OPS is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage and is considered the best measure of a player’s hitting prowess. Each year, the teams with the highest collective OPS are near the top of the runs scored list. In 2000, the average OPS was 784. Players with an 800-plus are considered good, 900-plus are great, and 1000-plus are outstanding.
Without a doubt, Babe Ruth is the king of OPS. He clearly had the power, with 714 career home runs. But he also knew how to get on base, as his all-time walks record stood until Rickey Henderson broke it this year. He could get on with a hit too, as his .342 lifetime batting average is higher than Tony Gwynn’s. Together, these factors made him an incredible hitter. And his single-season OPSs reflect this. Six of the top eight seasons in history belong to Ruth, and he managed them all in an eight year span. The first of those, 1920, tops the list. That year he got on base 53% of the time (one of only 11 times since the turn of the century that a player has reached base at a .500 clip or better) and slugged a whopping .847, which tops that list. Those numbers add up to a 1379 OPS. He nearly bested himself the very next season, when he reached base at a .512 rate and slugged .846 for a 1359 OPS. The Bambino added more spectacular seasons in 1923, ‘24, ‘26, and ’27. His feats are even more impressive when you consider that average OPS in his day was at least 30 points lower than it is today.
Other notables on the OPS list includes Ted Williams, whose 1941 and ’57 seasons are good for fourth and fifth place all-time, respectively. But whereas Ruth’s great years are all over the top 50, Teddy Ballgame does not appear again until number 33. Rounding out the top 10 are Rogers Hornsby, with a 1245 OPS in 1925, and Lou Gehrig, with a 1240 in 1927. The active player with the most appearances in the top 100? Mark McGwire, whose 1996, ’99, and historic ’98 season all qualify.