Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Hall of Merit > Discussion
Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, June 18, 2007

Don Mattingly

Eligible in 2001.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 18, 2007 at 04:00 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Related News:

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 18, 2007 at 04:06 AM (#2407757)
While Donnie Baseball had the better peak, I would still take Hernandez over him.
   2. sunnyday2 Posted: June 18, 2007 at 04:22 AM (#2407770)
A very close call, at least for a peak voter. I think I prefer Donnie to Keith. Probably on my ballot.
   3. BDC Posted: June 18, 2007 at 11:43 AM (#2407845)
Hernandez was a fabulous defensive player, but Mattingly was also excellent: unusually strong arm for a first baseman and, like Hernandez and Will Clark, was the kind of first baseman who was into every play, keeping the rest of the infield in the game, very intense. One of the very few latter-day left-handers to play a few games at third base.
   4. Repoz Posted: June 18, 2007 at 12:24 PM (#2407856)
One of the very few latter-day left-handers to play a few games at third base.
Page 1 of 1 pages


I lost a bar bet on this the other day...I thought he only played one game at 3B.

Turned out it was three.

J├Ągermeister has gotten a lot more expensive since I stopped drinking.
   5. Howie Menckel Posted: June 18, 2007 at 12:32 PM (#2407860)
Mattingly 127 OPS+ in 7721 PA, peak of 156-56-61-46 from 1984-87
Hernandez 129 OPS+ in 8553 PA, peak of 152-48-42-27 from 1979-82 (or 4 best of 52-48-43-42)

total OPS+s as regulars
Mattingly 161-56-56-46-33-28-18-13-08-03/081
Hernandez 152-48-43-42-41-31-30-27-27-26-20-08

(This is without Hernandez'z borderline 120 in 384 PA in 1988)

You're looking at years 7-8-9-10-11 for Hernandez, pretty clear win there, makes up for the lesser peak in some but not all voting minds.
Both were durable at their peaks.
The career tally basically has Mattingly a couple of semi-regular 130 OPS+s seasons short of Hernandez.
Mattingly peaked early at age 23-26, Hernandez's began at age 25 and mostly remained thru age 32.
Anyone remember what year Mattingly's back began to drag him down? Seems like 1990, since 1988-89 were pretty good but not great. 1990 was terrible (81 OPS+)

Fielding is really intriguing: Both were excellent defensive 1st basemen in their own way.
Any consensus on measuring the difference?
   6. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 18, 2007 at 02:31 PM (#2407952)
I hope that Mike Emeigh will way in on Mattingly's defense the same way he did on Hernandez's defense.

That said, my running hypothesis is that Mattingly (my all-time favorite player) is Sisler Lite. His career is the same basic shape: neither walked too, too much, so their good peaks were not historically amazing, but were both ended by serious injury, followed by a lesser version of self that hangs on a few years for some averageish hitting. Mattingly is Lite because:
-his peak isn't quite as long
-his peak isn't quite as high
-his injury was not quite as severe (didn't lose a year)
-his second half fade not quite as bad as Sisler's.

That said, he was awesome on the 3-6 and the 3-6-3 and wasn't afraid to throw. He was rangy in the field, and he had this funny way of crouching for pickoff throws so he could corralle them. Great competitor, and his series in Seattle in October 1995 was just wonderful to witness.

My impression of the injury (I think it was early in 1990) was this. In his salad days, he coiled himself a little bit at the plate, almost Musial like. In fact, as the pitcher came set, Mattingly would coil down a bit in a slightly open stance. Then when he swung, he would stand up a bit and explode into the ball. Because he had very, very quick, strong wrists, the coil never prevented him from hitting the inside pitch because it was hard to jam such quick hands. He could cover the other side of the plate well, too. When he got hurt, he couldn't coil up and explode into the pitch the way he once had and approached the ball more upright. So pitchers started throwing inside a lot more. His wrists were still good, so he could get to the ball, but unless the ball was out over the plate, he couldn't put a big charge into it. I remember Mattingly hitting line-drives rather than flyballs, and I don't know if his swing path was changed by the injury as well, or if it only hurt his ability to swivel into the ball.

One of the upshots of his quick wrists were that his splits against lefties weren't too bad.

