Thursday, June 26, 2014

Williams: What Might Have Been

Were it not for a couple of wars, Williams would've produced some mind-blowing numbers
There are many ways baseball students have tried to replace what Ted Williams lost to his nearly five years of military service. I published my own method two-and-a-half years ago, and like everyone else concluded that Williams would have wound up with some gaudy career statistics.

After reading Ben Bradlee, Jr.'s new and well-researched biography on (and titled) The Kid, I decided to alter my method. Near the end of Teddy Ballgame's career as he was pursuing several milestones, a Boston sportswriter estimated that Williams lost out on 2,534 at-bats to wartime. I'm not sure how he arrived at that precise figure (Bradlee doesn't explain), but it sounds reasonable to me--because he walked so much, Williams was typically good for around 520 official at-bats per season--so I'll run with it.

All I did was divide some of the Splendid Splinter's career totals by his at-bats, 7,706, to determine more of his rate stats (i.e. AB/HR, 2B/HR, and so forth). To calculate hits and total bases I simply left his career batting average and slugging percentage intact, though it's certainly possibly those figures would have been higher given that he hit .356/.496/.647 in the 1940s, which began when he was 21, by the way.

Anyways, here's what I came up with:

591 R
873 H
173 2B
171 HR
605 RBI
665 walks
1,606 TB
40.5 bWAR
728 runs created

After adding those to his career totals one gets:

2,389 R (1st all time)
3,527 H (5th all time)
698 2B (5th all time)
692 HR (4th all time)
2,444 RBI (1st all time)
2,686 walks (1st all time)
6,490 TB (2nd all time)
163.6 bWAR (1st all time)
3,056 runs created (1st all time)

Pretty close to what I originally projected. But no matter how you slice it, it becomes clear that under different circumstances, Williams would not just be regarded as the greatest hitter of all-time (which many people, myself included, do), but the best player of all-time, period. Better than Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and all the rest.

Even without the three prime years and two additional seasons in his mid-thirties, he still ranks up there. If only because nothing, not even a World War and a combat crash-landing, could stop the Kid from hitting.


  1. that's fine, as far as it goes. but if he had played those `5` extra seasons, he might not have played through 1960. for that matter he might have worn out far earlier. bodies do break down.

  2. Right. Williams could have gotten hurt at any time during those years and altered his career trajectory forever. It's also possible that, were he near Ruth's 714 home runs, he would have continued to play until he broke the record. Seeing how well he hit in 1960 at 41, it sure looked like his bat had plenty of hits left in it.