Mickey Mantle's Final Seasons Were Better Than We Thought

Harold FriendChief Writer INovember 27, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: A general view of the Mickey Mantle plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The 85 year old ball park will be closed after the 2008 season as the New York Yankees move to the new Yankee Stadium to begin the 2009 season. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Mickey Mantle's last solid season was 1964, although he did fairly well in 1966.

In 1964, Mickey hit .303 with 35 home runs, 111 RBIs, and a .423 on base average. The 1966 season was not as good, when Mickey hit .288 with 23 home runs, and that was followed by two sub par seasons, after which Mickey retired.

There is a tendency to excuse or even disregard Mickey's last few seasons, which has resulted in Mickey being ranked higher among baseball's greats today than when he played.

Mickey Mantle's Final Two Seasons Were Better Than We Thought

Mickey Mantle's final two seasons were not as terrible as once believed.

In 1967, Mickey batted only .245, but the league batting average was .236, which put Mickey's average in the league's top half.

Only four American League players (Yastrzemski, F. Robinson, Kaline, and Scott) batted at least .300.

Mickey hit 22 home runs, had a .391 on base average, which is considered outstanding today, and slugged .434.

Only One .300 Hitter

In 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, Mickey hit an anemic .237, but the league hit only .230.

The 1906 World Champion Chicago White Sox are called the "Hitless Wonders" because they became World Champions with a .230 team batting average, but in 1968, the entire American League averaged only .230.

Mickey's .237 average was terrible, but in context, it was no worse, and even slightly better, than the league average. The 1968 Yankees hit an incredible .214, which today seems unbelievable.

Only Carl Yastrzemski hit .300, winning the batting title with a .301 mark, which is the lowest batting average for any batting champion.

Mickey Still Walked

Pitchers always feared Mickey. In 1967 he drew 107 walks, and in 1968 he walked 106 times. Of course, there were no other real offensive threats on those Yankees teams, but Mickey had the discipline to wait for his pitch.

His 22 home runs in 1967 were eighth best in the league, which was a poor showing for Mickey Mantle, but it was more than respectable.

Just "Another Out"

The fact that in 2009 a strikeout is considered "just another out" has helped Mickey's legacy. Fans realize that a strikeout is not just another out, as all the runners on third base with one out can confirm, but when he played, Mickey was excoriated for his strikeouts.

In 1952, Mickey hit .311 with 23 home runs, which was a vast improvement over his rookie season, but the newspapers and baseball magazines ignored Mickey's offensive output. They complained that he had to cut down on his strikeouts.

In 2009, when Arizona's Mark Reynolds strikes out 223 times, no one denigrates Mickey for having struck out 1710 times in his career.

Revised Mickey Mantle Statistics

It is similar to a college professor eliminating her students' worst test scores for the year, but it is almost irresistible. What would Mickey's record have been if his last four seasons were eliminated?

He would have batted .309, with a .429 on base average and a .582 slugging average.

His home run total would drop from 536 to 454, and his RBI would be 1298 compared to 1509.

Juggling statistics is interesting, but in Mickey Mantle's case, it merely confirms what those who saw him play already knew. He was greater than we thought.


Mickey Mantle at Baseball-Reference


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