Posted by Brady
Tonight, while watching the Twins and Rangers game, ESPN kept on cutting to segments of an interview with new Rangers owner, Nolan Ryan. And me, not particularly interested in the boring, predictable things he was probably saying (we’re going to be competitive for a long time, I love this franchise, I hate pitch counts!), I used this time to go get a bowl of ice cream, or a can of coke. I did however her Nolan Ryan say something very interesting. “Josh Hamilton is the closest thing to Willie Mays we’ve seen.” That statement absolutely floored me. This is no slight to Josh Hamilton, the man is a very impressive player, with power for days, and he has a fantastic glove in the outfield, but…Willie Mays?
Now, when comparing a player from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, keep in mind that a lot of data just isn’t available. No UZR, no plate discipline information, there is a lot of stuff that just isn’t available.
The man who owns 660 home runs, and 3283 hits. Or, in other words, one out of every five of his hits left the yard. He walked more than he struck out 10 times, he was successful in stealing a base 338 times out of an attempted 441 times. 77% of the time he was successful.
Mays posted ISO (a personal favorite statistic) of .300 or more on 4 separate occasions. Keep in mind he didn’t play in a bandbox by any means. The Polo Grounds, Candlestick Park, and Shea Stadium were all cavernous. In short, Willie Mays did whatever Willie Mays wanted, and nobody was going to stop him from doing it. Mays accumulated 163 WAR over his career. Essentialy, he could’ve gone undefeated in your standard AL Central season. A beast in every since of the word.
Now…Josh Hamilton? The man is a great ballplayer, and had he gotten to the league quicker, had not abused drugs, maybe this could be a conversation. It took him 7 years to make it to the bigs. His career started in Cincinnati in 2007. And in those 4 years, he has absolutely raked. 537 hits and 90 home runs. Six hits per home run, and while that is only one more hit than Mays, if you stretch that out over as long of a career as Mays had, one hit makes all the difference. Over his career, Hamilton has stolen 28 bases, and has been caught only 8 times. Thirty-six attempts, which is great, but Mays stole 40 in his age 25 season. Where was Hamilton in his age 25 season? Not in the Major Leagues. Hamilton has yet to post an ISO of .300. By the time Mays was 29, which is how old Hamilton is now, he had don it twice, and once had a .292 season.
And I understand that Nolan Ryan was trying to pump his player up, like any front office does, but, honestly. That was a little extreme.
How does ESPN counter Ryan’s claim? “I don’t see the Willie Mays comparison. He’s much more like Mickey Mantle.”