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More on Munson (by Gary Kaschak of the Munson HOF Committee)

The Batting Average, Home Runs, and Reality

There was a time in baseball when the batting average meant something— really meant something. Open the Sunday sports section of the newspaper and the baseball statistics were there. Players stats including runs scored, hits, RBI, home runs, followed by the batting average. That players were ranked by batting average meant something. Batting average mattered, and it mattered a lot. While the batting average has taken a back seat to so many new metrics of WAR, OPS and others, it really is no less significant than before. Players need to get on base. They need to knock runners in. They need to advance the runner. Old school baseball. And that’s what Thurman Munson did.

In the history of the American League, deviation in batting average, year-to-year and decade by decade hasn’t changed all that much— especially when comparing to the breakout in home runs over that same time. From a league low of .239 in 1908 to a league high .292 in 1925, the batting average has mostly sustained itself, the only real blip coming between 1920-40 when the AL averaged over .280.

1901-1910: .251

1911-1920: .259

1921-1930: .286

1931-1940: .279

1941-1950: .260

1951-1960: .257

1961-1970: .244

1971-1980: .258

1981-1990: .262

1991-2000: .270

2001-2010: .268

2011-2019: .255

It is interesting to note that the AL batted .255 during Thurman Munson’s career— the third worst batting average decade in AL history.

Why is this significant? Because Thurman Munson played during one of the most suppressed batting average decades. That he batted 37 points over the league average, hit .300 five times and made the top 10 in each of those seasons is a remarkable record and accomplishment. That only 39 others reached the .300 plateau in those five seasons is very telling. And that despite the incredible workload taken on in catching all those innings of all those games, well, we have something else to marvel at about Thurman Munson.

Home Runs

As the importance of the batting average seems to have diminished, the power game in baseball is the new norm. We look at Munson’s home run totals and the tendency to compare his totals to inflated numbers of today is understandable, but unreasonable. Even comparing his numbers to his peers has its flaws. Yankee Stadium and its left-center field dimensions would be a start.

But the Home Run has undergone the most drastic statistical change. Not only was the .300 hitter rare when Munson played, so was the power game. The 2019 New York Yankees clubbed 306 Homers- and didn’t even lead MLB. The 1969 Yankees hit 94, 111 in 1970 and 97 in 1971. That Munson batted third mostly, and power hitters in baseball batted third or fourth during his era speaks highly of his ability to drive in runs- despite his home run totals- and that the home run, while still significant, was much harder to come by.

TEAM AVERAGE HOME RUNS BY DECADE

AMERICAN LEAGUE (1951-2019)

1951-1960: 120

1961-1970: 140

1971-1980: 109

1981-1990: 147

1991-2000: 161

2001-2010: 175

2011-2019: 185

In the more Modern era of baseball illustrated here, AL teams averaged fewer home runs per team than at any other time while he played! Couple that with low league batting averages and the bigger picture of Munson’s stellar career stands out even more. During Munson’s eight complete seasons as a Yankee, he hit 10% of their homers. That’s a 30 home run season on the 2019 Yankees. And while that may be a huge assumption, perhaps it is safer to assume that had he played in today’s era at the new Yankee Stadium and the smaller ballparks, every aspect of offense, including home runs, would be significantly higher.

But, reality is what matters. Big deal he wasn’t one of the top home run hitters, not the prototypical power hitter many writers have mentioned before. Look at everything else on the resume. Check out what Tom Tunison researched and discovered, the defensive metrics and more. There’s your reality.

POST-SEASON COMPS TO HALL OF FAMERS

As debates over the recent ballot rage across the baseball world, there is more evidence that Thurman Munson belongs in the Hall of Fame.

I set out to study six key elements of HOF position players and their post-season statistics and was elated at the results. And when the results were tabulated and players placed in top to bottom order, the already, no doubt in my mind he belongs in the HOF mindset took a giant leap forward.

It’s easy to play with stats looking for positive outcomes. The results, however, were a bit unexpected. Thurman Munson not only appeared at or near the top of each category, he dominated the field. And that made me happy.

Take a look at these stats and I’m sure you’ll agree. Enjoy them for what they are. The need to comment at length about any one category seems irrelevant. They are self-explanatory. Enjoy!

There are 112 Hall of Fame members (position players) to have played in the post season. More than half played in less than 20 games. Some never played at all.

I’ve taken the Top 50 players by numbers of Post-Season At Bats to draw 6 levels of comparisons. And while there is quite a range in number of At Bats between players, overwhelming evidence of Thurman Munson rising to the occasion is presented.

The initial chart lists those 50 players and is in order of Post Season Batting Average. This list was used to make comparisons to each of the categories and does not include non-HOF players.

Chart 1

50 players in order of post-season batting average.

PLAYER .PCT.