YEAR rAVG rSLG lAVG lSLG
-------------------------
1983 .292 .422 .264 .379
1984 .351 .554 .326 .500
1985 .348 .567 .288 .568
1986 .348 .601 .358 .523
1987 .341 .578 .302 .523
1988 .323 .505 .290 .389
1989 .282 .444 .338 .532
1990 .254 .347 .262 .310
1991 .303 .400 .264 .383
1992 .289 .424 .284 .397
1993 .307 .480 .264 .388
1994 .307 .433 .299 .373
1995 .300 .427 .265 .384 


He didn't show a massive R/L split, losing about 6% on average versus them during his career and 7-8% on slugging. I've always figured that his wrists were quick enough to give him a split second longer to see the pitch from lefties.

Oddly, although Mattingly didn't walk a lot, he wasn't puny in them either. I tend to remember Mattingly as working pitchers to get into good hitter's counts. He was smart, had a good approach, and a good eye, didn't seem to mind being aggressive late in the count if he saw a good strike, but he also didn't chase too many bad balls either (about the same Ks than UIBBs career).

The other thing I remember is that he was frequently listed as a cinch to get to 3K hits. The projections all made sense: lots of balls in play, didn't K much, had power and average, durable. The injury just scuttled it; I've always wondered what might have been.
   7. JPWF13 Posted: June 18, 2007 at 02:54 PM (#2407981)
Oddly, although Mattingly didn't walk a lot, he wasn't puny in them either. I tend to remember Mattingly as working pitchers to get into good hitter's counts.


He tended to put the ball in play- he walked more than he struck out- the problem was that pitches he would have been better off fouling off and keeping the AB alive turned into lazy flyballs to RF- especially after his injury and he couldn't drive the ball any more. Tremendous contact hitter but his his BABIP was never particulryly impressive (right around league average when all was said and done).

As a HITTER (and in no other sense) he was somewhat similar to Garvey- but he had a better idea of the strike zone (a smaller hitting zone) which gave him a few more walks and a few less Ks, and before his injury, a little more power. Similar to Cecil Cooper in his prime afer Coop cut down on his Ks...
   8. yest Posted: June 18, 2007 at 04:13 PM (#2408041)
While Donnie Baseball had the better peak, I would still take Hernandez over him.

John just don't call me biased when you see where I put Mattingly this week
   9. Willie Mays Hayes Posted: June 18, 2007 at 04:24 PM (#2408052)
Eric-

Couldnt have said it better. I grew up watching Mattingly, and he is my favorite player ever. You hit the nail on the head.
   10. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 18, 2007 at 05:15 PM (#2408105)
John just don't call me biased when you see where I put Mattingly this week


:-)

I liked Mattingly, so I'm not biased against him, BTW.
   11. yest Posted: June 18, 2007 at 06:52 PM (#2408181)
from LIFE magazine Febuary 1989 (The Future and You)

Spring Training 2000?

signing a $4 million a year
contract, Don Mattingly,
39, will begin his 18th
season with the Yankees.

ah! the power of hindsight!
   12. Mark Donelson Posted: June 18, 2007 at 07:59 PM (#2408249)
Donnie was my favorite player for most of his career, too, taking over for Graig Nettles. (I seem to have seized on borderline HOM types throughout my fandom, going from Nettles to Mattingly to Bernie Williams. Probably some interesting psychoanalysis to be done there....) Before my eyes were opened about team-dependent stats like RBIs, I used to bristle at the suggestion that he was comparable with guys like Cecil Cooper. (I think I wrote an angry e-mail to Rob Neyer on the subject in 1995.)

But today, I agree with Dr. C (again!) that he's Sisler Lite in the end, and that's not going to be enough. I think Mattingly's defense would have to be notably better than Hernandez's for him to get on my ballot (and up to Hernandez's level), and that does not appear to be the case.
   13. DCW3 Posted: June 19, 2007 at 05:44 AM (#2409105)
I first started getting into baseball in 1988, when I was five years old. The first baseball book I ever got was this big book put out by Topps prior to the '88 season, which was broken into two sections--the first half profiling the great players of the day, with lots of photos and statistics, the second devoted to the greatest players of the past. It was probably about the best introduction to the game and its stars that a kid could ask for, and I literally read it until it fell apart and and the loose pages needed to be stored in a box. The players in the second half of the book were arranged alphabetically, but those in the first half were sorted in rough order of their perceived greatness. Not only was Don Mattingly the first player in the book, he was the only player whose profile received two full pages. The next baseball book I got was a Tom Seaver Scouting Handbook that ranked the players of the time at each position from best to worst. Mattingly was on the cover, as well as being the first player profiled in this book as well. I was never any kind of a Yankees fan, but as a kid reading this stuff I assumed that this Mattingly guy must be some kind of god. I sort of drifted away from baseball in the early to mid-1990s--I would still follow the Cardinals, but I was nowhere near the kind of devoted fan I'd been for a few years. When I started getting back into the sport near the end of the decade, it stunned me to realize that Mattingly wouldn't be going into the Hall of Fame, and that his career wasn't really that impressive compared to many of the greats of the era. As a little kid I'd assumed the Hall of Fame was such a foregone conclusion that it wasn't worth thinking about--the only question was how far up the list of the ten best players ever Mattingly was going to finish.
   14. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: June 19, 2007 at 05:11 PM (#2409527)
Around #10 for me

