Fantasy points system figures out the best players from then and now

When sports fans think of baseball, they think of Babe Ruth. After all, he is generally regarded as the best to ever play the game.

By what metric is this conclusion reached? Hank Aaron hit more home runs. There have been plenty of more athletic fielders. Is it the championships, the curse or a career stats line that is superior to most others?

It might be impossible to quantify a player’s contributions to a sport over the course of a career, but thanks to statistics, plenty of numbers are available to be crunched and analyzed to form an argument for who had the best season in the history of the game.

So just how impressive are Babe Ruth’s numbers? How can the stats be used in such a way to allow for a fair comparison?

Enter the world of fantasy baseball.

The industry that has exploded in recent years is completely based on statistics; without them, fantasy baseball champions could never be crowned. A fantasy team owner will obsess over the stats of hundreds of players, searching for the hidden gem that could lead his team to the Promised Land.

In a league I play in, winners and losers are determined with the help of a points format; that is, real-life results are translated into points for each player.

The breakdown is as follows: one point for each single, walk, run and RBI; two points for each double and steal; three points for a triple; and four points for a home run. For example, a grand slam would net nine points (one home run, four RBIs, one run).

Obviously, fantasy baseball has only been around for the last 30 years or so, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the statistics of say, Hank Aaron, and investigate how valuable of a fantasy player he would have been.

Last year’s best offensive fantasy player, going strictly by the points system, was Matt Kemp, who scored 754 points. Only Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson scored more than 700, with 727 and 724 points respectively, and only 12 others scored at least 600. Considering how many people play in the majors, this is an elite group.

So where do last year’s stars sit historically? Off the top of my head, I tried to think of some of the more recent successful offensive campaigns to gain some perspective. In 1998, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. had memorable seasons. Sosa and McGwire will always be remembered for the amazing home run race that summer, during which both men surpassed Roger Maris’ season home run record of 61. A-Rod and Griffey were overshadowed but still hit 42 and 56 bombs respectively. That year, Griffey scored 776 fantasy points, A-Rod had 778, Sosa had 818 and McGwire compiled 830. McGwire did that while playing in just 155 games.

While it is true that this occurred in the height of the steroids era, the massive fantasy point totals are a perfect demonstration of the offensive prowess these players possessed. Even more impressive, however, was the campaign of Barry Bonds in 2001.

Coming seemingly out of nowhere, the San Francisco Giants left fielder hit a record-setting 73 home runs, drove in 137 runs and drew an astounding 177 walks. He scored 129 times and managed to steal 13 bases along the way. All in all, Bonds scored 889 fantasy points that summer, dwarfing the 1998 season’s impressive totals and making Matt Kemp’s 2011 season look like a nonfactor. More impressively, he only played 153 games that year, two fewer than McGwire in 1998.

Obviously, the suspicion of steroids will always surround players from this era, including Bonds. What fantasy numbers were the sluggers of the ’60s posting?

A good example might be Hank Aaron. Commonly mentioned in the same “Greatest of All Time” conversation as Babe Ruth, Aaron had plenty of notable seasons, including 1963. That year, at the age of 29, Aaron had more than 200 hits while whacking 44 home runs and driving in 130. A relatively low walk total of 78 hurt his value, but he still scored 761 fantasy points.

Now that we have an idea of where certain players sit, let’s take a look at the Babe. With such an illustrious career with plenty of great seasons, it was tough to pick the best. After some thought, I ran the numbers from 1921.

Any year in which a player gets 200 hits is a very successful season. Hit a bunch of home runs at the same time, and suddenly you are vaulted into star status. Do what Babe Ruth did in 1921, and you probably just had the best individual year in the history of the game.

Ruth hit safely 204 times, including 59 home runs. He scored 177 times and drove in 171 runs. He walked 145 times, stole 17 bases and still managed to run out 44 doubles and 16 triples. This equates to 988 fantasy points, 99 more than Bonds in 2001, while playing one less game. Ruth averaged 6.5 points per game, while Kemp only averaged 4.7 in 2011.

No one else comes close. Other players from Ruth’s era had great years, but even Ty Cobb’s best years in 1911 and 1915 only netted 858 and 837 points.

While some people will see fantasy baseball as just a game, it can also be used as an interesting and effective tool to measure a player’s real-life value. It’s never easy to reach conclusions about the greatest athletes of all time, but looking at numbers from a fantasy baseball perspective makes it simple to say that the Babe had the best season of any hitter in the history of baseball.

_Ed is a senior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @cubsfan2310._