On a dark and gloomy day, off the coast of the Chesapeake Bay, I find myself sitting in a groggy, dimly lit room. No explanation of how I got here, nor do I care to have one. Completely satisfied searching through the same pages of fannation over and over, I find something that catches my attention. This can't be true, this can't be right. My heart races, my palms start to sweat. I find myself staring at this page, a dark cloud looming over it, and I can only muster one thing to say.................DAVENPORT TRANSLATIONS!!!!
You see, the page I was looking at was a td about determining who is the best player in any respected sports' history. The creator of this td believes that it is impossible to do, there are too many intangibles that get into the way(changes in the way the game is played, stadium tweaks, advancements in training, etc. etc.). Now the challenger, he brings the point that it is difficult, but can in fact be done. He doesn't get too in depth with his arguments, but he brings me to my point. In baseball, it is not only possible, there is a statistical formula that can send players into the future, back in time, to the moon, and still be back in time for the World Series. But really, you can compare players from different eras.
Let's dwell for a little bit on what exactly I am talking about. What I am trying to get at is that it is possible to compare players from different eras neutrally, without having to worry about all the different changes in the game, so on and so forth. There are some people who will know what I am talking about, and to the fellow stat junkies, I say YOU ROCK! For those that don't, let me break it down for you.
In 1995, Clay Davenport, who would later co-found Baseball Prospectus, that great book so many people like me consider their Bible, introduced a statistical analysis called Davenport Translations. This "thing" enabled him to project what a current player would accomplish playing in a different era, and what a former player would accomplish in the present time. To all those that think this is still impossible, especially seeing as how I have not even explained it yet, here is the definition;
"a process for converting a player's statistical line from one league into a line of statistics for a different league without changing the underlying value of those statistics when it comes to wins and losses. Player's statistics are a combination of their own skills and a background level of play that is unique to their league and park. Dts isolate the league and park effects from the stat line, allowing us to add the park and league effects we want-most often to give everybody the same effects and compare players across eras (what would Ty Cobb do if he played now?). They can also be used to convert minor league performances into an equally valuable major league line. In that context, they are conceptually similar to Bill James's Major League Equivalencies, although the procedure itself is totally different"
As you can see, the Dts do not use bias judging by the conditions in which these players played. They don't project what Mark Mcgwire would have done playing against the 1940's pitchers while still hitting in today's parks. They take into account all park and league factors of said time period, and translate a players performance into that time period.
Now, we shall look at a nice little analysis made by the Baseball Prospectus team. In like, my most fave book of all time, Baseball Between the Numbers, there was a chapter called "Is Barry Bonds better than Babe Ruth?". Please, I don't care about your personal opinion on the matter, nor do I have an opinion on it. I am simply here to show you the results of their tests.
They projected that had Ruth played from 1984-2005, his career numbers would look like this;
1,986 runs, 2,626 hits, 913 Home Runs, 2,092 RBI, 1,956 BB, 2,421 SO, a .309 BAVG, .441 OBP, and a .682 Slugging percentage. They predicted 4 60+ home run seasons, and one of 70. As you can see, his home run total went way up, like best ever(hmmmmm?) quality, while his average and OBP dropped considerable amounts, down from his actual averages of .342 and .469.
Now for Bonds. Had he played from 1916-35, they projected Bonds to finish with 2,029 runs, 2,847 hits, 586 DB, 444 HR, 1,751 RBI, 1,872, 657 SO, a .340 BAVG, .464 OBP, and .614 SLG. His HR totals took a hell of a tumble, as he would hit over 300 less than his actual totals. However, his average jumped about .40 points, and his OBP jumped about .20.
Now you can make what you want of this, but it is possible to judge who the best player of all time is, or simply compare players of different eras. It is as simple as DAVENPORT TRANSLATIONS!!!!