Who is the greatest baseball player to wear a NY Yankee uniform?
For this analysis, I will look at 4 of the greatest Yankees that played between 1914 and 1968: 1) Babe Ruth, 2) Lou Gehrig, 3) Joe Dimaggio, and 4) Mickey Mantle.
The data was acquired using the Lahman database. This database contains pitching, hitting, and fielding statistics for Major League Baseball from 1871 through the present and was created by Sean Lahman, who pioneered the effort to make baseball statistics freely available to the general public. The dataset contains approximately 24 files (or tables, if you will) and is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to start creating baseball metrics.
Here, we will strictly be looking at cumulative summaries of the following batting statistics: 1) at-bats, 2) hits, 3) home runs, 4) strike outs, 5) walks, and 6) RBIs.
To compare each player, I overlay the data by their age and compare their cumulative totals.
Babe Ruth’s career began in 1914 as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox before converting to a full-time outfielder and being traded to the NY Yankees in 1920. He finished his career after 22 seasons in 1935 after a short stint as a Boston Brave. Babe Ruth played in both the dead ball era and the live ball era (which began in 1920). A left-handed hitter, Babe Ruth is considered the greatest baseball player of all time that transcended the sport.
Lou Gehrig’s Yankee career began in 1923 and lasted 17 seasons until 1939 when he was forced to retire at the age of 36 due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He died two years later in 1941. It wasn’t until 1925 that he became a starter for the Yankees and played 10 seasons with Babe Ruth. Together, they are regarded as one of the best home run duos in baseball history, both batting left-handed.
Joe DiMaggio’s Yankee career began in 1936 and lasted 14 seasons until 1951. His career was interrupted by WW2 between 1943 and 1945 when he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Joe DiMaggio played 3 full seasons with Lou Gerig and 1 season with Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio batted right-handed.
Mickey Mantle’s Yankee career began in 1951 and lasted 18 seasons until 1968. His career was hampered by injuries, but he is still regarded as one of the greatest switch hitters in baseball history.
Next, we will look at the cumulative graphs where the x-axis has their age season. Overall, looking at the graphs, we can see several trends, which I’ve noted below.
· Babe Ruth started slower due to his primary position of pitcher, and it wasn’t until he converted to a full-time outfielder that his hitting statistics took off.
· Lou Gehrig’s numbers easily rival Babe Ruth’s, but his career was cut short at age 36 due to illness for which he died two years later.
· Joe DiMaggio’s numbers are hampered by being out of baseball for 3 years while he served in the military. He was also a right-handed hitter who played in Yankee Stadium; a stadium that greatly benefited left-handed hitters.
· Mickey Mantle had some of the best numbers until age 30 when injuries caught up to him. If injuries hadn’t hampered the second half of his career, he easily could have the best numbers of this group.
I hope you enjoyed these cumulative graphs. In the future, I hope to add more of these types of analysis using the Lahman database and compare some of the greats to each other; Stan Musial, Herman Killebrew, Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, and Ted Williams just to name a few.