One year after we “all rose” for Aaron Judge‘s successful quest for the AL single-season home run record, Luis Arraez (pronounced ah-RISE, per Baseball-Reference) is giving us another reason to get to our feet, as he chases one of baseball’s holiest grails, maintaining a .400 batting average as the season approaches its halfway point. More after the jump.
Judge’s 62 home runs last season were all the more impressive because he was so far ahead of every other player, with 16 more home runs than the majors’ second best total by Kyle Schwarber, and 22 more than the AL runner-up Mike Trout. It’s a similar story so far this year with Arraez, as Freddie Freeman‘s .336 BA is the second best in the majors, but fully 66 points behind Arraez’s leading mark of .402.
That .402 BA through games of Sat, Jun 10th puts Arraez in a very select group of 22 players since 1901 with a qualified .400+ BA over their team’s first 65 games.
Most of these players are, of course, in the Hall of Fame, and the ones that aren’t all had distinguished careers. Obscure players certainly have caught lightning in a bottle before, and posted a gaudy batting average to start a season. But, all of them came crashing back to earth before the season got too far along, and certainly before the 65 game mark that represents 40% of a 162 game schedule.
Arraez entered this season, his 5th in the majors, with a career .314 BA, including an AL-leading .316 last season with the Twins. He is thus poised to become just the second player (after D.J. LeMahieu) to win batting titles in both leagues, but the first to do so in two full-length seasons and, of course, the first to do so in consecutive seasons.
That .314 BA over his first four seasons places Arraez 58th since 1901 among players with 1500+ PA over that part of their careers. The best 5th season BA among the 98 such players within +/- 10 points of Arraez’s .314 BA belongs to none other than Ty Cobb, with a .377 mark in 1909 after a .324 BA over his first four seasons, followed by Nomar Garciaparra with .372 in 2000 after .322 for 1996-99.
Arraez started the year with a 2 for 4 game on opening day, and didn’t see his batting average drop below .400 until May 10th, in his 34th game. Maintaining a .400+ season BA (measured at the end of each game) for 33 games from the start of the season ranks as the 12th longest such streak since 1901, among players with qualifying PA for the streak. Here’s that list.
Nap Lajoie is the only player of the modern era to go wire-to-wire with a .400+ BA. It should be noted, though, that he was playing in an expansion season with all of his games against expansion teams. That said, his season start was truly remarkable, maintaining a .600 BA through his first 15 games, and a .500 BA through 23 games. But, if you harbor doubts about the quality of pitching in the AL’s inaugural season, Harry Heilmann‘s 1921 streak was only 7 games shorter, the first of three appearances on this list for the Tiger right-fielder.