Any player/Any era: Ty Cobb

What he did: Hit .367 lifetime. Set several longstanding records. Scared the shit out of opponents.

Era he might have thrived in: Cobb is one of the all-time greats, perhaps the best ever, and was a rare player who likely would have thrived in any era. This column looks at how well Cobb might have done on the 1995 Cleveland Indians.

Why: I have recently been reading Ted Williams’ Hit List, a 1995 book the Red Sox legend co-wrote with Jim Prime ranking the 20 greatest hitters of all-time. Cobb is sixth on Williams’ list, and before discussing this, Williams offered an interesting bit about comparisons for different eras. The Splendid Splinter wrote:

There were pressures in the dead ball era, there were different pressures when I played, and today’s players face a whole new set of problems and pressures. Some things have been made a lot easier for them and some are probably tougher too. In the end, though, a hitter still has to prove himself at the plate, and a truly great hitter would stand out in any era. You can just bet a smart guy like Tyrus Raymond Cobb would be able to make adjustments to his swing and terrorize the pitchers of 1995, just as he did those poor sods back in his own era.

Actually, to say the pitchers of 1995 would be terrorized is an understatement. Imagine if Cobb joined forces with Albert Belle and a young Manny Ramirez to create the all-time looniest outfield. These guys would hit a collective .350, minimum. I also suspect that left unguarded Cobb and Belle might kill one another or forge a common bond of insanity and go after Manny. Cobb would set records if he didn’t end the year in prison.

The stat converter for Cobb on Baseball-Reference has the Georgia Peach hitting .387 lifetime with 4,300 hits if he played his entire career on a team like the ’95 Indians. He would hit over .400 a dozen times and peak at .433 for his converted 1918 season. He’d also retire with north of 300 triples and 900 stolen bases.

I suspect Cobb would hit a higher number of home runs than the 119 career long bombs projected, which is just two more than his real total of 117. For one thing, the Indians’ home, Jacobs Field, offers friendlier dimensions to power hitters than the cavernous ballparks of Cobb’s era. The modern ball is, of course, more lively. Also, I recently reviewed an upcoming book by sportscaster Len Berman, The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. In his entry for Cobb, a seemingly obligatory choice, Berman wrote:

Here’s one about Ty’s hitting. In the later stages of his career, it bothered him that Babe Ruth had become more famous. The Babe’s home run hitting had captured the fancy of the fans, and Ty didn’t like it at all. Ty never tried to hit home runs, but in May 1925, he told reporters that he could hit home runs like Babe Ruth if he tried. Over the next two games, he had nine hits, and five of them were homers.

Cobb’s 1925 power outburst came May 5 and May 6 against the St. Louis Browns, at Sportsman’s Park. I’m guessing in 1995, there would be many more games like these.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have fared in an era besides his own.

3 Replies to “Any player/Any era: Ty Cobb”

  1. When Cobb hit those five homers, among the other four hits were two triples that hit the top of the fence, just missing going out.
    Forget his temper and just look at his play. He was the best of all time. No-one else is even close. Ruth was great, yes, but he gets votes because he was such a lovable guy.
    It is the same old same old. I don’t like you, so, you don’t get my vote, and to the devil with your ability.
    Ted Williams lost the MVP award one year by one point to Joe Dimaggio because two writers left him off the ballot entirely. If only one of the idiots had given him a tenth-place vote, he would have won the MVP by a point.
    I have a point to make about Stan Musial. When the voting was done for the Hall of Fame, Stan got only 93.2 percent of the votes.23 writers did not even list him. !?!?!?!?!?!??????????
    No-one nicer ever played the game, and he was always very accommodating to the fans, other players, and even kind to umpires.
    Those 23 writers should go back to their first jobs, cleaning dog pens.

  2. Cobb was not only the greatest he was the holder of the player with the most records, the first ever admitted to Baseball’s Hall of Fame (beating out everyone on votes, including Ruth)! He stole home dozens of times and most of today’s base stealers retire with not one such.

    He holds the highest lifetime batting average of any Major Leaguer who ever lived. He was regarded as the most competivive player of all time. And Stengle said of Cobb…. He had no equal. And Casey played when Ruth and Cobb did. How can the highest lifetime batting average holder be rated number SIX as the greatest hitters of all time?! No one was this man’s equal on the diamond and sure as hell, no will ever be!

  3. Hi Bob,

    Ted Williams based the rankings for his book around the OPS stat and Cobb’s lifetime mark of .945 is considerably lower than players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Williams himself.

    Cobb is definitely one of the all-time greats, though, and I’m proud to say he’s distantly related to one of my grandmothers.

    Thanks for reading!
    Graham Womack
    Founder & editor

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