Top 50 Sox Seasons #9: Babe Ruth, 1918

.300/.411/.555, .966 OPS, 380 PA, 95 H, 58 BB, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 48 XBH, 194 OPS+
13-7, 2.22/1.046/.210, 166.1 IP, 40 K, 49 BB, 6.7 H/9, 121 ERA+
Postseason Batting: 1-for-5, 3B, 2 RBI
Postseason Pitching: 2 G, 2-0, 1.06/1.176/.203, 17 IP, 2 ER, 4 K

He scoffs when he hits a single, merely lifts his eyebrows at a double, begins to take a little interest in life when he hits a triple, and only begins to have a good time when he slams out a home run. That’s George Babe Ruth, the caveman of baseball, who is whaling away to fame this season with the Boston Red Sox.The New York Times, July 21, 1918.

Putting together arguably the most unique season in Red Sox history, Ruth divided his time as a pitcher and an outfielder and was phenomenal at both. Ruth’s abilities as a pitcher were clearly slipping – either because he was fading or because he was concentrating on his offense instead. Nevertheless, he had this final great year, one of the 10 best in the league.

Meanwhile, Ruth’s bat became a wonder of baseball. The Red Sox as a team hit 15 home runs – 11 of which were by Ruth. Eleven home runs were more than the Senators and Browns hit combined. On the mound, Ruth was second in WHIP and winning percentage and fifth in ERA. Ruth is certainly the only player to post OPS+ and ERA+ both over 120 while qualifying for the batting and ERA titles. Only two other full-time pitchers have ever also qualified for the batting title, with the Giants’ Doc Crandall in 1910 the only other player to even approach Ruth’s numbers at the plate and on the mound.

As Stout and Johnson note, Ruth’s remarkable 1918 season – which showed he was likely a better hitter than a pitcher – was only made possible by World War I, which left Boston short on players and forced manager Ed Barrow to try Ruth out as a hitter in spring training. Baseball would never be the same.

Key game: Aug. 24. Ruth the pitcher hurls a gem against St. Louis, giving up just five hits and one run, with two walks and four strikeouts. On offense, with Ruth at third and Jack Coffey on first, the Babe steals home on the front end of a double steal. The Red Sox win, 3-1.

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