Kuiper versus Ruth

 
It's All In How You Crunch Numbers 
Should Duane Kuiper Be Counted Among The Game's Great Sluggers? 
Upon retirement, many of baseball's once brightest stars have disappeared like a case of warm beer left in the back of John Kruk's pickup truck. Many of these players return to the fields of their youth were they are allowed to live out their lives in relative obscurity. This is not the case for Duane Kuiper, who has been denied the peaceful post-baseball life he deserves. 

Kuiper, who enjoyed a career spent with the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants (as much as one can enjoy a career spent with the Indians and Giants), has remained a bright blip on the radar screens of baseball enthusiasts. The reason for Kuiper's staying power is his distinction as baseball's all-time leader in home run inefficiency

During his 12-year career, Kuiper out homered your grandmother only once--in 1977 when he hit one to her zero--while tying you grandmother's home run totals in every other year of his career. Put in another light, your grandma went yard only one fewer time than Duane. 

Fans of your grandma have argued that, "the comparison isn't fair because Granny never got a chance to hit." However, Bucketfoot's slick research department has determined that your grandma's youth was long spent before the arrival of the designated hitter rule, so it's her own fault if she couldn't break spring training with the team. 

Despite the pathetic lack of power displayed by Kuiper, he does have his defenders. These poor misguided souls not only vehemently deny Kuiper's place upon the throne of Punch-and-Judy hitters, they have even suggested that Kuiper truly deserves a place in the pantheon of baseball's greatest sluggers. Their logic, "it's all in how you stack up the numbers." 

Always ready for a challenge, Bucketfoot decided to stack up Kuiper's career power numbers against the pinnacle of the pantheon--George Herman "Babe" Ruth--to see if Duane Eugene "Smack Daddy" Kuiper does indeed belong in the company of baseball's all-time bashers. 

Kuiper fans a quick to point out that while, "sure Ruth hit 713 more home runs than Dangerous Duane, a comparison based purely on the number of home runs hit would produce slanted results because Ruth had the advantage of playing 22 years--a full decade longer than Kuiper enjoyed before legions of intimidated pitchers demanded that he leave the game. "So, in the name of veracity, let's see how the numbers crunch. 

Babe Ruth attained career totals of 8.399 at-bats and 714 hoe runs. That means Ruth averaged a home run for every 11.76 at-bats. Duane Kuiper amassed career totals of 3,379 at-bats and 1 (not a typo) dinger. You are invited to do the math on that one yourself… if you came up with a ratio of one home run for every 3,379 at-bats, you are correct. So, no surprise as far as home run ratio, Ruth appears to hold a clear advantage: 11.76 to 3,379. 

Ruth played from 1914 through 1935, that's all or part of 22 seasons. That means Ruth averaged 32.45 home runs a year (and that includes five years--1914 through 1918--when Ruth was a pitcher in the deadball era). Kuiper played from 1974 through 1985, that's all or part of 12 seasons. That means Kuiper averaged 0.0833 of a home run every year (Kuiper sort of enjoyed his own deadball era). Let's see, that's Ruth at 32.45 to Kuiper at 0.0833: advantage Ruth. 

Maybe we need to look at the fact that The Babe's career lasted a decade longer than Kuiper's. Well, taking into account that Kuiper's games-to-HR ratio is 1,057/1, it would take Kuiper 754,698 games to match Ruth's 714 home runs. Keeping in mind that Kuiper appeared in an average of only 88.08 games a year over his career, it would take him 8,568 years to equal Ruth's 714 home runs--assuming there were no prolonged player strikes. Considering that Ruth hit 714 home runs in a mere 22 years (8,546 fewer years than it would take Kuiper), the numbers suggest that there must be some reason other than career length as to why Killer Kuiper failed to match Ruth in career home runs. Perhaps it's because of their relative sizes. 

Pound for pound, who is the better slugger? To the weigh in Ruth steps in at a robust 6' 2" and 215 pounds compared to Kuiper's comparably fawnish 6' and 175 pounds. That means Ruth hit 9.64 home runs for every inch of height compared to Kuiper's 0.013 of a home run for every inch of height. As for weight, Ruth hit 3.32 home runs to the pound, while Kuiper slugged a mere 0.0057 of a home run for every one of his anemic pounds. 

The evidence is overwhelming, Ruth was quite simply a superior slugger to Kuiper. Not that Kuiper wasn't a fair hitter--his career average is a semi-respectable .271. But then numbers can be deceiving, maybe Dead Eye Kuiper really was as good a hitter as Ted Williams… 

 
 
Bucketfoot Baseball Publications, 1998