Head-to-Head HistoryDuel: Comparing Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth on FanDuel

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By MATT MUSICO

Comparing the statistics of two pro baseball players from completely different eras and debating which one was better is like trying to resist a warm chocolate chip cookie — it's virtually impossible to do.

But we did it anyway.

Ever since legendary outfielder Hank Aaron launched home run no. 715 to pass fellow legendary outfielder Babe Ruth on the all-time list, there have been countless arguments as to which prolific hitter was better. When asked whether you'd rather have Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth on your favorite team, there is no wrong answer in real life. However, when it comes to choosing one to roster on a hypothetical FanDuel MLB lineup, there is.

Upon looking at career statistics, Aaron would likely be the immediate choice of many. Hammerin' Hank has the Great Bambino beat in a number of offensive categories, such as career home runs (755), base hits (3,771), RBI (2,297), doubles (624) and stolen bases (240). When a player passes another in categories like these, more than a few automatically make the assumption that they're better.

Thankfully, FanDuelers know cumulative stats are nice, but there's plenty more that goes into a roster decision before submitting a lineup. Would you base a big decision by solely looking at a player's overall stats and nothing else? Of course not! Any DFS player knows looking at multiple scenarios is key before lineups lock.

When people are asked whether Aaron or Ruth were better ballplayers in real life, the answers are normally subjective. With regard to daily fantasy baseball, the answers must be supported with concrete evidence to make sure a lineup is in the best possible position to win. With that in mind, we compared the career statistics of these two sluggers in a number different situations — all relevant ones FanDuelers use daily to make roster decisions — to see which would be the better DFS play.

So, let's head into an alternate universe for a few minutes: if Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron were both options on FanDuel and had the same exact salary attached to them, which outfielder would you choose? After breaking down each situation and quantifying it by FanDuel Points per game, it should virtually always be an easy decision.

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Many FanDuelers take lefty-righty matchups into account when building a lineup. Most of the time, a batter normally performs best against a pitcher who throws with the opposite hand. After taking all the stats produced by Ruth and Aaron against left-handed and right-handed pitchers and simplifying it into FanDuel Points per game, the story isn't so much about how ridiculously good Ruth was, but how much better he was than Aaron in both instances.

With the natural platoon advantage against southpaws, we'd assume Hammerin' Hank's FDP average would be much higher than 2.19. But, we all know what happens when we assume, and that's exactly what happened here. Even if Aaron's performance against lefties wasn't that bad — and it wasn't — it totally gets minimized by what Ruth did, especially considering he was a left-handed hitter.

As if that wasn't good enough, the advantage for the legendary New York Yankee was even greater against righties. Aaron slimmed the margin to under two FDP per game, but it's still not very close.

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Whether we're talking about the old or new Yankee Stadium, much has been said for years about the short right-field porch. After all, they didn't call it "The house that Ruth built" for nothing, right? However, if you told me you knew the Great Bambino was a better FanDuel play on the road instead of in the Bronx, that would be a flat-out lie. Sure, the 0.12 difference doesn't appear to be huge, but it's not like his stats are getting a boost at home, followed by struggling on the road, like many Colorado Rockies hitters have done throughout the years.

As for Aaron, he was virtually the same kind of hitter at home and on the road, also with a slight increase while playing for the visiting team. This type of consistency for both sluggers is helpful for FanDuel purposes — especially in cash games. It's really a shame to put these two players up against one another, though. If standing alone, Aaron's nightly production would be a welcome addition to any FanDuel MLB lineup, but not when we get a glimpse of what Ruth was capable of.


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Considering these legendary hitters are toward the top of the career home run and RBI leaderboards, there is one fundamental similarity about both of them: their managers always wanted them hitting in the middle of the lineup, giving them the most opportunities possible to drive runs in. Since they were middle-of-the-order stalwarts throughout their respective careers, these progressions from the first half to the second half shouldn't be surprising.

It's only natural for hitters to wear down a bit throughout the dog days of summer, especially considering their responsibilities in the lineup. Since they're both first-ballot Hall of Famers, the "drop off" isn't very drastic.

Despite that, Ruth once again completely demolishes his competition in this respect. As it currently stands while we enjoy the MLB All-Star Game festivities, there are only two non-pitchers on FanDuel averaging more than four FDP per game: Paul Goldschmidt (4.3) and Bryce Harper (4.2). Aaron's first half number puts him in Anthony Rizzo (3.5) and Jose Bautista (3.3) range, but still miles away from his head-to-head opponent.

Are you starting to see the trend? Don't worry – it doesn't stop here.


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Checking out which teams are favored to win on a nightly basis greatly impacts which pitchers get used in FanDuel MLB contests, but is that a strategy many FanDuelers use to evaluate hitters? It's surely thought about, but evaluating hitters specifically with this in mind can be an under-the-radar strategy others may not be considering. Looking at the huge drop off in production from both Aaron and Ruth in this situation makes it even more intriguing.

Unsurprisingly, these two performed much better in wins, and when the FDP production gets into the four- and five-point per game range, there really isn't a wrong answer with regard to who you should be rostering. But who provides the greatest advantage? Remember, if these two held the same salary, you'd need to find ways to differentiate them from one another.

In this case, taking Ruth in games the Yankees were favored to win would've been the more prudent play. Just over one fantasy point per game doesn't seem like much, but any FanDueler can attest to the fact that every single point matters, and it can be the difference between a life-changing win and a heartbreaking loss.

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After going through each of these situations and watching Ruth consistently come out on top by a wide margin, it's not like we really needed this final scenario to sum things up, but here it is anyway. When comparing these two sluggers, if you only judged them off overall FDP production per game and plugged the Great Bambino into your lineup(s), that probably would've been the right decision. But it's nice to know for sure now, right?

While Aaron had the advantage after the quick eye-test since he beat his fellow outfielder in a number of major offensive categories, Ruth wasn't far behind in any one of them. Plus, him drawing 600 more walks over the course of his career certainly helped even things out.

The real difference maker that helped this comparison become a blowout victory for the left-handed slugger was the number of games each of them played. Aaron only played in one more season than Ruth (23 years to 22 years), but the Babe started his professional career as a pitcher. This limited his opportunities at the plate, whereas Hammerin' Hank came right in and started, well, hammerin' the ball. Aaron ended up playing in 700 more games than Ruth, which led to about 4,000 more at-bats.

So, what Ruth did on a per-game basis becomes much more valuable for DFS purposes.

We can compare and contrast all we want, but once again, these two played in very different eras. However, by looking at each of these situations, it's clear to see exactly how dominant Ruth was, especially when compared to the rest of his "peers."

Choosing either one for a FanDuel MLB contest would obviously be a great move. However, if they were both the same price – which could very well happen throughout the course of a season – there's no evidence to support doing anything other than selecting Ruth. Not only was he consistently elite and matchup-proof, but he's head-and-shoulders better than any current outfielder in the game, according to this metric.

Players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper make it close when it comes to fantasy production, but there's plenty of work to do before even being worthy of comparison to the Great Bambino. After all, he just made Hank Aaron look like an average player.

Editor's Note: We're hosting a one-day $100,000 fantasy baseball league on FanDuel. It's only $5 to join and first place wins $10,000. Enter by Friday at 7:05pm ET (July 17th). Here's the link.
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