Yes, Adam Ottavino would absolutely dominate Babe Ruth
On the latest episode of the Statcast podcast, free agent reliever and No. 0 advocate Adam Ottavino made a remark that raised some eyebrows: If he and Babe Ruth somehow faced each other on the diamond, "I would strike [him] out every time."
Ottavino > Bambino? pic.twitter.com/4rsm5roEno— MLB (@MLB) December 11, 2018
Almost immediately, the internet rallied to the Babe's defense. This is Babe Ruth we're talking about -- the Sultan of Swat! The Colossus of Clout! No matter how good Ottavino was this season -- or how wicked his slider is -- there's no way that he could hang with the most iconic hitter of all-time, right? ... Right?
Wrong, dear reader. It's time to free yourself from the shackles of convention, and bathe in the light of the truth: Of course Ottavino would strike out Babe Ruth. In fact, I'll go even further: The average Major Leaguer in the 1920s and 30s wouldn't even sniff the Show in 2018, and if they were for some reason forced to take a big league at-bat, the results would not be pretty. Here, take a look at this dramatic reenactment:
Adam Ottavino vs Babe Ruth. pic.twitter.com/qAVIK92nZt— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 11, 2018
But don't take my word for it. Let's examine the evidence. Here is what Ottavino's slider looks like:
Here is what Babe Ruth's swing looked like:
Rare footage of Babe Ruth hitting against Walter Johnson.— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) March 20, 2018
(You can see Johnson walking off just as Ruth turns around) pic.twitter.com/JTdRAWKw6W
Friends, that is not the swing of a man who can handle a 96-mph fastball. That is the swing of a man past the point of really caring about his softball league. He would have to start his motion before the ball had even been released!
None of which is to diminish how awesome the Babe really was. Even putting his pitching career off to one side, the man put up the kind of stats that we've hardly ever seen since. But he was awesome relative to his peers in his time -- peers who could scarcely fathom the kind of stuff that Ottavino (and, really, relievers on just about every MLB team) have in their arsenal today. Just ask Phil Hughes:
I’m gonna get killed for this but Whitey’s throwing like 80 mph https://t.co/OlFS3zfDo8— Phil Hughes (@PJHughes45) December 4, 2018
That's the sort of fastball that you can afford to wind up at like you're in Baseball Bugs. It doesn't even look like the same sport as the one Blake Treinen is playing:
And it should be noted that this phenomenon is hardly exclusive to baseball. Take a look at what Bob Cousy -- widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players to ever live, the famous Houdini of the Hardwood -- had to offer:
[jaw drops] pic.twitter.com/4PtbZaLW2y— BUM CHILLUPS (@edsbs) November 29, 2018
If Cousy brought that against Kawhi Leonard, he would be able to complete, at most, three dribbles.
Really, this is less a condemnation of the ballplayers of yore and more a celebration of where the game is at right now. Look at how that Treinen pitch moves -- no human being should be able to hit that! And if Ruth -- who quite literally created the idea of the big league slugger in our cultural imagination -- would struggle, who's to say that anybody else from before, say, 1960 would get past Double-A? The Babe is still the man, the myth, the legend, but let's keep him far away from Max Scherzer's breaking stuff.