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Thursday, March 31, 2016

1958 AL Home Run race. Who "led the league in hitting" ... home runs?

Jackie Jensen (Boston Red Sox) was the American League (AL) MVP in 1958. Jensen led the AL with 122 RBI and was fifth with 35 home runs (HR). Jensen had 24 HR in the first half. In June Jensen hit 14 HR in only 97 at bats (AB). But in the final three months: 6, 4, 2. So Jensen was not really in the HR race down the stretch.

Bob Cerv (Kansas City As) was fourth in HR with 38. In 1959 Cerv hit the second most HR of his career: 20. He did not lead the AL in any significant batting category in 1958. Cerv hit only one HR in August and had only 29 entering September but hit nine that month to get close but not really compete.

Roy Sievers (Washington Senators) was third with 39. Sievers did not lead the AL in any significant batting category in 1958. He had led the AL with 42 HR in 1957. Those were his only seasons with more than 29 HR. He held the Senators season record. In 1958: half splits: 19/22. 34 HR entering September.

Rocky Colavito (Cleveland Indians) was second with 41. Colavito led the AL in slugging average. In 1959 Colavito would tie Washington Senator Harmon Killebrew for most AL HR with 42. It was Colavito's only HR championship. Colavito's career highs in HR and RBI were in 1961 with the Detroit Tigers: 45 and 140; neither led the AL. Colavito returned to Cleveland in 1965 and led the AL with 109 RBI. In 1958 Colavito hit his 41 HR in only 489 AB; at home: 20 HR in only 219 AB. Half splits: 13/28. Colavito hit 13 HR in August to blow past Cerv and pull even with Sievers at 34 entering September.

Mickey Mantle (New York Yankees) was in the first of three HR races: 1958, 1960, 1961. Mantle won the first two. The second and third were against his new teammate Roger Maris, who set the season HR record in the first 162 game schedule with 61 in 1961 when Mantle hit his career high of 54. Mantle led the AL in HR in:
1955 37
1956 52
1958 42
1960 40.

Techie note: I wasted an hour trying to make the fonts uniform. After a copy/paste of the baseball-reference.com list of the five players below, Google's blogger.com, which hosts this blog, behaved erratically. So please excuse the appearance and try to absorb the content. Thanks.

1Mickey Mantle42188.5921931195826NYYAL150654519127158211971291312022211183.304.4431.035*8
2Rocky Colavito41180.6201933195824CLEAL14357848980148263113846892031602.303.4051.024*93/H17
3Roy Sievers39147.5441926195831WSHAL14861455085162181108532634071331.295.357.900*73/H
4Bob Cerv38159.5921925195833KCAAL141571515931572071045010825021933.305.371.963*7/H
5Jackie Jensen35148.5351927195831BOSAL15465454883157310122997653141394.286.396.931*9/7H
Generated 3/30/2016.

In their careers Colavito and Cerv never hit an inside the park HR (IPHR). Sievers hit one: June 28, 1955 in Washington. Mantle hit six, three in 1958 batting lefty:
- Senators: May 9 off Pedro Ramos in Yankee Stadium
- White Sox: May 20 off Dick Donovan and June 5 off Early Wynn, first in Chicago then in Yankee Stadium.

The matrix below is a list of dates for Mantle's 42 HR and the total through each date for the other four players. Mantle played in but did not homer in the final three games of the season: 6 PA, 4 AB in 12 innings Friday and a doubleheader Sunday (4 PA, 3 AB; 4 PA, 4 AB in 8 innings). Mantle left that final game with 3 hits. Since Colavito played only one game that final day, by the 8th inning of Yankee game two the Yankees must have known that Colavito had finished with 41 HR. Leading 6-2, Yankee manager Casey Stengel replaced Shantz on the mound and removed Mantle:
Norm Siebern moves from CF to LF 
Bobby Shantz moves from P to CF. 

Yanks won 6-3. IPHR

Thu, Apr 17.@BOSTom Brewer10023
Fri, May 9.WSHPedro Ramos22384
Sun, May 18.@WSHPedro Ramos324118
Tue, May 20.@CHWDick Donovan424118
Mon, Jun 2.CHWJim Wilson5581410
Tue, Jun 3.CHWDick Donovan6591510
Wed, Jun 4.CHWBilly Pierce7591510
Thu, Jun 5.CHWEarly Wynn8591511
Fri, Jun 6.CLEDick Tomanek9591511
Fri, Jun 6.CLEDick Tomanek10591511
Sun, Jun 8.CLEMudcat Grant117101513
Fri, Jun 13.DETBilly Hoeft128121615
Tue, Jun 24.@CHWEarly Wynn1311131919
Sun, Jun 29.@KCARalph Terry1412181923
Tue, Jul 1.@BALHal Brown1512182124
Tue, Jul 1.@BALJack Harshman1612182124
Thu, Jul 3.@WSHRuss Kemmerer1712182124
Thu, Jul 3.@WSHRuss Kemmerer1812182124
Fri, Jul 4.@WSHChuck Stobbs1912192224
Sat, Jul 5.BOSDave Sisler2013192224
Sun, Jul 6.BOSIke Delock2113192224
Fri, Jul 11.CLERay Narleski2214202326
Mon, Jul 14.CHWEarly Wynn2314202326
Tue, Jul 15.DETFrank Lary2414212327
Wed, Jul 23.@DETBill Fischer2516252428
Thu, Jul 24.@DETPaul Foytack2618252428
Mon, Jul 28.@KCADick Tomanek2719262829
Mon, Jul 28.@KCARay Herbert2819262829
Mon, Aug 4.@BALCharlie Beamon2923282830
Tue, Aug 5.@BALConnie Johnson3023282830
Sat, Aug 9.BOSDave Sisler3123312931
Mon, Aug 11.BALConnie Johnson3224322932
Tue, Aug 12.BALKen Lehman3324322932
Sat, Aug 16.@BOSTom Brewer3426332932
Sun, Aug 17.@BOSIke Delock3527332932
Fri, Aug 22.CHWEarly Wynn3629342933
Wed, Aug 27.KCATom Gorman3731342933
Tue, Sep 2.BOSDave Sisler3834343033
Wed, Sep 3.BOSFrank Sullivan3934343133
Tue, Sep 9.@CLECal McLish4034363234
Wed, Sep 17.@DETJim Bunning4138383634
Wed, Sep 24.@BOSTom Brewer4239383834
Fri, Sep 26.4240383834
Sat, Sep 27.4240393834
Sun, Sep 28.4241393835

Cerv dominated early, then MVP Jensen in the middle. Colavito never led on the dates when Mantle homered.




In 1958 the batter who "led the league in hitting" was Ted Williams, who had the highest batting average (BA) with .328. But Nellie Fox, White Sox second baseman, had the most hits; Williams was not even in the top ten. So why wasn't Fox regarded as the best hitter? If the best rate or average of something defines the best, then why wasn't Rocky Colavito the Home Run King in 1958, instead of Mickey Mantle. The old phrase "led the league in hitting" has faded but not completely. But looking at HR rate has never taken hold. We still deal with HR as totals.

Today's smarties are into WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a unifying theory. WAR is a total. So, how far have we come?

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