Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Could Mickey Mantle still hit in his final season? Only in "Casino".

Why take a chance?  That's the conclusion reached in the 1995 movie Casino when the Mafia leaders are deciding the fate of Andy Stone played by Alan King.  They go around the table stating what a stand-up guy Stone is until they get to the final leader, Remo, who says "Why take a chance?".  They all nod in agreement and there's a quick switch to the next scene with Andy Stone being shot in a parking lot.

By 1968 the main attribute of Mickey Mantle's batting was that he was the only player other than Carl Yastrzemski with at least 100 walks in the American League (AL).  AL batting average, still including pitchers in those days, was .230, so The Mick's career low .237 was still three percent higher.  But Mick also had career lows in:
SLG .398
OPS .784
BA righty at home: .190
SLG lefty road: .326

Click this link for excruciating detail on Mickey Mantle's Righty/Lefty Home/Road splits not found elsewhere.

OK, back in 1968 On Base plus Slugging averages (OPS) wasn't considered and walks were largely viewed as nothing, a free pass as they were called.  But people knew that Yaz was the only AL batter with a .300 BA: .301.  So, Mick's .237 got a little sympathy in the year of the pitcher but not much.

Mantle's OPS+, boosted almost exclusively by his 106 walks, was his third worst:
1968 143
1965 137
1951 117
career 172

Mantle was one for his final 20 at bats.  That one hit was the only Yankee hit against Luis Tiant in Mantle's final game in Yankee Stadium.  Mantle was one for ten bunting with five strike outs in 1968.  Career bunting: .527.  Bunting in the World Series: 7 for 8 (.875).  Batting righty on the road in 1968: .230 BA.  Mantle couldn't hit righty and he couldn't even bunt.  He must have been frustrated and humiliated.  That's why he retired.

But who would suggest that The Mick could still hit in his final season?  This clown:

Misremembering Mantle’s Final Season
By Jason Epstein
July 21, 2014 11:00 AM

Mantle was the most productive Yankee on the 1968 roster. Only Roy White’s 137 OPS+ was in the neighborhood of his 143...

Mantle’s on-base percentage was a robust .385, second in the Junior Circuit to Yaz’s .426 and fourth-best overall...

Tom Tresh Baseball Digest
front cover, October 1962 via Wiki Commons
Tom Tresh, 29, had sunk to a .195 BA; 90 OPS+.  Joe Pepitone, 27, was surprisingly good: 120 OPS+ but with only 421 plate appearances to The Mick's 547.  Andy Kosco, 26: 100 OPS+.  Heck, Bobby Cox played third base.

This is the Eddie Gaedel effect.

Send in the midgets!  Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Eddie Gaedel pinch hit for the St. Louis Browns. Gaedel was 3 feet 7 inches tall. He walked.

Is Walking Hitting?  Wednesday, May 2, 2012

We can dig up Babe Ruth's remains, place it in the batters box and eventually the Babe will get credit for yet another walk.


cglied said...

An adjusted OPS of 143 and you think he couldn't hit? That placed him 8th in the AL. How many guys finish 8th in that stat and can't hit?

He placed 19th in SLG and 13th in HR. Sounds slightly above average to me.

I think you understate or overlook the environment of 1968. The AL ERA was 2.98. Last year a 2.98 ERA placed you in Cy Young contention.

As for going 1 for his final 18, that seems a little slanted given that the 6 AB's prior to that he went 4 for 6 with 2 HR's (one being the McLain gift).

Should he have retired? Probably, I don't know. He was 36, couldn't really play the field anymore and as he admitted later he was an alcoholic who had done little to take care of himself as he aged, but he could still hit.

gusDAfax said...

I disagree with calling the guy a clown who, after looking at the numbers, concluded MM's 1968 was not as bad as most believe.
I also disagree when he said MM could not hit. He mentions the 1/18 finish, but apparently missed the 17/35 in the 11 previous games.
MM did only hit 18 hr's, but he led his team in HR's.
MM only hit 1 HR per 24 AB's, but without him the NYY hit 1 every 54 AB's and the league average was 1/48 AB's. .237 was MM's career low, but the NYY team ave was only .214 (.224 w/o pitchers).
When I looked at the game logs, July & August were horrible for MM & those 2 months cost him .300 for his career. In July, he went 16/81 - 1 3B + 15 singles. August wasn't much better (.223) but he did hit 5 out.
In conclusion, in 1968 MM could hit and was a better than average hitter. BUT MM could NOT hit like MM and was not worth his 100K stats wise.

Kenneth Matinale said...

Read my first and last paragraphs. Mantle was walking, not hitting. And he was walking based on past reputation.