MLB: Mickey Mantle was Almost as Effective as Craig Biggio and Dick McAuliffe

In most situations with runners on base and less than two outs, hitting into a double play is the worst result for the offensive team.

Most batters who hit the ball sharply hit into the most double plays even if they possess great speed.

In 2011, Adrien Gonzalez, who does not have great speed, has hit into 25 double plays to lead the American League, while Albert Pujols has equaled Gonzalez to lead the National League.

Cal Ripken Jr. holds the career record by grounding into 350 double plays, followed by Ivan Rodriguez’ 336 and Hank Aaron’s 328, which brings us to Mickey Mantle.

No one, with the possible exception of Babe Ruth, hit the ball harder than Mantle, but no one was faster than Mantle until his final few seasons.

From his rookie season in 1951 through and including 1964, Mantle hit into an average of five double plays a season. In both 1953 and 1961, he hit into but two double plays.

Dick McAuliffe (1968 Detroit Tigers) and Craig Biggio (1997 Houston Astros) and Augie Galan (1935 Chicago Cubs) played the entire season without grounding into a double play.

McAuliffe hit left-handed but Biggio batted from the right side, which makes the feat more remarkable. Galan, like Mantle, was a switch-hitter.

Mantle walked 1,733 times and struck out 1,710 times, which contributed to the low of double plays he hit into. You can’t ground into a double play if you don’t hit the ball.

No data are available with respect to Mantle’s ground ball to fly ball ratio.

Mantle played on strong offensive teams most of his career. Under Casey Stengel, he batted third, often with a runner on base.

When Ralph Houk took over in 1961, he had Mantle hit fourth, behind Roger Maris. In 1961, Maris ensured that Mantle would not have the opportunity to ground into a double play. We all know why.

Double plays are worse than strikeouts almost all time. Both are rally-killers but double plays either retire the side or leave the offense with only one out.

When he played, Mantle was excoriated for his strikeouts. He averaged 115 strikeouts over a 162 game season. Today, that is considered about average for a slugger.

The great Alex Rodriguez, whose strikeouts have never been an issue, averages 129 a season. Manny Ramirez, a great slugger, averaged 128 strikeouts a season.

It was a different game when Mantle was active, but the rules were the same. Strikeouts were counter-productive but not as bad as double plays.

It is about time that one of Mantle’s greatest strengths was that fact that he didn’t kill rallies by grounding into double plays.

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