Everything old is new again. In the Nov-Dec. 1955 issue of Baseball Digest, Herb Simons presented a revolutionary table that reveals hidden information.
The “Homer Ratio Table” gauged home run hitting ability of sluggers from different eras.
It accounted for structural changes in ballparks or a team moving from one park to a new one, as well as for the caliber of pitching hitters faced.
Of greatest importance, it includes a variable that is rarely mentioned today, namely, the liveliness of the ball.
Simons recognizes that the quality of home run hitters varies each season, which creates an uncontrolled variable. He explains that the liveliness of the ball and the quality of pitching probably vary more than the skills of the sluggers.
No indication is given with respect to how changes in ball parks, the caliber of pitching, or the liveliness of the ball were determined, but one need only refer to Bill James’ modern “Win Shares” to be faced with the same situation.
Accepting the evaluations of “experts” when information is lacking or incomprehensible is not a good thing.
According to the “Homer Ratio Table,” Babe Ruth hit 54 home runs in 1920, which was 14.6 percent of the league’s home runs. Ruth’s 60 home runs in 1927 accounted for 13.7 of the American League’s total.
Simons wonders if Ruth’s 1920 season were better than his 1927 season, a conclusion that statistics such as slugging average, on base average, and OPS (on base plus slugging averages) support.
In 1930, Hack Wilson set the National League record of 56 home runs, which has been broken many times since 1994. In 1915, Gavvy Cravath hit 24 home runs.
Wilson hit only 6.3 percent of the league’s home runs when he set the record, while Cravath accounted for 10.7 percent of the leagues total, hitting only 24.
When Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, the National League hit 2,595 home runs for an average of 162 home runs per team. Bonds hit 2.8 percent of the league’s home runs.
When Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961 to set the accepted single season home record, the American League hit 1,534 home runs for an average of 153 home runs per team. Roger hit 3.97 percent of the league’s home runs, which confirms that neither Roger nor Bonds was Babe Ruth.
Modern statistical means of evaluating players have provided much valuable data, but it is foolish to believe that long ago and far away, the only means of evaluating players was to accept the subjective conclusions of scouts, managers, general managers, players, and other “experts.” Statistics have always been a significant part of baseball.
Simons, Herbert. “Ruth Hit 1-7th of Loop’s Homers; Willie Mays Hit 1-25th.” Baseball Digest. Nov-Dec. 1955