By Brett Hudson
STARKVILLE — John Cohen had seen all he needed to see by April of Jake Mangum’s freshman season. His freshman phenom carried a .396 batting average out of the third SEC weekend of the season, and starting that week, Cohen put Mangum in the leadoff spot.
Mangum promptly gave Cohen a leadoff walk in a midweek game and consecutive leadoff singles in a weekend series at Florida. Those three days launched what has since become the best leadoff hitting career in Mississippi State baseball history.
Mangum has anywhere between two and eight games at Dudy Noble Field remaining, depending on how the Starkville Regional and potential Starkville Super Regional go, capping an era of leadoff hitting unlikely to be paralleled in the future.
Mangum enters this weekend 67-for-196 (.341) when leading off a game with nine doubles, two triples and three home runs for a slugging of .454. Some notes on his career as a leadoff hitter:
Of his 67 leadoff hits, 21 of them (31.3 percent) have come on the first pitch. He has also led off three games with bunt singles.
His leadoff production has been consistent throughout his career. He had 22 leadoff hits as a junior and has 19 as a senior, so those numbers will likely be somewhat equal by the end of his season. He had 13 in both of his freshman and sophomore seasons, both of those totals limited by not hitting leadoff for the first six weeks as a freshman or the final four weeks as a sophomore.
He’s been particularly lethal at home: 39-for-97 (.402), including both leadoff triples coming at Dudy Noble Field.
Mangum has three leadoff home runs; two of them came against Florida.
One would think Mangum would brutalize Ole Miss in this category as he has in every other, but he has actually struggled in leadoff at-bats against Ole Miss, going 2-for-13 (.153). Here are Mangum’s numbers in leadoff games against every SEC team, with postseason games included.
Mangum’s record as a leadoff hitter on the biggest stages: SEC Tournament (4-7, .571), Regionals (3-7, .428, one home run), Super Regionals (1-5, .200) and Omaha (1-3, .333), for a .409 total batting average in MSU’s first at-bat of postseason games.
But here’s the thing about Jake Mangum, Leadoff Hitter: he is the truest table setter. He doesn’t just produce at a high rate when you allow him to leadoff a game; he does it when he leads off any inning.
We mentioned above that he has 196 at-bats in game leadoff role. He has also has 137 at-bats leading off innings that were not the first inning, thus a grand total of 333 times he has taken the first at-bat in an inning. In those 333 at-bats, Mangum has 119 hits for a .357 batting average and 23 doubles, three triples and three home runs for a slugging of .471.
Some other notes from those 333 at-bats:
He’s awesome both at home and on the road: at home, 61-for-158, .386 and a slugging of .500; on the road, 41-for-120, .341 and a slugging of .483.
Of his 23 doubles in all leadoff situations, 13 of them have come against SEC teams, two each against Alabama, LSU and Florida.
Mangum is a preposterous 8-for-16 in all leadoff situations in regionals.
He has been hit by pitch 12 times to start an inning.
For his career, Mangum is hitting .409 when leading off postseason games and .400 when leading off any inning of a postseason game. With his final Bulldog postseason beginning this weekend, #JakeMangumLeadoffSingles are getting their victory lap.