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Monday, May 26, 2014

Should The Mick have switch hit? Commenting on Hawk Harrelson commenting on Mickey Mantle.

A friend sent this:

I'm watching the Indians-White Sox game with Hawk Harrelson broadcasting. He said that Mantle once told him that if he had not promised his dad that he would be a switch-hitter, he would have just batted RH in the big leagues. Hawk said he never saw a switch-hitter who was that much better from the right side. He said that if a LHP was on the mound, opponents would often bring in RH relief pitchers to turn Mantle around to the left side.

Actually, Hawk is correct.  Mickey Mantle had some of the most lopsided splits of any switch hitter and I concluded last year that Mantle should have batted righty.  However, it's difficult to imagine that Harrelson knew that unless he reads this blog.  What are the chances?

One of the Yankee announcers mentioned yesterday that Harrelson had been the White Sox general manager before he started announcing for them 30 years ago and that Harrelson had fired Tony LaRussa the manager.  LaRussa has been elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager.

I'm not sure how Harrelson could be proven wrong since about 72% of pitches are thrown by righties.  Any change from a lefty pitcher would generally be to a righty.

Why and when Mantle would have confided in Harrelson is unclear.  Harrelson was ten years younger and started his major league career in 1963; Mantle started in 1951.  Harrelson missed Mantle's best seasons.  Harrelson even made his debut with the Kansas City As about three weeks too late to have seen Mantle do this batting lefty:

Mickey Mantle's longest homer: Yankee Stadium, May 22, 1963 off Bill Fischer.  Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Harrelson would have seen this:

Mickey Mantle (1965-1968): much worse batting lefty ... or was he?  Monday, June 20, 2011

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...

Mickey ... in 1964 ... was much worse batting lefty.   However, it didn't continue in subsequent seasons.

Declining years: Mantle and DiMaggio who both retired at age 36.  Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Mick in his down, tack-on seasons 1965-1968: led Yanks in OPS+ each season: 137, 170, 149, 142 (career 172)...

142 OPS+, which was 8th in AL

Mantle walked 100 times in each of his final two seasons even though he couldn't hit very well.  Teams simply walked him.  I cannot imagine that teams would turn Mantle around to bat lefty in Yankee Stadium where he homered every 19 at bats righty, every 13 lefty.  On the road, even at one every 15 AB.

In researching Mantle batting righty against righty pitchers Evelio Hernandez and Hoyt Wilhelm I found this to confirm that Mantle supposedly promised his father that he would switch hit:

In game two of the 1957 Memorial Day doubleheader the Yankees won 9-0 and Times writer Louis Effrat reports:

So one-sided was the nightcap that Mickey Mantle twice elected to try something that he never had attempted in the big league.  He batted right-handed against Evelio Hernandez, a right-handed pitcher.

Perhaps some of the 24,892 spectators, including Vice President Nixon, making up the season's largest crowd here, were startled to see Mantle swinging from the "wrong" side of the plate in the sixth inning ...

in the eighth ...  the Oklahoma Kid , still on the right side of the plate, bounced to Milt Bolling at third base.  The latter bobbled the ball and Mickey was safe on the error.
The Windsor Daily Star May 31, 1957 "'Dad Knew Best' Mick Knows Now":
WASHINGTON - Mickey Mantle is sure now that "father knows best."
The Yankee slugger broke a pledge to his deceased father Thursday when he failed to switch-hit in the sixth inning of the second game with the Washington Senators.
Mickey batted righthanded against Evelio Hernandez, a right handed pitcher.  And he hit into a double play.  He had twice just missed homers batting left handed and decided to take a shot at the bleachers from the right side of the plate.
Mantle always has said he would never stop switching because he made such a promise to his father, who died five years ago.

Mickey Mantle: father knew best but for the wrong reason.  Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If he somehow knew that his son Mickey Mantle would have 4,848 plate appearances (PA) in Yankee Stadium, which was very difficult for right handed sluggers, then, yes, Mutt Mantle was correct when he started teaching his son to switch hit in 1936, Joe DiMaggio's rookie season...

Maybe it's documented somewhere but I cannot imagine what drove Mutt Mantle to force young Mickey to learn to switch hit.  Even now we do not have good lefty/righty splits for seasons before 1950.  Probably it was just Mutt's experience trying to hit curve balls and side arm pitchers.  ...

Didn't Mutt realize the difficulty the great DiMaggio was having hitting home runs (HR) in Yankee Stadium?  ...

Not that Mutt knew that Mickey would one day play for the Yankees but that ball parks influence hitting too...

Here's the thing that Mutt Mantle did not and could not know: his son Mickey was one of the greatest right handed hitters of all time.  Except for the Yankee Stadium factor, which was an accident, Mickey did not need to switch hit.

Mickey Mantle was a great right handed hitter.  Friday, April 19, 2013

Mickey Mantle is really the only great switch hitter and that seems to be because he was a really great righty batter...

... of 21 righty batters, both switch hitters and righty only, against lefty pitchers since 1950 sorted by OPS...

Despite the disadvantage of playing his home games in the original Yankee Stadium, which was very tough on righty batters, Mantle is in a virtual tie at the top with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

Switch Hitter righty/lefty splits.  Monday, April 15, 2013

Mantle is way lower in BA batting lefty but that's about it.  Slugging is skewed because batting righty in Yankee Stadium pushed down his HR/AB batting righty and consequently his BB because they weren't as afraid that he would homer, which apparently drove up his lefty OBP but I'll examine Mantle in much more detail in subsequent posts.  Mantle's OPS difference is only 3.4%.

Mickey Mantle: .400 BA batting only righty?  Thursday, May 16, 2013

Four times on the road, three times at home, two times overall Mickey batted over .400 batting righty against lefty pitchers.  How rare is this?  ...

Now you could be completely anal about this and simply blow it off as idle conjecture or you can think about whether Mickey Mantle could have been the only .400 hitter since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941 had Mickey's father not forced Mickey to switch hit.

Mickey Mantle batting only righty: .323 BA; .400 twice.  Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mickey Mantle might have increased his batting average (BA) from .298 to .323 had he batted only right handed instead of switch hitting.  And led in BA eight times...

Mickey would have led in BA: 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957 (.411), 1958, 1961, 1964 (.419).

Righty batters BA percent difference v. lefty/righty pitchers ... plus Mantle.  Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mickey Mantle switch hitting had a career batting average (BA) percentage difference (14.85%) v. lefty/righty pitchers greater than any prominent righty batter since 1950 when lefty/righty splits become reliable.  This is more evidence that Mantle should have batted right handed exclusively.

Mantle also had the biggest point difference: .330-.281=.-049.  Lou Piniella was the only righty batter with a percent difference over 10%: 14.7%...

Alex Rodriguez confounds by being the only one of the 18 righty batters with a higher BA against righty pitchers than against lefty pitchers.  Willie Mays is next in percent difference.  Hank Aaron is in the middle of the pack.  Mays and Aaron are really Mantle's only peers ...

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