Don Mattingly: Best Player At His Peak?

When looking at Don Mattingly’s Hall of Fame case many journalists mention how Mattingly was the best player in baseball during his peak and before his back was a problem. So that got me thinking- was Don Mattingly truly the best player in baseball during his peak?

Mattingly’s peak was four years- 1984 to 1987. He accumulated a 24.7 fWAR which was good for 6.2 WAR per season or 5.8 WAR/650 PA. So Mattingly was an MVP level player for four seasons- pretty dang good. Mattingly played another eight seasons after 1987 but only had a 3+ WAR season twice and only had 600+ PA a season four times in that span. His average wRC+ was 152 so the man could hit. This was achieved with a high .300’s OBP and mid .500’s SLG.

As the numbers show Mattingly does have a good case for the being the best player in baseball during his peak. But was he really “the best”?

Candidates:

Rickey Henderson- 2392 PA, .289/.397/.484/.391/145+; 274 SB, 26.7 fWAR, 7.3 WAR/650PA

Tim Raines- 2674 PA, .323/.409/.477/.388/146+; 265 SB, 26.6 fWAR, 6.5 WAR/650PA

Wade Boggs- 2844 PA, .353/.442/.489/.411/152+; 31.4 fWAR, 7.2 WAR/650PA

Cal Ripken- 2858 PA, .280/.352/.469/.362/124+; 25.6 fWAR, 5.8 WAR/650PA

Mike Schmidt- 2547 PA, .284/.384/.541/.395/148+; 24.3 fWAR, 6.2 WAR/650PA

Tony Gwynn- 2727 PA, .341/.400/.457/.376/139+; 24.2 fWAR, 5.8 WAR/650PA

After looking at it, I do not think Mattingly was the best player in baseball during his peak. Of the candidates, I would take Henderson, Raines, Boggs, Ripken, and Schmidt over him. Why? When it comes to Henderson and Raines I think both were simply better players. Mattingly certainly had more power, but Rickey and Raines were better OBP who could field, hit, and run. Mattingly was simply a hitter who played first base. That is partly why I would also take Mike Schmidt and Cal Ripken as well. Third and short are more valuable positions- and both Schmidt and Ripken were exceptional fielders who are also all-time hitters at their respective positions. As for Boggs, I think he may be the best player between 1984 and 1987, if not Rickey or Raines.

In the end though, it’s super close and still being a top five player at your peak is still impressive.

 

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One Comment on “Don Mattingly: Best Player At His Peak?”


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