1- Paul Molitor .368

2- Lou Gehrig .361

3- THURMAN MUNSON .357

4- George Brett .337

5- Cal Ripken .336

6- Eddie Collins .328

7- Harold Baines .324

8- Babe Ruth .326

9- Roberto Clemente .318

10- Sandy Alomar, Jr. .313

11- Kirby Puckett .309

12- Tony Gwynn .306

13- Brooks Robinson .303

14- Frankie Frisch .294

15- Chipper Jones .287

Goose Goslin .287

17- Duke Snider .286

18- Rickey Henderson .284

19- Gary Carter .280

20- Willie Stargell .278

Reggie Jackson .278

22- Yogi Berra .274

23- Wade Boggs .273

24- Pee Wee Reese .272

25- Joe DiMaggio .271

26- Tim Raines .270

27- Johnny Bench .266

Edgar Martinez .266

29- Vlad Guerrero .263

30- Tony Lazerri .262

31- Eddie Murray .258

32- Mickey Mantle .257

33- Ivan Rodriguez .255

Bill Dickey .255

35- Phil Rizzuto .246

36- Mickey Cochran .245

37- Joe Gordon .243

38- Mike Piazza .242

39- Frank Robinson .238

Tony Perez .238

41- Roy Campanella .237

42- Mike Schmidt .236

Ozzie Smith .236

44- Jackie Robinson. .234

45- Craig Biggio .234

46- Jeff Bagwell .226

47- Jim Thome .211

48- Dave Winfield .208

49- Joe Morgan .182

50- Dave Bancroft .172


Chart 2

(Game played with at least 1 hit)

This chart lists by percentage how often a player had at least one hit in a post season game.

Thurman Munson is the all-time leader.

PLAYER .PCT

1- THURMAN MUNSON 90.0

2- Lou Gehrig 85.3

3- Tony Gwynn 81.5

4- Paul Molitor 79.3

5- Cal Ripken 78.6

6- Goose Goslin 78.1

7- George Brett 76.7

8- Gary Carter 73.3

9- Joe Gordon 72.4

10- Mike Piazza 71.9

11- Harold Baines 71.0

12- Kirby Puckett 70.8

13- Time Raines 70.6

14- Joe DiMaggio 70.6

Eddie Collins 70.6


Chart 3:

The number of Multi-Hits game by percentage of games played.

PLAYER .PCT

1- Cal Ripken 46.4

2- Paul Molitor 41.4

3- THURMAN MUNSON 40.0

Frankie Frisch 40.0

5- Roberto Clemente 38.5

6- Lou Gehrig 38.2

7- George Brett 37.2

8- Eddie Collins 35.3

9- Wade Boggs 33.3

Tony Gwynn 33.3

Kirby Puckett 33.3

12- Harold Baines 32.3

13- Duke Snider 30.6

14- Rickey Henderson 30.0

Gary Carter 30.0


Chart 4

Post-Season hitting streaks – Includes at least one hit in consecutive games played

(overlapping years of play)

NOTE: THURMAN MUNSON appears twice on this list! Had it not been for an 0-5 against KC in the

1977 playoffs, Munson’s hitting streak would have been an incredible 20 games!

PLAYER STREAK

1- Ricky Henderson 15

2- Brooks Robinson 14

Tim Raines 14

4- THURMAN MUNSON. 11

Yogi Berra 11

Ivan Rodriguez 11

7- Babe Ruth 10

Roberto Clemente 10

Willie Stargell 10

Gary Carter 10

Mike Piazza 10

Vlad Guerrero 10

13- THURMAN MUNSON 9

14- George Brett 9

Harold Baines 9


Chart 5:

Increase in Batting Average from Regular Season career average.

When looking into this part baseball history, only 13 of these 50 players exceeded their regular season batting average in the post season! Guess who’s #1…

PLAYER BA

INCREASE

1- THURMAN MUNSON +65

2- Paul Molitor +62

3- Cal Ripken +60

4- Sandy Alomar, Jr +40

5- Brooks Robinson +36

6- Harold Baines +35

7- George Brett +32

8- Lou Gehrig +21

9- Gary Carter +18

10- Reggie Jackson +16

11- Ricky Henderson +5

12- Pee Wee Reese +3

13- Roberto Clemente +1


Chart 6:

Increase in OPS from Regular Season career average

Of the 50 players, just 13 had positive increases on this category

PLAYER OPS

INCREASE

1- Paul Molitor +233

2- George Brett +166

3- Lou Gehrig +134

4- THURMAN MUNSON +118

5- Cal Ripken +78

6- Harold Baines +68

7- Brooks Robinson +62

8- Kirby Puckett +60

9- Babe Ruth +50

10-Johnny Bench +45

11- Reggie Jackson +39

12- Duke Snider +26

13- Gary Carter +13

14- Ricky Henderson +9


FINAL COMPARISON

Players appearing on the TOP 15 from all 6 charts

PLAYER TIMES

1- THURMAN MUNSON 7*

2- George Brett 6

Harold Baines 6

4- Paul Molitor 5

Lou Gehrig 5

Cal Ripken 5

Gary Carter 5

8- Brooks Robinson 4

Ricky Henderson 4

Kirby Puckett 4

Roberto Clemente 4

12- Tony Gwynn 3

Eddie Collins 3

Babe Ruth 3

15- Reggie Jackson 2

Mike Piazza 2

Duke Snider 2

Tim Raines 2

Sandy Alomar Jr 2

Frankie Frisch 2

21- Chipper Jones 1

Goose Goslin 1

Joe Gordon 1

Joe DiMaggio 1

Johnny Bench 1

Willie Stargell 1

Wade Boggs 1

Yogi Berra 1

Ivan Rodriguez 1

Vlad Guerrero 1

Pee Wee Reese 1

 Appeared twice in Post Season Hitting Streak

#ThurmanMunson

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