Using the Hall of Stats’ similarity scores, how many players would you need to connect Babe Ruth to a below average player?
You know, like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but using the list of 20 similar players on each Hall of Stats player page.
Let’s find out…
Babe Ruth (395 Hall Rating)
Let’s find a player similar to the Babe to get this going—not that there are any.
Frank Robinson (209)
17th-most similar to Babe Ruth (1697 similarity score)
You know what a similarity score of 1697 means? It means “not similar”. But nobody is similar to The Babe, so Frank Robinson is actually the 17th-closest. Bonds (with a score of 864) is actually The Babe’s only comp under 1000.
Robinson’s Hall Rating is about half of Babe’s so we’re off to a fast start.
Frank Thomas (138)
Frank Thomas, recently inducted to the Hall of Fame, is much closer to Robinson than Robinson is to Ruth. But Robinson was so good that it’s still hard to make a list of twenty similar players.
Fred McGriff (94)
Wow—look how quickly we got below a 100 Hall Rating. Between Ruth and Fred McGriff, we only had two players.
Rusty Staub (73)
The lower the Hall Ratings get, the more similar the players become (because it’s an “easier” talent level to attain). Some people think McGriff is a Hall of Famer (he has peaked at nearly 24% of the vote). Nobody really thinks that about Rusty Staub (he highest percentage was still under 8%).
Harold Baines (56)
Because Harold Baines had a similar longevity and offensive skills to Staub, they rate as very similar (Baines is the most similar player to Staub while only Chili Davis is more similar to Baines than Staub). Baines brings us dangerously close to league average (less than 2 WAA). We’re close!
Carlos Lee (42)
We made it! (Barely—with a WAA of –0.2.) With only five players in between, we connected The Babe to Carlos Lee, a below average player.
There are other players similar to Baines who are further below average than Lee (Don Baylor and Willie Horton, for example), but none provided as direct a path to my next goal: a player with a Hall Rating of zero.
Jeff Conine (28)
“Mr. Marlin” is actually only the 14th-ranked Marlin by Hall Rating (and he didn’t do much after leaving Florida, either). Jeff Conine helps us slash quite a bit off our Hall Rating and get that much closer to zero.
Eric Karros (16)
When WAR originally came out, I remember being surprised by how little it thought of Eric Karros. I mean, he hit home runs, right? 284 of ‘em, in fact. But that’s mostly all he did during a time when everyone was doing that. As a result, eh’s very similar to Conine—but with just a 16 Hall Rating.
Dante Bichette (7)
And if there’s one player who’s Hall Rating has an enormous disconnect with how he was perceived, it’s Dante Bichette. Seven. That’s his Hall Rating. He hit .299 and slugged .499, but due to the era and the park, he’s only slightly above average as a hitter. And he certainly didn’t contribute anything else.
Still, seven? Harsh.
Willie Montanez (3)
That brings us to Willie Montanez—three time .300 hitter, All Star, two-time MVP vote receiver (although they were both 24th place finishes), 30-homer guy, 100-RBI guy… with a Hall Rating of three. He was a league average hitter (with power, but only a .327 OBP) and a below average defender at the least valuable position (first base). It’s hard to accumulate any Hall Rating points that way.
Jerry Morales (0)
That brings us to our man—Jerry Morales (with only ten player between him and Ruth). Morales played all three outfield positions in the 1970s, mostly for the Padres and Cubs. He was a below average hitter but his defense rates significantly below average. As in, he had two seasons with fewer than –20 fielding runs. Ouch.
Looking at Morales’ similar players, we see first baseman Dan Meyer on there (not the pitcher). He actually has a Hall Rating of –6, getting us below the Morales Line. How is a –6 possible in a 12-year career? Meyer played first base and hit just .253/.293/.379. He had a couple 20-homer years, but was unable to repeat it. His OPS+ is 86. Remember, that’s for a first baseman. Turns out, he was a pretty lousy one, too. He rated as –57 runs in the field.
Can you make any fun connections with our similarity scores?
Note: All Hall Rating and similarity scores used are from the time of publication.