A lot of Henry Aaron’s baseball legacy is connected to 3 numbers — 715, 755 and no matter Barry Bonds’ profession residence run complete ended up at — that we too typically overlook his all-around brilliance on the sphere. Put it this fashion: For those who turned his 755 residence runs into outs, he nonetheless completed with greater than 3,000 hits. Or one other manner: He performed 23 main league seasons and was a 25-time All-Star (there have been a number of All-Star Video games early in Aaron’s profession).
Despite the fact that he’s broadly considered one of many high 5 gamers in MLB historical past, Aaron has remained underrated among the many all-time greats. He performed most of his profession within the shadow of Willie Mays, his up to date who was the extra visually breathtaking participant due to Mays’ protection in middle area. Many nonetheless think about Babe Ruth the best proper fielder. So Aaron ranks merely because the second-best participant of his technology and the second-best proper fielder of all time.
When specialists and followers speak about the most effective hitters within the recreation’s historical past, they often speak about Ruth and Ted Williams and Bonds, and even singles hitters corresponding to Tony Gwynn, earlier than Aaron’s identify comes up. No participant, nevertheless, performed with such sustained, constant excellence for as long as Aaron.
Displaying up each day is not glamorous, however it’s a method you topple Ruth and hit 755 residence runs. As a rookie with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, Henry Aaron fractured his ankle in early September, ending his season at 122 video games. Perhaps he wasn’t fairly Cal Ripken as an Ironman, however Aaron did not miss many extra video games after that. From 1955 to 1968, he performed 2,157 out of a doable 2,214 video games, lacking a median of simply 4.1 video games per season. In 1969 and 1970, then 35 and 36 years outdated, he fell all the best way all the way down to 147 and 150 video games.
Alongside the best way, he by no means had even a single dangerous season. His solely MVP award got here in 1957, however Aaron completed within the high 10 of the MVP voting 13 instances throughout an period wherein the Nationwide League was filled with future Corridor of Famers vying for the award and completed within the high three in three totally different a long time. This is a method to take a look at his excessive stage of play for almost 20 years:
Most 6-WAR seasons
Tris Speaker 14
Most 7-WAR seasons
Lou Gehrig 11
Mays is correct up there with Aaron, however even Mays pale in his late 30s. Mays’ final 30-homer season got here at age 35 in 1966. From age 36 on, he hit 118 residence runs. Aaron hit a career-high 47 residence runs at age 37, and from age 36 on he hit 201 residence runs.
That is one other testomony to Aaron’s consistency. Forty-seven different gamers have hit a minimum of 47 residence runs in a season — 15 of them greater than as soon as — however Aaron remains to be second all-time in residence runs. Since he completed his profession in 1976, 4 gamers have hit extra residence runs via age 30 than Aaron. None of them may preserve it going of their 30s:
As much as age 30
Alex Rodriguez: 464 HR, 85.Zero WAR
Ken Griffey Jr.: 438 HR, 76.2 WAR
Albert Pujols: 408 HR, 81.Four WAR
Andruw Jones: 368 HR, 61.Zero WAR
Henry Aaron: 366 HR, 80.7 WAR
After age 30
Rodriguez: 232 HR, 32.5 WAR
Griffey: 192 HR, 7.6 WAR
Pujols: 254 HR, 19.Four WAR
Jones: 66 HR, 1.7 WAR
Aaron: 389 HR, 62.Four WAR
In 1955, in his second season within the majors, at simply 21 years outdated, Aaron hit .314 with 27 homers, 105 runs and 106 RBIs, his first nice season. In 1973, at 39 years outdated, he hit .301 with 40 residence runs — in simply 120 video games. However Aaron wasn’t only a slugger. He completed with a .305 profession common, hitting .300 14 instances, although lots of his peak seasons got here within the 1960s, in probably the most troublesome hitting circumstances for the reason that dead-ball period. In an interview with MLB Community simply final month, Aaron stated the factor he was most happy with was that “I did not strike out.”
Certainly, he by no means struck out 100 instances in a season and completed with extra walks than strikeouts. Remember that Ruth, enjoying in an period with far fewer strikeouts than even Aaron’s period, led his league 5 instances in strikeouts. Ruth fanned in 12.5% of his plate appearances, Aaron in simply 9.9% of his. Perhaps that is why Aaron was such a great clutch hitter and RBI man. He hit .324 in his profession with runners in scoring place, and in “late and shut” conditions when the sport is most on the road, he hit .318/.407/.576 — higher than his total line of .305/.374/.555.
Tim Kurkjian remembers the impression of Hank Aaron, which prolonged far past the baseball diamond.
Bonds might need handed Aaron on the house run checklist, however Aaron remains to be the all-time chief in RBIs and complete bases. Utilizing the unofficial checklist at Baseball-Reference.com (RBIs are thought-about official solely since 1920), Aaron’s 2,297 outpace Ruth’s 2,214. Pujols stands at 2,100, however 2021 will seemingly be his final season.
Years in the past, Aaron stepped into the ESPN Sunday Evening Baseball sales space. At one level, there was a runner on second base with no outs. Joe Morgan requested Aaron how typically he tried to maneuver the runner alongside to 3rd — anticipating, maybe, Aaron to say he performed the sport the “proper manner” and hit the ball to the correct facet. Aaron let loose a giant, hearty snicker. “By no means,” he stated. “I at all times tried to knock the man in.”
The full bases report could be much more unbreakable. Aaron has 6,856 — properly forward of Stan Musial’s 6,134. If one other participant got here alongside and replicated Musial’s numbers, he would nonetheless have to hit 181 residence runs to interrupt Aaron’s report.
Aaron wasn’t only a dominant hitter, but additionally an impressive fielder and baserunner. He gained three Gold Gloves, and whereas fielding metrics from his period are knowledgeable estimates, Baseball-Reference charges him ninth amongst proper fielders in runs saved at plus-98 for his profession. He stole 240 bases with a wonderful success price, and when he hit 44 residence runs and stole 31 bases in 1963, he turned simply the third participant to go 30-30 in the identical season (after Ken Williams and Mays). Joe Torre, his longtime teammate with the Braves, stated he by no means noticed Aaron make a mistake on the sphere. To high it off, whereas he appeared in simply three postseasons (the 1957 and 1958 World Sequence and 1969 Nationwide League Championship Sequence), he hit .362/.405/.710 with six residence runs in 17 video games.
He is fifth all-time amongst place gamers in profession WAR:
Ty Cobb: 151.0
You may add Ted Williams to the dialog (121.9 WAR regardless of lacking a number of prime years as a result of World Conflict II and the Korean Conflict) — though Williams wasn’t the fielder or baserunner that Bonds, Mays and Aaron have been. So, yeah, high 5 is correct, most likely forward of Cobb when you make a timeline adjustment, and you’ll decide what you wish to do with Bonds.
What about enjoying concurrently Mays? OK. Positive. Mays’ greatness did appear to make Aaron a bit underappreciated, even again of their enjoying days. Not everybody from that point essentially agreed, nevertheless. This is a quote from Corridor of Fame third baseman Pie Traynor in 1964: “I will take Hank Aaron any day over Mays. Give me a man who’ll go on the market and play each recreation, by no means get drained, does not complain and will not faint on you. … You do not hear a lot about Hank, but he is simply nearly as good a fielder, runner and a steadier and higher hitter.”