The Hunt for .400

I know, I know, batting average is an “old school” stat, and we should focus on newer stats, like WAR, or WPA, or OPS+. However, those stats are not available for the Valley League, one, and two, hitting .400 has a legendary place in the history of baseball. (I would LOVE to be able to calculate WAR for the VBL, but our defensive stats aren’t there yet.)

Quick- name the last hitter to hit .400 in the history of major league baseball.

Got it? You knew it, didn’t you? Ted Williams, 1941, .406. You might even know the last two seasons when hitters got really close. Think about it a bit- I’ll come back to it.**

Now, does anyone know who leads the all-time list of highest adjusted OPS+ in a single major league season? Forget the number, can anyone just name the player? If you can, kudos to you, but my guess is that not many of you know that Barry Bonds had an OPS+ of 268 in 2002, which is the highest single-season achievement in the entire history of baseball.

Hitting .400 has always been special, even if we think that the “specialness” is wearing off over time. So this morning I’ll take a quick look at the history of the league, at least since 2004, and who is making a run at this “hallowed” number this season.

First, the list of 6 players who have hit .400 in a Valley League season since 2004:

1 Brad Zebedis Strasburg 2011 0.420
2 Julian Ridings Waynesboro 2012 0.419
3 Luke Greinke Winchester 2007 0.417
4 Gunnar McNeill Staunton 2014 0.414
5 Shane Billings Harrisonburg 2015 0.406
6 Jordan Tarsovich Strasburg 2013 0.404

An impressive list, to be sure.

Now, what’s going on in 2017? Will we have our first .400 hitter since Billings in 2015?

The top four batting averages in the league right now are:

  1. Dominic Canzone, Front Royal: .418 (46-110)
  2. Bradley McClain, Waynesboro: .406 (43-106)
  3. Michael Wielansky, Charlottesville: .398 (47-118)
  4. Danton Hyman, Woodstock: .380 (41-108)

I would say that all four of these players have a shot at joining the top 6, especially given the short VBL season. Even though Hyman is 20 points off right now, he has the speed to pick up a number of infield hits (historically, baseball analysts say that beating out those “dribblers” may make the difference in the end). And if Danton had just three more hits in those 108 at-bats, he would be hitting .407.

If I have the time, I may include a “race for .400” on my daily post, so we can keep tabs the rest of the way. Good luck to all 4!

** The last two highly-publicized shots at .400? Tony Gwynn, who hit .394 in 1994, and George Brett, who hit .390 in 1980.

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One thought on “The Hunt for .400

  1. Race for .400 – a fine topic, John. Suggest balancing it with something for the arms – race for 1.00 ERA?

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