs for 13 consecutive seasons.
Rodriguez has averaged 127 RBIs a season with a high of 156. He has at least 100 RBIs in 12 seasons. Edge to Gehrig.
Gehrig averaged 113 walks and 59 strikeouts. Rodriguez has averaged 79 walks and 130 strikeouts. Anybody have a runner on third and one out? Huge edge to Gehrig.
Gehrig hit 534 doubles and 163 triples. Rodriguez has hit 455 doubles and only 29 triples. Huge edge to Gehrig.
Gehrig stole a total of 102 bases and was thrown out 101 times. Rodriguez has 299 steals with only 71 caught stealing. Huge edge to Alex.
Finally, an amazing statistic.
Gehrig had 9660 plate appearances and made 5489 outs. Rodriguez has 9803 plate appearances and has made 6266 outs.
Alex has more outs than Gehrig in only 143 more plate appearances. Yes, I know. That is comparing their batting and on base averages. Huge edge Gehrig.
So what is the verdict? Don’t be silly.
Lou Gehrig at Baseball Reference
Alex Rodriguez at Baseball Reference