New York Yankees Mickey Mantle Was the Best Player of His Era

Harold FriendChief Writer IJanuary 2, 2012

NEW YORK - MAY 02:  The plaque of Mickey Mantle is seen in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium prior to the game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on May 2, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 12-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Hank Aaron hit .305 to the great Willie Mays' .302. Aaron had an on-base percentage of .474 compared to Mays' .484.  Aaron's slugging average was .555. Mays' slugging average was .557.  Think it's close? Think again.

Mickey Mantle batted .298/.421/.557.

In the view of many fans and some in the media, Aaron holds the record for the most career home runs with 755. Mays hit 660 home runs.

Mantle hit 536 home runs.

Hank Aaron had 12,364 at-bats and 13,940 plate appearances, which calculates to one home run for every 16.4 at-bats and one home run for every 18.5 plate appearances.

Willie Mays had 10,881 at-bats and 12,493 plate appearances. Mays hit one home run for every 16.5 at-bats and one home run for every 18.9 plate appearances.

Mickey Mantle hit a home run every 15.1 at-bats and every 18.5 plate appearances.

The following table summarizes the above:

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Player  HR/AB  HR/PA

Aaron    16.4    18.5
Mays    16.5    18.9
Mantle    15.1    18.5

Aaron drove home a major league record of 2,297 runs. Mays had 1,903 RBI.

Mickey Mantle finished with 1,509 RBI.

Hank Aaron averaged one RBI for every 5.4 at-bats and for every 6.1 plate appearances. Mays averaged one RBI for every 5.7 at-bats and for every 6.6 plate appearances.

Mickey Mantle batted in a run for every 5.4 at-bats and for every 6.6 plate appearances.

The following summarizes the above:

Player  RBI/AB  RBI/PA
Aaron    5.4    6.1
Mays    5.7    6.6
Mantle    5.4    6.6

A significant factor is that Mantle had 1,733 walks and 1,710 strikeouts. There was a total of 3,443 plate appearances in which Mantle didn't hit the ball.

Aaron walked 1,402 times with 1,383 strikeouts. Mays walked 1.464 times with 1,526 strikeouts.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a recent measurement that purports to determine how much better a player is compared to a replacement player.

Hank Aaron has a career WAR of 141.6 with a season high of 10.0 in 1963.

Willie Mays has a career WAR of 154.7 with a season high of 11.0 in 1965.

Mickey Mantle has a career WAR of 120.2 with a season high of 12.9.

Aaron’s three best WARs were 10.0, 9.2 and 8.8.  Mays’ top three were 11.0, 10.6 and 10.4.

Mantle had a WAR of 12.9 in his Triple Crown season of 1956, a 12.5 WAR in 1957 and an 11.9 WAR in 1961.

There is no question that Mickey Mantle’s best seasons were better than those of either Aaron or Mays.

Modern statistics merely confirm what was already known using traditional measurements.

It's been repeated thousands of times, but it's worth repeating again. What if Mantle didn't play most of his career with injured legs?

It's been repeated thousands of times: Injuries are part of the game.