Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mickey Mantle and others who bunted for hits.

Mickey Mantle batted .527 for all of his regular season plate appearances I could find that ended in a bunt.  My many 2014 posts encouraging the likes of Mark Teixeira to bunt against the extreme shift assumed that any big league non-pitcher should be able to achieve a .500 batting average (BA) bunting against the extreme shift.  It turns out that research had been done on all batters back to 1950 and that a .500 BA was low among the best.  And this was for batters against whom the fielders were positioned to defend against an attempt for a bunt single.

The Best Bunter of All-Time
By James Gentile @JDGentile on Dec 10, 2012, 9:01a

a decent method of measuring ... limited my search to all bunts with the bases empty (or b.e.). That way, there can be absolutely no confusion as to what the batter's intentions were...

players who had most often bunted themselves aboard in their careers ...

All hail, Lee Mazilli (Lee Mazzilli)! Bunt King!

The runner-up to this contest, Don Blasinghouse (Don Blasingame), scored a Hit% just two percentage points behind that of Mazilli (Mazzilli), but his actual rate of Reaching Base while bunting with the bases empty was a marginally superior 88.3%...
Photo of Brett Butler
Brett Butler had the most b.e. bunt hits in a single season with 29 in 1992, at an impressive success rate of 57%. It may not be too much of a shock, therefore, to learn that he also holds the record for most b.e. bunt hits in a career with 188. His career Hit% did not make our Top 10, however, as Butler managed just a 49% success rate in the majors. Still, he deserves ample consideration for our contest...

But there is also one other name which may surprise you.

Top 10 Bunters with Bases Empty, Career by Hits ...

Mickey Mantle #10

The Mick.

Even in Mantle's best season, when he hit for an other-worldly 1.164 OPS and a 202 wRC+, he still managed to lay down 11 bunt-hits with the bases empty. Can you imagine the sort of frustration that this would cause opposing pitchers? Here you are facing one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game, a shoe-in Hall of Famer, a perennial MVP candidate consistently threatening to hit 60 HR a season, and he's bunting on you?!!

That is just completely, utterly ridiculous.

All data from retrosheet, includes post-season, from 1950-2011.
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Mickey Mantle bunted in the World Series, too.  Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mickey Mantle holds the World Series record for most career home runs (HR): 18...

I went through Mantle's WS games and searched for PA that concluded with bunts...

Eight WS games in which Mickey Mantle attempted to bunt.  No sacrifices.  7 for 8.  .875 batting average bunting in the WS.

8 bunts in 273 WS PA: 2.9% of WS PA.  Regular season bunts: 1.8% of PA.  Mantle bunted more often in the WS.  And he set the WS record for homers: 18.
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Mickey Mantle: bunt single off Don Drysdale in 1959 All Star game.  Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Monday, August 3, 1959, 4:00PM, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Attendance: 55,105, Time of Game: 2:24
AL 5, NL 3

I saw this on TV.  Memories are often wrong but my recollection is that Mickey popped the bunt past Drysdale who fell toward first base on his follow through.  The ball landed in front of shortstop Ernie Banks (NL MVP 1958-9) who had no play.  The play-by-play documentation shows that Mantle bunted leading off the top of the second inning and was then thrown out trying to steal.  The two previous posts deal with Mantle bunting.  Mantle led the AL in homers in 1955, 1956, 1958, 1960 and was second in 1961 with 54.
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Mickey Mantle: 565 foot home run, then bunt single in the same game!
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

OK, it wasn't really 565 feet but the legend was built on that number ...

Batting righty against southpaw Chuck Stobbs, Mantle hit his legendary home run.  Then later batting lefty against 5'8" Cuban Julio Moreno, Mantle had a bunt single.

Who does that?  Why would he bunt after hitting such a long home run?  ...

Mantle attempted bunts in 39 games in which he also homered.  In two of those games he hit two homers; those games are detailed in the previous post.
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Real men bunt ... and hit homers.  Monday, May 12, 2014

speedy home run hitters rarely bunted to reach base.

I've mentioned several times that Mickey Mantle achieved his triple crown in 1956 by bunting: 12 for 20, which raised his batting average (BA) from .343 to .353.  Ted Williams finished second with .345.  Mantle also hit 52 HR...

Let's consider Mantle's 1956 season.  Bunting v. overall:
BA: .600  .353
On Base: .600  .464
SLG: .600  .705
OPS: 1.200  1.169
HR: 0  52

Even in his triple crown season The Mick could not match his bunting success by swinging away.

In eight games in 1956 Mantle bunted for a hit and also homered.

In 1961 Mantle and Roger Maris chased the season home run record of 60 hit by Babe Ruth in 1927.  Mantle bunted five times: 4 for 4 plus a sacrifice.  Home runs in 1961: Maris 61, Mantle 54...

And Mantle's bunts were almost exclusively against non-shift defenses.  When he retired after the 1968 season Mickey Mantle was number three in career home runs, behind only Ruth and Willie Mays.  That despite 179 PA, including sacrifices, which ended with bunts.

Today players will not try to bunt for hits against the shift.
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