Luis Arraez and Flirting with .400

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.

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Richard Chester
Richard Chester
3 months ago

The furthest a qualified batter has gone into a season with a .400+ BA, and not finish the season with a .400+ BA, is 153 games by Rogers Hornsby in 1921. In game number 154, the Cards’ last game, he went 0 for 4 and saw his BA drop from .400 to .397.

Doug
Doug
3 months ago

Blanking righty batter Hornsby that day was Pirate southpaw Wilbur Cooper who, pitching on two days rest, collected his NL-leading 22nd win with an 11 hit, 5 walk CG in which he faced 42 batters but allowed only three to score. To Hornsby’s credit, he didn’t sit out the mean nothing contest to ensure he kept that .400 BA. If Hornsby had sat, I’m guessing someone else would have been pitching for the Pirates (alternatively, maybe Cooper was going for that win to lead the league; he entered the game tied with Burleigh Grimes, who also pitched and won that… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Doug
Tom
Tom
3 months ago

Arraez is pronounced Ah-ra-es. The last syllable is like rest without a t. Whenever someone hits .400 in the early season, and people start speculating, and extrapolating, I always think of Carney Lansford in 1988. Through 55 games, he was hitting .402, 92-229. He was on the cover of Baseball Weekly in early June, The article asked if he could hit .400 for the season, noting that he was a former batting champ, hitting .336 for Boston in 1981. The rest of the 1988 season. Lansford went 63 for 327, .193, He finished the season at .279. Not saying Arraez… Read more »

Doug
Doug
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Agreed Tom. Still early, and the odds against Arraez hitting .400 for the year are pretty long.

The ah-RISE pronunciation comes from Baseball-Reference.

Tom
Tom
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Ah-ra-es.comes from Luis Arraez himself. See:

https://twitter.com/morsecode/status/1131316768750727168?lang=en

In Spanish, you pronounce every letter, except for H (although you do pronounce H when following a C), and sometimes U. U is silent when it follows Q or when sandwiched between a G and an E or a G and an I. The G rule doesn’t apply when the u has two double dots.

no statistician but
no statistician but
3 months ago

Doug: Another temporary return from retirement: To me, the most interesting fact to assimilate from your first table is that it includes two players from the same exact team, the 1930 Phillies. In the first 65 games those lucky Phillies had not one but a pair of .400 hitters, Lefty O’Doul and Chuck Klein. Klein went on to set NL records for Doubles, Runs Scored, and Total Bases, and the latter two records still stand going on for 93 years later. So how did those Phillies fare with the twin powerhouses at the heart of their lineup? After 65 games… Read more »

Doug
Doug
3 months ago

Nice observations, nsb. I suppose what distinguishes championship teams from the rest are not the star players (most teams have one or two of these), but the contributions of the supporting cast. In the case of the 1930 Phillies, Klein and O’Doul combined for 11.1 WAR, but the rest of the team was -3.7 WAR. As for pitching, Collins and Benge provided 6.4 WAR, but the rest of the staff was -6 WAR. The total is 6.8 team WAR. Replacement level in a 154 game season is 45 wins. Seven more is 52, exactly the number of games those Phillies… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug

If Luis, now batting .382 were to hit his career average of .314 (prior to this season) over the Marlins’ final 94 games, he would end up at .342 (194/567). Just glancing at the numbers, his walk rate doesn’t seem impressive and a huge percentage of his offensive value is tied to batting average which, in turn is tied to his .390+ BABIP. But, it sure doesn’t hurt to have a .380 hitter in the lineup. I’d bat him 3rd or cleanup and live with the GIDP’s

Paul E
Paul E
3 months ago

NSB, The 1929/1930 Phillies averaged roughly 6.8 R/G at home; 5.0 on the road. The RF fence was about 280′ from home plate and over 30′ high resulting in a lot of fly ball extra base hits that otherwise may have been outs. It kind of makes sense that these players winning batting titles are playing in friendly home quarters and their pitching staffs are tested – Fenway is definitely a LHB (Boggs, Yaz, Williams) friendly park with all those opposite field lazy fly balls turning into singles and doubles off the wall. IIRC George Sisler and Musial may have… Read more »

Doug
Doug
3 months ago

Posting this piece jinxed Arraez, of course, as he promptly went 1 for 17 over the 4 games following this post to lower his BA to .378. But, he’s gone 11 for 14 since that mini-slump, including a pair of 5-hit games, to get back to .400. Arraez might have had a 6 for 6 night on the 19th against Toronto, but Marlins’ manager Skip Schumaker sent up a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning of a 10-0 game, with a position player on the mound for the Blue Jays.

Voomo
Voomo
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Three 5-hit games in a calendar month:

Cobb
Sisler
Winfield
Arreaz

I didnt look that up myself. Dont know that it is true for sure…

Voomo
Voomo
3 months ago
Reply to  Voomo

Meant to say “only” times it has been done in a calendar month.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
3 months ago
Reply to  Voomo

I ran Stathead and it confirmed those 4 names.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago

Here are those games.

I added Heinie Manush to the list, as he also recorded three 5 hit games in a span of 31 days.

Arraez is the 22nd player since 1901 with three or more 5-hit games in a season. One more will tie him with Cobb, Musial, Gwynn and Ichiro for the record of four such games in a season.

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
2 months ago

Elly De La Cruz’s cycle on June 23rd in his 15th game was the third fastest from the start of a career since 1901, and second fastest in a 9-inning game, behind only Gary Ward (14th game) and Cliff Heathcote (6th game, cycle completed in 11th inning). De La Cruz becomes the 5th youngest to hit for the cycle since 1901, and the seventh to do so before his 22nd birthday. In the same game, Joey Votto’s two homers make him the 6th player aged 39 or older with 3 or more home runs over his first 4 games of… Read more »