Monday night, the upstart Miami Marlins opened a three-game home series with the Kansas City Royals with a 9-6 come-from-behind win (box score). At 33-28, the Marlins are three games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, and they're currently a half-game up on the Milwaukee Brewers for the third and final National League wild-card spot.
Miami's win Monday was led by (who else?) Luis Arraez, who went 3 for 4 with a double and drove in two runs. Arraez, the reigning American League batting champion, is 10 for 13 in his last three games and is hitting .399/.450/.495 on the season.
"It's huge," Arraez told the Associated Press about his .399 batting average. "I have worked hard for this. But this is just starting. I am not complacent. I want to accomplish more."
Arraez, of course, leads baseball in batting average -- Bo Bichette is a distant second at .333 -- and his .399 average is the tenth highest through a team's first 61 games since 1941, the year Ted Williams hit .406. Williams is the last player to hit .400 in a full season. Here are the highest batting averages through 61 team games since 1941:
|AVG through 61 team games||Final AVG|
1. Chipper Jones, 2008 Braves
2. Larry Walker, 1997 Rockies
3. Paul O'Neill, 1994 Yankees
4. Rod Carew, 1983 Angels
|5. Stan Musial, 1948 Cardinals||.409||.376|
|6. Ted Williams, 1948 Red Sox||.407||.369|
7. Tony Gwynn, 1997 Padres
|8. Ted Williams, 1941 Red Sox||.407||.406|
9. Roberto Alomar, 1996 Orioles
10. Luis Arraez, 2023 Marlins
Incredibly, three of the nine players ahead of Arraez on that list did not go on to win the batting title. Walker, Carew, and Alomar all ultimately fell short despite posting extremely high batting averages. No player has hit .350 in a 162-game season since Josh Hamilton hit .359 in 2010. No player has hit .375 since Walker hit .379 in 1998.
Gwynn (.394 in 1994) and fellow Hall of Famer George Brett (.390 in 1980) are the only players to hit .390 since Williams hit .406 in 1941, and Williams (.388 in 1957) and Carew (.388 in 1973) are the only others who managed to hit even .380 during that time. The odds are strongly against Arraez hitting .400 this year, but he still has a chance to hit .380-plus, which few others have done.
Arraez has struck out only 11 times in 231 plate appearances this season -- that 4.8% strikeout rate is easily the lowest in baseball (Keibert Ruiz is next at 7.8%) -- and he's swung and missed at only 2.6% of the pitches he's seen. Steven Kwan is next lowest at 3.6%. Arraez had a 2.5% swinging strike rate last year, the lowest since Marco Scutaro was at 1.6% in 2013.
For what it's worth, Statcast says Marlins Park is neutral for base hits, though that's an average number, and Arraez is anything but an average hitter. Marlins Park has a large outfield and that means plenty of grass for hits to fall in. It is no coincidence Arraez is hitting .407 at home this season and "only" .390 on the road. He's in the right ballpark to rack up base hits.
The Marlins acquired Arraez from the Minnesota Twins in an offseason trade that sent Pablo López and two prospects north. López has struggled a bit lately, but overall, it has been a win-win trade. The Marlins are certainly happy with their end of it.