Analyzing whether or not Albert Pujols was worth a $300 million contract this offseason, got me thinking about SABRmetrics’ (and almost everyone else’s) greatest player of all time, Babe Ruth. I call Babe Ruth SABRmetrics’ greatest ever, because he accumulated the largest career WAR of any player, in baseball history (177.7 wins above replacement). This is completely hypothetical, but let’s just say when Babe Ruth left the Boston Red Sox after the 1919 season to be a full time hitter with the New York Yankees, that the Yankees had a crystal ball and see how many wins, Ruth would attribute to them on average over the next 10 seasons. And also hypothetically, this was the 2011 version of the New York Yankees that are willing to spend $202 million on an entire team, including $13 million to a player like Jorge Posada. Thus, how large would the contract; that Ruth would receive be?
In similar fashion to the Pujols analysis, I will use Fangraphs’ open market value estimation of $4.5 million per WAR to estimate how much Ruth would have been paid for his 1920-29 seasons in today’s market. Over the course of those ten seasons Ruth accumulated a WAR of 123.1, or 11.2 wins on average over the ten years. Before, I reveal how much Ruth would have been paid, I would just like to discuss how incredible these statistics actually were. In 1923, 1921, and 1920, Babe had a WAR of 15.4, 14.4, and 14.1 respectively. Based only on WAR these are the three greatest seasons ever played. Also, in 7 of the 10 seasons Ruth had a wOBA of .500 or above (including a wOBA of .600 in 1920). To put these numbers in perspective over the last five seasons, the highest single season WAR was Alex Rodriguez (9.8) in 2007 and the highest single season wOBA was Albert Pujols (.458) in 2008. Ruth’s average seasons were heads and shoulders above the best seasons over the last half -decade.
With a 11.2 WAR and $4.5 million per WAR on the open market than Babe Ruth would make $50.5 million per season or over 10 seasons/$505 million. To consider that Albert Pujols is projected to set the record for the largest baseball contract ever, which would be $200 million dollars less than the contract Ruth would receive. Would it be bold to say if Scott Boras was Babe Ruth’s agent, that he would make even more than $505 million? Just something to think about.