It's 2018: Do You Know Where Your .350 Hitters Are?
Since WWII, no one's had more .350+ seasons than this guy. Or .360+ seasons. Or .370+. Or...
Yesterday, perhaps inspired by the Seattle Mariners signing 44-year-old Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal, Bill James tweeted the following:
Three active players have qualified for the batting title and hit .350: Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols twice, and Ichiro Suzuki four times.— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) March 7, 2018
That seemed about right. I'd recently researched guys who hit over .350, and in the wake of James' tweet I did it again. And yes, no one has hit .350 or better since Josh Hamilton's .359 in 2010. But wait, wasn't Hamilton an active player? Nope. Drug relapse in 2015, didn't play in 2016, and last year signed a minor-league deal with Texas but knee issues resurfaced and he was released in April. He hasn't played an official game since Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS—that crazy, Jose Bautista bat-flip game. Hamilton went 1-3 with a double and an RBI.
Anyway, looking at that 7-year gap without a .350 hitter, I began to wonder how common it was. I assumed it was kind of common. It's tough to hit .350, after all.
But no, that's the record. It's the longest baseball has gone without a .350 hitter. Ever.
The previous record was five years, 1962-1966, after they raised the mound in the wake of Maris/Mantle. Clemente hit .357 in 1967, but that was the only .350+ season during the raised-mound years.
Here's the longest dearths without seeing .350:
- 7 (and counting): 2011-2017
- 5: 1962-1966
- 4: 1952-1955
- 4: 1989-1992
No three years in a row, btw. A few scattered twos.
And here are the number of seasons per decade without a .350 hitter:
- 1900s: 0
- 1910s: 0
- 1920s: 0
- 1930s: 1
Yes. We didn't have our first .350-less year in the 20th century until 1938. We had three in the 19th century. Onward.
- 1940s: 1
- 1950s: 5
- 1960s: 8
- 1970s: 4
- 1980s: 3
- 1990s: 3
- 2000s: 2
- 2010s: 7
For the record, and not counting round-ups (.3497, for example, which knocks off one of Ichiro‘s), we’ve had 79 instances of players hitting .350 or better since Ted Williams' .400 in 1941. Tony Gwynn leads the pack—he did it six times—followed by Stan Musial and Wade Boggs with five each.
.360+ seasons since ‘41? Thirty-five: from Musial in ’46 to Joe Mauer in 2009. Boggs and Gwynn are tied for the most with four.
.370+ seasons? Twelve: from Musial in ‘48 to Ichiro in 2004. Gwynn has three. No one else has two.
.380+? Just four: Ted Williams’ .388 in ‘57, Rod Carew’s .388 in ‘77, George Brett’s .389 in ‘80 and Gwynn’s .393 in the strike-shortened ‘94 season.
And what’s the closest we‘ve come to .350 since Josh Hamilton? DJ LeMahieu’s .3478 in 2016. So we‘re not far off. We’re just not there. Unprecedentedly.