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Monday, June 20, 2011

Mickey Mantle (1965-1968): much worse batting lefty ... or was he?

BA    OBP SLG    OPS
.248    .389 .451    .840  lefty
.254    .388 .450    .839  righty

The Mick's HR per AB were almost dead even.

This contradicts the conventional wisdom, the type that tends to float around baseball and passes for fact.  In this case the general understanding is that Mickey Mantle hit much worse late in his career batting lefty, especially during those four down, tack-on seasons, 1965-1968.

I was prompted to check because of a message sent by a friend:

Subject: Mantle from the right side

I thought you would find this old (1964) article from the NY Times on Mantle prowess from the right-side (vs. lefty) late in his career... 
http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F00E16FA3A5415738DDDAF0A94DD405B848AF1D3

The article is dated May 26, 1964, early in the season: ".545 right-handed and .190 left-handed".  Mickey improved in 1964 but was still was much worse batting lefty.   However, it didn't continue in subsequent seasons.  Here are his 1964 finals:

BA OBP SLG OPS
.241 .381 .489 0.869    lefty
.424 .511 .791 1.302    righty

Mick's real problem in 1964 was that he was way down in the second half, which was masked by his three home runs in his final World Series that season.  That was the beginning of the end of Mickey Mantle as a dominant player.  After 1964 he was no longer a super star.

BA OBP SLG OPS
.332 .442 .641 1.083 first half *
.278 .407 .548 .956    second half

*  I believe Mick's first half .332 BA was second in AL to Tony Oliva's .335; Oliva's second half BA was .310; Oliva led AL in his first full season.  1964 AL BA leaders:

1. Oliva (MIN) .323
2. Brooks Robinson (BAL) .317    AL MVP
3. Elston Howard (NYY) .313
4. Mantle (NYY) .303

See the detailed data derived from baseball-reference.com.

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