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3.1 x 60 Could = .400

August 2, 2020

Hugh Atkins

The pandemic-shortened season may give Major League Baseball its first official .400 hitter since 1941. The goal is for each team to play 60 games, which means any player with 186 plate appearances (3.1 PAs per game) will qualify for the batting title; however it still will be difficult for the shortened season to produce a .400 hitter. Of the five players with the highest batting averages since Ted Williams hit .406, none was hitting .400 through their team’s first 60 games.

In 1994, Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres finished the season with a .394 batting average. That season came to an abrupt end on August 11 due to the players strike, costing Gwynn 35 games in his quest for a .400 season. He dropped below .400 after 30 games. Had the 1994 season ended after the Padres’ sixtieth game, Gwynn would have finished with a .378 average.

© T.C.G.

In 1980, George Brett of the Kansas City Royals finished the season with a .390 average. He was hitting .400 through 134 of his team’s games, which is the deepest into a season a player has been at .400 since 1941; however, through the Royals’ first 60 games, Brett was batting .337. Injuries limited Brett to just 117 games in 1980, and his 515 plate appearances were just 13 more than he needed to qualify for the batting title.

In 1957, Williams finished the season with a .388 average, but he dropped below .400 after Boston’s twenty-first game; through 60 games, he was hitting .360.

In 1977, Rod Carew of the Minnesota Twins also finished the season with a .388 average. He was hitting .388 through the Twins’ sixtieth game and was above .400 through 85 games. Carew racked up 239 hits in 616 at-bats and 694 plate appearances, so this was a solid .388 average.

In 1999, Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies finished the season with a .379 average. He fell below .400 after 33 games and was hitting .353 through 60 games.

Since 1941 at least five players made it through their team’s first 60 games while batting over .400. The last to do it was Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves. In 2008, he was hitting .409 after the Braves’ first 60 games and made it through 73 games before dipped below .400. Jones finished the season at .364 and won his only National League batting title.

© T.C.G.

In 1997, Walker was hitting .417 through Colorado’s first 60 games and held onto his .400 average through the team’s first 96 games; he finished the season at .366.

In the strike-shortened season of 1994, Paul O’Neill of the New York Yankees also was hitting .417 through the team’s first 60 games, but after three more games, he dropped below .400.  He finished the year at .359, winning the American League batting title.

In 1983, Carew, by then with the California Angels, was hitting .411 through his team’s first 60 games and was over .400 through 85 games. Carew finished the season at .339. It was his fifteenth consecutive and final season with an average over .300.

In 1948, Stan “the Man” Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals was hitting .408 through his team’s first 60 games. He stayed above .400 through the Cardinals’ seventy-sixth game. Musial finished the season at .376, winning the third of his seven National League batting titles.

Just over a week into the season only two players are hitting over .400. At this point, however, the biggest challenge to hitting .400 will be keeping the season going in the midst of a pandemic.

(Statistics are from Baseball-Reference and RetrosheetGame details are from Retrosheet.)


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