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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mickey Mantle: suppose he only batted righty?

If you are a Mickey Mantle fan you are about to enter the baseball Twilight Zone:

[Opening narration - season 2]
Narrator (Rod Serling): You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone!
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Click this link to view detailed righty/lefty splits for all MLB batters 1950-1970.

The premise is that we know Mantle's stats against lefty pitchers when he batted righted handed.  So the base is (vs LHP as RHB).  The percentage difference is for all MLB batters for seasons 1951-1968 are calculated from that base for plate appearances for all MLB batters for (vs RHP as RHB).  Here are the averages of the mainstream stats.

HR/AB BAbip BA         OBP  SLG          OPS
-8.65% -2.92% -8.07% -10.72% -9.29% -9.95%

I will apply the percent differences to Mantle's averages for each of his 18 seasons in future posts.

I've been considering a separate calculation for his home runs (HR).  See this post:

Friday, April 26, 2013
Mickey Mantle: AB/HR home/road v lefty/righty.

Year Tot vLhome vLroad vRhome vRroad
Min 9.5 9.3 8.0 6.9 9.1
Max 26.2 81.0 64.0 36.7 52.3

In 1961 Mantle had his career high: 54 home runs.  Imagine if he had been more proficient homering against lefty pitchers at home in Yankee Stadium that season, only one homer per 23 at bats, where he had an extraordinary rate of one homer per 6.9 at bats against righty pitchers.  Only fours years later Mantle had his worst home rate against righty pitchers: 36.7.
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Real Mickey's numbers varied a lot.  Twilight Zone Mickey (batting only righty) would be impacted more by having played his home games in Yankee Stadium.  Maybe only Stan Musial played all his home games and played more home games in only one park, which did not change.  From 1938 through 1973 Yankee Stadium kept the same dimensions and the structure of the park did not change as it did after 1937 when the grandstand was extended into fair territory for the second and final time.

Mick's home run rates (AB/HR lower is better):
home batting righty 19.51
home batting lefty 13.12
road batting righty 15.33
road batting lefty 15.15

I'm inclined to simply use Mickey's HR rate at home and apply it to his at bats (AB) batting lefty at home and leave his road homers alone since the rate is almost dead even.

If I applied Mickey's annual rate there could be aberrant results such as 1961 mentioned above when home batting righty it was 23.  In 1961 Mickey had 230 AB at home.  Divided by 23 that gives Mickey only ten homers at home for a total of 40 instead of 54.  Real Mickey had 24 at home: 4 righty and 20 lefty.  If I apply Mick's career rate of 19 he would have 12 at home, not much better but probably more realistic and 42 for the season.

Obviously batting only righty would cost Mickey homers at Yankee Stadium, which would probably cost him the triple crown in 1956.  Real Mickey hit 7 righty, 20 lefty at home.  But dividing his 268 home AB by 19 gives him only 14 at home for a total of 41, not the 52 that real Mickey hit.  That's still plenty more than second place Vic Wertz who hit 32.  However, even if all the runners on base scored as they did in real life Mickey would lose 11 RBI from driving in himself.  He beat Al Kaline in RBI 130 to 128 but Mick's RBI would drop to 119.  This could get really ugly if Mick's BA also drops to second behind that of Ted Williams but that is yet to be determined.

At home batting lefty Mickey walked in 20 percent of his plate appearances, which is what drove up his on base percentage despite his batting average being 49 points lower batting lefty for his entire career.  I can only assume that opposing teams were intimidated by Mickey batting lefty in Yankee Stadium with the short right field porch.  If Mickey batted only righty we could assume that he would have fewer walks and more AB at home and hit a few more HR.  I think I'll stay away from this as I don't want to get stuck in the Twilight Zone.

Stay tuned.

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