Beltran and Mantle The Forbidden Comparison
Carlos Beltran and Mickey Mantle—The Forbidden Comparison
Copyright © 2006 by Evan Pritchard for Amazine
July 30th, 2006
Earlier this year, Beltran was voted by People Magazine as one of the most attractive people of 2006. He is also now to be considered the best power-hitting center fielder in Mets history. Good thing. For that money, he should be a rock star who walks on water and hits 10 run homers in his sleep. Nonetheless, Mets fans are starting to compare him to great legendary outfielders from the past, like Cedeno…Strawberry…Ken Griffey, Jr., Yazstremski….and that other guy we’re not supposed to compare to anyone….that…YANKEE! (And I don’t mean Bernie Williams)
After 104 games played the Mets have won 63 and lost 41. Multiply times 1.56 and you get 98 wins on the year, the projected total at this point. Given the goings on in the NL east, that should be good enough for a pennant. Multiply Beltran’s current stats by 1.56 as well, and you get some figures reminiscent of, that’s right, Mickey Mantle. Ooops! Shhhh! We’re not supposed to say that!
Mantle and Beltran are both switch hitting center fielders from first place New York teams. Both have become glamorous figures in the media. Both have had large salaries for their era. Both had slumps their first year playing in New York. Why are we not supposed to talk about their similar stats?????
Here’s some hard facts. Beltran currently has played in 93 games out of 104. He has 347 at bats, 81 runs scored, 98 hits, 24 doubles, no triples, 32 homers, 94 runs batted in. He has 215 total bases, with 59 walks and 67 strikeouts. He has stolen 14 bases and has been thrown out 3 times. His on base percentage is .385, his slugging average is.628 and his batting average is at .282.
If you project this out to the end of the season based on percentage of Mets games played, multiplying them by 1.56, you get: 145 games played, 541 at bats, 126 runs scored, 153 hits, 37 (and a half) doubles, no triples, 50 homers, 147 RBIs, 335 total bases, 92 walks, 104 strikeouts, 22 stolen bases, caught stealing only 5 times. His on base percentage would be the same, .385, with a .628 slugging percentage, and a batting average of .282.
It is not unreasonable to expect 145 games from Beltran; even the accident-prone Mantle once had 549 at bats in a season, about what Beltran will have in the above scenario (541). But look at this: Beltran’s 37 doubles will equal Mantle’s career high set back in 1952, when he was only 20 years old. Beltran’s 50 homers will come dangerously close to Mantle’s career high of 54 set in 1961, in that famous race with Maris to beat Ruth’s record, and even closer to Mickey’s earlier mark of 52 set in 1956. Beltran will also knock in 147 RBIs, 17 more than Mantle’s career high of 130, notched in 1956, a banner year for Mantle. Carlos’ 22 stolen bases this year will also pass Mantle’s best year, 1959, when Mantle stole 21. In other categories, Beltran will fall short, to be expected in this type of comparison. Mantle was a triples hitter, who had a .298 lifetime batting average. Beltran will never touch Mantle’s .705 slugging percentage set in 1956 or his career high .365 batting average set in 1957, (we can let Jeter worry about that) but I hope this most rigorous comparison will make Beltran’s critics go “Hmmm!”
There are many ways and means by which we can compare two players in different eras, none of them equally fair to both players.
One way to make a fair comparison between Mantle and Beltran is to extend Beltran’s numbers out to 162 games, as an accepted standard of comparison of all players used by Major League Baseball. To do this for Carlos you multiply each current figure by 1.74.
This would give Beltran 603 at bats, 140 runs scored, 170 (and a half) hits, 42 doubles, no triples, 55 (and a half) homers, 163 (and a half) RBIs, 160 walks versus 181 strikeouts. He would then have 24 stolen bases, and would have been caught stealing 5 times. He would have 379 total bases. The on base, slugging and batting percentages would be the same.
We won’t see these numbers this year, because Beltran won’t play any where near 162 games, and of course they compare unfairly with any given year by Mantle (note Carlos exceeding Mantle’s 54 homer mark) because M never suited up 162 times in a season, but we can compare this to the 162 game season averages published for Mickey Mantle.
Now of course, all of us would like to compare our best day at work to our boss’ worst day at work, or even his or her average day. Most of us would come out looking mighty spiffy and looking for a raise. But it does give us a standard of comparison for the good day at work that Carlos has been having lately. If Mantle is the boss of all centerfielders, Beltran is a very promising employee indeed.
Per every 162 games, (over his 18 year career) Mantle had 547 at bats, (56 less than Beltran) scored 113 runs, (27 less than Beltran) with 163 hits, (7 less than Beltran) 23 doubles, (19 less than Beltran) 5 triples, (5 more than Beltran) and 36 home runs,(14 less than Beltran) and driving in 102 runs (61 less runs than Beltran). In that number of games he’d average 10 stolen bases (14 less than Beltran), caught stealing only 3 times (same as Beltran). He’d earn 117 bases on balls, (43 less than Beltran) with 115 strike outs (66 less;Mickey had a quick eye), for a .298 batting average (16 points higher than Beltran. This last stat is obviously a big factor for those ((Yankee fans))who will wish to revere Mantle as a higher order of being). His on base percentage would be .421, (36 points higher than Beltran’s.385) his slugging would be .557 (71 points lower than Beltran’s 628) with 304 total bases, 75 lower than Beltran’s 379. This is perhaps the fairest comparison we can make, but Beltran still comes out ahead, based on the first half of Beltran’s season.
Here’s another way to compare the two: Let’s take 1956, one of Mantle’s best years, in fact the year he broke away from the pack and distinguished himself as a future Hall of Famer, and compare it to Beltran’s projected year.
In the year 1956, Mickey Mantle played in 150 games (5 more than Beltran in 2006) he came to the plate 533 times (8 less than Beltran will) he scored 132 runs (only 6 more than Beltran) bashed 188 hits (35 more than Beltran) with 22 doubles (Beltran will hit 37, 15 more!) five triples (5 more than Beltran) and 52 homers (Beltran will come darn close with 50) In that year, Mantle knocked in 130 runs (Beltran will beat that mark by 17, with 147) and stole 10 bases, and was caught only once. (Beltran will steal 22 bases, 12 better, but will be caught 5 times) Mantle had 112 walks (20 more than Beltran) and only 99 strikeouts (but only 5 less than Beltran). That year, Mantle hit .353, a mark Beltran will never touch, and had a career-high slugging percentage of .705, which is not totally out of reach for Mr. B, but is still a daunting challenge and something to shoot for. Mantle’s 376 total bases in 1956 exceeds Beltran’s 335 by 41, using this system.
As you can see, Beltran’s season so far compares favorably with Mantle’s average year at the plate. But fielding percentages are just as important. Mantle had a lifetime fielding average in center of .982, a very respectable figure, but Beltran’s current 2006 figure is much better, .992!
But of course its too early to put Beltran in the Hall of Fame yet. He’s going to need to match Mantle’s statistical power for at least 18 seasons to put up the remarkable total figures that make Mantle one of the all-time greats of sports history. But he’s off to a fine start. Does anyone know the Spanish word for D-Y-N-A-S-T-Y?