As a peak voter I see Mattingly and Hernandez as roughly equal in total value terms. If they were both eligible they would both be on my ballot and right next to each other, kinda like Gordon and Doerr I guess.

I also agree with the George Sisler comparison, as gorgeous george is also right there with Hernandez and Mattingly for me. Honestly, I am not sure that I see a very big difference between them. Maybe career gusy do, I don't know.

If forced to choose (which I don't have to because of our election schedule), I would rank them Hernandex, Mattingly, Sisler, due to ease of domination. We have elected the two other guys easily and while I don't expect Mattingly to go in easily, I hope that we will elect him one day.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 19, 2007 at 05:14 PM (#2409530)
I never liked Mattingly (a) because he played for the Yankees; and (b) he grew up having no fondness for the history of the game of baseball. I remember reading that when he was playing ball in high school, he thought "Babe Ruth" was a cartoon character.

That being said, he had a tremendous work ethic and was the hitter I feared the most until Canseco hit his prime.
   16. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 19, 2007 at 05:47 PM (#2409574)
I can't see how Mattingly is superior to Sisler, Mark. Shorter, lower peak/prime. Even accounting for the difference in era, it's not so close that the timeline could wash that away. I don't deny it's close, and I also don't deny that Sisler is the below the line for me, so I've Mattingly outside the HOM, myself and below Sisler.

An interesting comparison to Sisler is fellow new guy Kirby Puckett. Sisler's really a hidden peak guy without that much peak. Puckett is the ultimate prime candidate, and his peak and Sisler's have a similar height, though Puckett is more consistent (I'll do Mattingly too):
OPS+ (250 or more PA)
GS181 170 161 157 154 140 132 110 110 106 101 98 91 85 81
KP
152 140 138 132 132 131 129 120 119 118  91 79 
DM
161 156 156 146 133 128 118 113 108 107 103 97 81 


Who wins in years where at least two compete?
GS:   x   x   x   x   x   x   x                  x  x  (9)
KP:                               x   x   x            (3
DM:                                           x        (1


No question that Sisler is all over these two guys at bat. (Fielding is another story.) So you got to really whack him down on the chrono to get him below both of them.
   17. Paul Wendt Posted: June 19, 2007 at 07:03 PM (#2409654)
But maybe Mattingly's lower numbers dominated his leagues?

League top tens by OPS+
Sisler_ 2 3 3 4 5 6 8 (1916-22, his seven full seasons before injury, and 1916 is the '8')
Matt'ly 1 1 3 6 (1984-87, his first four full seasons)
Puckett 4 6 7 (1986-88-92 in that order)

Nope.

Isn't Sisler's seven years a good example of what we usually call a 'prime' than to a 'peak'? Mattingly is the peak candidate here. 1988-89 down from preceding seasons about 40 points on base and 100 points slugging.

By the way, I'm surprised that baseball-reference has approximate plate appearances in Mattingly's time.
Sisler's time, no surprise.
   18. DL from MN Posted: June 20, 2007 at 01:34 PM (#2410638)
Puck and Mattingly's leagues had twice as many players. This is another instance where top 10 doesn't mean the same percentile across eras. It's harder to make the top 10 graduates in a school of 3000 than in a school of 300 but making the same percentile rank in either school is more similar in difficulty.
   19. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 22, 2007 at 12:18 AM (#2412581)
I remember reading that when he was playing ball in high school, he thought "Babe Ruth" was a cartoon character.


I remember a teenage kid that I worked with who had no idea who Ruth was. In fact, he didn't know many historical figures, come to think of it.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Sheer Tim Foli
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Syndicate

Page rendered in 0.1851 seconds
49 querie(s) executed