May 10, 2023

Ruth & Ohtani: Only Players With 100+ HR As Batter, 500+ Strikeouts As Pitcher
Plus: A Digression On Official RBI Stats

NL/AL Players With 100+ HR As A Batter & 500+ Strikeouts As A Pitcher
                          HR     K
Babe Ruth:     1914-35   714   501
Shohei Ohtani: 2018-23   135  507 (as of May 10, 2023)

This means that Ohtani broke Ruth's record for most strikeouts by a player with 100+ home runs.

When I went to Baseball Reference to find how many strikeouts Ruth the Pitcher had, the number was 488. However, this article states Ruth is credited with 501 strikeouts as a pitcher, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, MLB's official statistician.

Ruth's totals on certain stat sites show 488 career strikeouts, but that does not match up when adding up the totals from his game logs. There are a number of discrepancies in terms of record-keeping from baseball's early years, and Elias's tally is considered the official number.

Discrepancies do still exist, even with all of the research done over more than fifty years since The Baseball Encyclopedia made its grand entrance back in 1969.

I found one of those discrepancies back in January. I was looking at Joe Sewell's page. He struck out  only three times in 576 plate appearances in 1932! That was not an anomoly. In 1925, Sewell struck out four times in 699 plate apeparances, but if you scroll through his game logs for that season, you will count five strikeouts.

Assuming an error or an incomplete update, I submitted a report through the website noting the difference. I received this reply:

There are known discrepancies between the game logs produced recently and the season totals produced historically. Retrosheet keeps a list of such discrepancies on their site - Joe Sewell's can be found here:

As researcher time permits, efforts will be made to reconcile these two differences and deduce the correct season and/or game total. For further reading, please see:

Elias does amazing work, but I do have one big issue. Because Runs Batted In was not considered an official statistic before 1920, Elias does not include pre-1920 RBIs in its player stats. However, they do include all of the other stats from any applicable years. 

Back in April 2019 ("my, my, the time do fly"), I started a post with the title: "Q: How Can You Hit 49 Home Runs And Have 0 RBI?" I never went back and finished it. It's not unusual. I have dozens of draft posts. This is the text:

A: When your name is Babe Ruth and you hit the home runs before 1920.

The Elias Sports Bureau, which is the official statistician for Major League Baseball, credits Babe Ruth with hitting 49 home runs prior to 1920, but does not give him credit for any RBI because runs batted in were not recognized as an official statistic until 1920.

An Elias official was quoted a few years ago as saying Ruth "didn't lose [the RBI]. He never had them."

But Ruth does have the home runs - and the runs scored - in his career totals. And, of course, he did drive in runs before RBI was an official stat: 224, according to most accounts.

During his major league career, which began in 1914, Ruth drove in 2,214 runs. However, Elias states Ruth drove in 1,994 runs, because it insists he had zero RBI in his first six seasons (before 1920).

This confusion came up again last night when Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning against the Royals, giving him 1,995 career RBI, which this story says put him past Lou Gehrig into 4th place all-time.

* * *

Interestingly, some non-Ruth players, including superstars like Ty Cobb, are credited with pre-1920 RBIs by Elias.

Cobb has 1,961 career RBI, according to, which says the stats have been "provided courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau". And in this case, the Elias' RBI number is higher than BRef, which has 1,944.

Again, discrepancies exist.

What all this means is that from 1914-19, Babe Ruth hit 181 singles, 82 doubles, 30 triples, and 49 home runs and drove in no runs. This is according to MLB's official statistician.

From Twitter, May 9, 2023:

Shohei Ohtani this season:
141 OPS+, better than Ichiro Suzuki's best season
181 ERA+, better than Max Scherzer's best season

Neither Babe nor Ohtani and from a little while ago, but . . . what the hell?


FenFan said...

The save didn't officially become a statistic until 1969, but Dick Radatz is credited with 122 career saves when you look at the official MLB web site. All but three of those came BEFORE 1969, the majority of course with the Red Sox. I assume these come from Elias?

Looking at Ruth, he IS credited with 2213 career RBI at the MLB site, one less than what BB-Ref lists. Actually, if you compare the two sites, there are discrepancies year-to-year; between 1914 and 1928, the totals do not match. 1929 is the first year that both sites show the same number of RBI (154).

Confused yet?

allan said...

It's amazing that there is such doubt about RUTH, of all players!!
Even after RBIs were officially counted, starting in 1920.