Sometime during the 2012 season, Derek Jeter will break one of Mickey Mantle’s New York Yankees records. It will be interesting to see how Jeter’s historic at-bat is presented by the Yankees broadcasters.
Entering the upcoming season, Jeter has struck out 1,653 times. Mickey Mantle struck out 1,710 times.
Mantle was excoriated for striking out so much. The number of times Jeter has been criticized for striking out too much have occurred as often as an October snowstorm in New York.
During the 1950s it was a disgrace to strike out. After striking out, most players returned to the dugout with their heads down. Today, a strikeout is considered just another out.
When Mantle was compared to Joe DiMaggio, the first thing DiMaggio supporters did was cite the fact that DiMaggio hit 361 home runs and struck out 369 times. They pointed out that Mantle had many seasons in which he struck out at least 100 times.
Mantle was a power hitter. He tried to a hit a home run during most of his at-bats. Most home run hitters strikeout a lot, which is not news.
Jeter is an excellent hitter. During Mantle’s era, Jeter would have been considered a power-hitting shortstop. He would have been criticized even more than Mantle for his strikeouts because the “experts” didn’t take too kindly to shortstops who struck out more than 100 times in a season.
Ernie Banks hit more than 40 home runs each year from 1957-60. He averaged 78 strikeouts a season. Banks was one of the best home run hitting shortstops. The most times he struck out in a season while playing shortstop was 87.
Jeter will be remembered as greater than Banks, but the most home runs Jeter has hit in a season is 24. This is not a criticism of Jeter. It is simply a fact.
Mantle had one home run for every 3.19 strikeouts.
Jeter has hit 240 home runs, which calculates to one home run for every 6.9 home runs.
We know that Mantle hit more home runs than Jeter, but it is interesting to note that Mantle struck out once for every 5.79 plate appearances compared to Jeter’s one strikeout for every 6.75 plate appearances.
Mantle’s season high in strikeouts was 126 in 1959. From 1958-60, Mantle averaged 123 strikeouts a season. The media and Yankees management blasted him for striking out too much.
In 2012, it is realized that from 1958-60, Mantle’s strikeout didn’t result in poor seasons. Mantle hit .288/.411/.554, averaging 41 home runs over a 162-game season. Mantle is better today than he was when he played.
Jeter’s strikeout high came in 1997 when he whiffed 125 times. He has struck out at least 100 times in nine seasons. So what?
It is interesting to compare one great modern Yankee with another great Yankee of the past with respect to strikeouts because it illustrates how values, measurements and the methods used to evaluate players have changed.