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Monday, April 4, 2016

1958 AL Home Run King: Rocky Colavito or Mickey Mantle?

1958 AL Home Run race. Who "led the league in hitting" ... home runs?  Thursday, March 31, 2016

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?


Top ten in American League (AL) home runs sorted by HRrate: AB/HR:
nameFirst nameLast yearID teamID AB HR HRrate PA BA
Rocky Colavito 1958 CLE 489 41 11.9 578 .303
Mickey Mantle 1958 NYA 519 42 12.4 654 .304
Bob Cerv 1958 KC1 515 38 13.6 572 .305
Roy Sievers 1958 WS1 550 39 14.1 614 .295
Jackie Jensen 1958 BOS 548 35 15.7 655 .286
Ted Williams 1958 BOS 411 26 15.8 517 .328
Gus Triandos 1958 BAL 474 30 15.8 544 .245
Jim Lemon 1958 WS1 501 26 19.3 555 .246
Yogi Berra 1958 NYA 433 22 19.7 476 .266
Minnie Minoso 1958 CLE 556 24 23.2 638 .302

When the criteria was expanded in include all 34 batters with at least 10 HR, Colavito still had the best HR Rate. That expanded list included seven batters with fewer than 400 at bats (AB) and one, Larry Doby, with fewer than 300: 247.
Photo of Rocky Colavito
Clearly, Rocky Colavito had the best HR Rate in the AL in 1958. Colavito had one fewer HR than the AL leader Mickey Mantle, who was second to Colavito in HR Rate. On average, Mantle took an extra half AB to homer.

So, who was the 1958 AL Home Run King: Rocky Colavito or Mickey Mantle?

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