What would adding Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth do for the Astros offense?

On the new and improved Astros, MB doesn't bat lead off anymore.

First off, I wanted to thank everyone out there who has joined the Crawfish Boxes over the past week. We hope that you make your visits a regular occurrence and that you comment, write fan posts and and contribute just as regularly.

One of the fun things about baseball is that the game lends itself to cross-generational comparisons that baseball and basketball just do not. Football teams pass more now than they ever did, whereas in the past running the ball and playing for field position was thought to be the best way to win. In hoops, the three point line has revolutionized game play, and above the rim action/athleticism has been on the rise in the past two decades.

I'm not saying that these changes have been bad; it's quite the opposite , in fact. It's just that debating LeBron James vs. Oscar Robertson is tougher than comparing Joe DiMaggio and Ryan Braun through their first three seasons. Bearing that in mind, what would it be like if we could see the effect Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds would have on the Astros offense in 2010?

Well, I wanted to see just what would happen if we could substitute in arguably the two greatest hitters of all time in Ruth and Bonds for two of our current Astros. Just how did I come to this conclusion that they were in fact two of the best?

I wandered over Baseball Projection and took a gander at their top 500 hitters of all time in terms of wins above replacement (WAR). For those of you who are new to the blog, or to baseball statistics in general, WAR is a pretty effusive concept that you should probably get used to seeing both here and elsewhere. This is a great explanation that was done to break down the stat. Basically, WAR takes into account offense, defense, your position on the field, and spits out a number that show just how many wins Player X is worth over your run of the mill AAAA stand-in. It's not without its flaws, but it is a handy tool to use for quick comparisons and bar-side debate.

So Barry Lamar Bonds and Babe Ruth are the top hitters of all time when judged by this metric. That's cool. We sure could use them in Houston today. Imagine a world where time travel was a reality. We could travel back to witness the unfolding of the American Revolution, or to witness the creation of Stonehenge. The operative word here is "could" because Lord knows the first thing we would do is travel back to 1920s NYC, pull Babe Ruth out of the Yankees' lineup, lure him into the time machine with promises of endless sexcapades with 20th century women and the chance to match bellies with Carlos Lee. We can pick up Bonds on the way home with promises of playing near the world's largest medical center and having access to all the syringes he could ever need.

With Barry and Babe playing for the Astros, that means two current Astros get the heave ho. Barry was a left fielder, so Carlos Lee is out. Sorry, dude. Babe Ruth (as clack corrected me on) manned right field, but with the heavy emphasis on fielding that has taken hold of the game he is ill suited to play the outfield. First base would make sense, because: 1) Babe was fat and 2) Geoff Blum stinks.

Our stars now have positions on defense. Now, we can see how their offense would transform Houston's lineup. I took Bonds and Ruth, plugged them into a 2010 Astros lineup with the rest of the team's projected stats, and came out with this. The best lineup would go like this:

1. Babe Ruth

2. Barry Bonds

3. Kaz Matsui

4. Hunter Pence

5. Tommy Manzella

6. Pedro Feliz

7. J.R. Towles

8. Pitcher

9. Michael Bourn

That tool I used takes whatever nine players you plug in and spits out an optimal lineup for the group, basically telling you the best way to arrange the players to yield the greatest amount of runs per game. (A lot of what the lineup generator does as far as deciding who goes where is explained in an article Stephen posted a few days ago.)

We can see that the highest number of runs that group would generate is approximately 5.4. A tremendous number for most any team, but considering how this lineup has the two greatest hitters ever in it, that run total per game isn't really that high. Heck, three teams last season averaged more runs a game than that. Of course, our total would be higher if Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman were in it, but even they wouldn't make that big of a difference. Plus, I wanted to keep this whole thing based somewhat in reality...ya know, if you can get past the whole "time travel" aspect of it. Bottom line: even if the Babe and Barry joined forces with the 2010 Astros we wouldn't be guaranteed of anything.

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