Where Have All the .350 Hitters Gone? Long Time Passing
The last man with a .370+ batting average, Ichiro hit over .350 four times.
Last year, midseason, I wrote a post called “It's 2018: Do You Know Where Your .350 Hitters Are?” and mentioned that, before this decade, in the history of baseball, the longest we'd gone without a .350 hitter was five seasons:
- 5: 1962-1966*
- 4: 1952-1955
- 4: 1989-1992
(* Trivia question: Who is the only player to hit more than .350 in the “pitchers era” 1960s—between the seasons when they raised the strike zone (1962) and lowered the pitchers mound (1969)? Answer: Roberto Clemente, .357 in 1967.)
Well, this decade has blown those numbers away.
In 2004, Ichiro hit .372 (he's the last to hit .370+) and in 2009 Joe Mauer hit .365 (he's the last to hit .360+), and the following year Josh Hamilton hit .359. He's the last guy to hit better than .350. Nobody else did it this decade. It's nine seasons in a row now—nearly double the length of the previous record.
And unlike the 1960s, this is hardly a pitchers decade. Homeruns are booming to an absurd degree. But between (I guess) uppercut swings and SABRmetric defensive shifts, we're seeing fewer and fewer hits.
These are the top batting averages since Hamilton:
- DJ LeMahieu, .348 (2016)
- Miguel Cabrera, .347 (2013)
- Daniel Murphy, .346 (2016)
- Mookie Betts, .346 (2018)
- Jose Altuve, .345 (2017)
- Miguel Cabrera, .344 (2011)
- Jose Altuve, .341 (2014)
This year, the MLB leader was Tim Anderson of the ChiSox with a .335 average. He was the only guy to hit over .330.
I assume this will change at some point. I assume MLB teams will put a premium on spray hitters that will render shifts useless, or someone like Ichiro will come along and just hit and hit and hit.
Or maybe not.