Don Mattingly: Better Than Tony Perez

Harold FriendChief Writer IJanuary 30, 2011

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20:  Former New York Yankees player Don Mattingly speaks to the media prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 20, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Don Mattingly's major league career with the New York Yankees started in 1982 and ended after the 1995 season. Mattingly's first full season as a regular was 1984.

From 1984-89 Mattingly batted .327, had an on base average of .372 and slugged .530. He averaged 27 home runs, 114 RBIs, 49 walks and only 34 strikeouts.

Now we turn to Mickey Mantle. During his career, Mickey was ranked slightly behind Willie Mays by the majority of fans and writers, but with the passage of time and the creation of sabermetrics, Mickey has just about caught up to Willie.

The primary reason is that peak seasons are emphasized. They have become a major criterion when rating players. Mantle is an excellent, possibly the best example of a player who has gained in stature thanks to his peak seasons.

On base average has become more important, and strikeouts, for which Mantle was excoriated, are now considered just another out (right).

From 1954-64, Mantle batted 312 or .015 points less than Mattingly. Mickey had a .440 on base average, which is considerably greater than that of Mattingly, and Mickey slugged .605, again significantly better than that of Mattingly.

Mantle averaged 36 home runs, 96 RBIs, 108 walks and 98 strikeouts.

Don Mattingly's peak seasons were great, but Mantle's were clearly greater.

Enter Tony Perez, whose career started in 1964 and ended in 1986. During his peak seasons, from 1967-75, Perez batted .288, which is considerably lower than Mattingly's .327.

Perez' on base average was .353, his slugging average was .491, he averaged 27 home runs and batted in an average of 104 runs a season. During those seasons, Tony averaged 58 walks and 114 strikeouts.

Don Mattingly v. Tony Perez Peak Seasons

Mattingly
BA OBA SA HR RBI BB K
0.327 0.372 0.530 27 114 49 34
Perez
BA OBA SA HR RBI BB K
0.288 0.353 0.491 27 104 58 114

What an interesting comparison, but it is unfair to stop there.

Don Mattingly v. Tony Perez Career Averages

Mattingly
BA OBA SA HR RBI BB K
0.307 0.358 0.471 20 100 53 40
Perez
BA OBA SA HR RBI BB K
0.279 0.341 0.463 22 96 54 109

It is recognized that there are other factors, but both players were extremely similar. Both were great defensively, although Mattingly probably was a little better and certainly had more range.

Perez had a longer career, but he was a journey man, part-time player from 1981-86.

Both were team leaders. Perez was one of the leaders of some of the great Cincinnati Reds' teams, while Mattingly's New York Yankees were in the playoffs only once during his career, but that fact was not Mattingly's fault. See George M. Steinbrenner instead.

Don Mattingly had higher batting averages, higher on base averages, higher slugging averages, more RBIs and fewer strikeouts in both his peak seasons and in his career. Perez averaged two more home runs a season.

Guess who is in the Hall of Fame.



Reference:

Baseball Reference

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