A Biography in 1,000 Players No. 43 Joe DiMaggio (Number 5 Center Field)

Joe DiMaggio in 43rd position. How can he be so low? Well what probably hurt him most is he played only 13 seasons. He also got hurt quite often missing a few games during the season. In only 6 of his 13 years did he play at least 139 games. He missed three years for World War II, but it doesn’t seem he came back the same player. He had 6 or more in a season six times. He did it 5 of the 7 years before World War II and only 1 of the 6 years after World War II. I gave some points to players to served in the military, but it wasn’t as much as they normally got in a season. Others might give them more of a break.

Some people say DiMaggio is the all-time center fielder on the Yankees, placing him against Mickey Mantle. While conceding that Mantle was a better hitter, they said DiMaggio was a better fielder and base runner. They also say Mantle has more WAR as he played longer. However, there is a formula figuring out won loss percentage for WAR, with the number of wins and losses. DiMaggio has an outstanding win-loss record of 113-1 with a .987 win-loss percentage. You can’t get much better that that. Mantle is 154 and -4 with a winning percentage of 1.029. Which means a team of Mickey Mantles would win more games than would play.

DiMaggio had a higher batting average than Mantle, which is good, but Mantle had a higher on base percentage which is more important. Both had solid post season records, neither was great. Mantle did get on base more and hit for more power in the post season. DiMaggio does dominate Mantle on fielding. However, I don’t DiMaggio’s fielding advantage makes up for Mantles hitting advantage. Then it would come down to base running.

Everyone knows that DiMaggio was a better baserunner than Mantle. As some reporters said he never made a mistake. But wait. A big part of base running is stealing bases. DiMaggio didn’t steal many bases. Part of it was the era he played in. For his career he stole 30 out of 39 bases, which was a season for Willie Mays. His 77 percent stolen base rate is very good and he helped a team when he stole bases. One other factor in his last 6 years was DiMaggio was 4 for 6 in stolen bases. Basically, he didn’t steal bases after coming back from the Army. Mantle stole 153 out of 191 bases at a rate of 80 percent. So, Mantle was definitely the better base stealer.

OK, but there are facets to base running like taking extra bases. Baseball Reference tracks that. It says that DiMaggio as a total base runner in his career was 40 runs above average. Mantle was 51 runs above average for his career. Before you complain that Mantle having an edge because he played longer, remember this is above average and players slow down as they edge. I say overall Mantle was the better base runner.

I say Mantle was a better player and played longer. His hitting more than made up for DiMaggio’s fielding. This is quite a feat because Joe DiMaggio was a great-great player.

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Author: Douglas Byzewski

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