Regardless of whether Luis Arráez hits .400, he’s likely to make history this year.
Three years ago, DJ LeMahieu became the first player in the modern era of baseball (since 1900) to win the batting title in each league. Arráez is on pace to join LeMahieu and become the first to accomplish the feat in consecutive seasons.
But .400? It’s not out of the question, either.
On Saturday, Arráez became the first player in Marlins history to collect five hits and five RBI in a single game. He followed that exceptional performance with two hits on Sunday and another three on Monday, raising his batting average in his first season with Miami to .399 — 66 points better than Bo Bichette, who is the next-closest qualified hitter.
It’s the highest batting average ever this late into a Marlins season, and it stands out in an era in which the statistic has become more obsolete. But even among those who prefer numbers such as OPS and wRC+ to define a player’s offensive performance, what Arráez is doing is remarkable.
Despite posting the lowest hard-hit rate of his career — he ranks 256th out of 262 qualified players — he is getting on base at such a prolific rate that he ranks sixth in OPS overall (.945) with the highest OPS+ (161) in the National League. Every other player in the top nine in OPS has registered double-digit homers. Arráez has one, which occurred on April 11 in Philadelphia, when he also became the first player in Marlins history to hit for the cycle.
The last time a player finished a season hitting at least .400 was in 1948, when the Negro Leagues’ Artie Wilson and Willard Brown each accomplished the feat. The last player in the American or National League was Ted Williams, who hit .406 for the 1941 Boston Red Sox.
Over the past 10 years, the only players to finish a season with a batting average better than .350 were LeMahieu and Juan Soto, when they hit .364 and .351, respectively, in the shortened 2020 season. Since 2000, only four players have hit .370 or better over a full season, and none of them finished close to .400. Ichiro Suzuki (2004), Nomar Garciaparra (2000) and Todd Helton (2000) each hit .372, while Barry Bonds hit a career-best .370 in his 2002 MVP season.
Others have posted similar numbers to Arráez through this point in the year before coming up short of the elusive mark:
- In 2008, Chipper Jones tallied a .400 batting average as late as June 18. He dropped to .394 after a hitless day and stayed below the threshold the rest of the year, finishing the season hitting .364.
- In 2000, Garciaparra raised his average to .403 with a three-hit day in the first game of a July 20 doubleheader before his summer swells came to an end. He went hitless in the second game and, despite winning the batting title, did not return to .400 the rest of the year.
- In 1997, Larry Walker was also hitting over .400 as late as July 17. He finished the first half with a .398 batting average — no player since then has entered the All-Star break with a higher total — but ended the year at .366. Two years later, Walker ended the 1999 season with an even more astounding .379 average, though that came after a late surge.
- In 1994, Tony Gwynn fell under .400 for good on May 16, yet his average never dipped below .376 for the remainder of the strike-shortened campaign. When the season came to a stop on Aug. 12, Gwynn was batting .394, giving him the highest average for a National or American League player since Williams.
- In 1993, John Olerud gave it an even longer run than Walker when he won his lone batting title. Olerud made it all the way to Aug. 2 with a .400 batting average at just 24 years old for the Blue Jays. He finished the season at .363.
The latest anyone has hit .400 in a season since Williams came in 1980 when Hall of Famer George Brett was still above the hallowed mark as of Sept. 4. The eventual AL MVP finished at .390 while hitting 24 home runs.