The Last of the .360 Hitters
For the last few weeks, Joe Posnanski has been counting down all 34 guys on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, giving thoughts, stats, whether they'll get in the Hall this year or eventually, etc. It's been fun. Yesterday, he was at No. 20 on the list, Magglio Ordonez. Halfway through, Poz writes:
We should talk about that batting title for a minute; in 2007, Ordóñez hit .363 with a league-leading 54 doubles, 28 homers, 117 runs and 139 RBIs. He finished second in the MVP balloting to A-Rod, who mashed 54 homers.
It's that .363 average that stands out, of course — it's the second-highest average for any player over the last decade (behind Joe Mauer's .365 in 2009).
That inspired this: the last player to hit in the ...
- .350s: Josh Hamilton, Texas: .359 in 2010
- .360s: Joe Mauer, Minnesota: .365 in 2009
- .370s: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle: .372 in 2004
- .380s: Rod Carew, Minnesota: .388 in 1977 *
- .390s: Tony Gwynn, San Diego: .394 in 1994 **
- .400s: Ted Williams, Boston: .406 in 1941
* Two guys have hit greater than Carew's .388 since then: Brett in '80 and Gwynn in '94. But no one else has hit in the .380s. ***
** If you want a non-strike year, you'd have to go Brett in '80. But even with the '94 season ending on Aug. 11, Gwynn had almost as many plate appearances (475) as Brett in '80 (515).
*** Unless you don't round up, that is. Then it's Brett with .3898 in '80.
Batting average, as a statistic, has taken a beating over the last few years — and rightfully so because it is illogical. Batting average refuses to acknowledge pretty important things like walks. And it calculates capriciously. If you hit a ball that probably should have been caught, batting average gives you an out even though you didn't make an out. If you bunt a runner from first to second, batting average will let you slide on the out you made, but if you dribble a grounder that moves a runner from first to second, that out goes on your permanent record. And so on.
Still, there's something nostalgic about high-average seasons like Ordóñez's 2007 season ... because they're basically gone.
Decades with .360-plus batting average.
- 1970s: 4
- 1980s: 6
- 1990s: 10
- 2000s: 8
- 2010s: 0
The main reason is those strikeouts. Everybody, even the very best players (ESPECIALLY the very best players) strikes out a lot. And no player who has ever hit .360 or better has had 100 strikeouts. It's basic math — it's POSSIBLE to hit .360 with 100 strikeouts, but it would be very hard because you give away too many free outs.