June 17, 2009
After Tuesday's four-hit performance, Joe Mauer's(notes) batting average is a ridiculous .429. He's reached base safely in 16 straight games and he's hitting .456 this month. In Minnesota, they started having the Ted Williams conversation two weeks ago.
No, not the freeze-Mauer's-head conversation. The other one -- the .400 discussion.
Mauer doesn't quite qualify for the batting average leaderboard just yet because he hasn't reached the minimum number of plate appearances. However, since Mauer would still lead the A.L. in average if you added the appropriate number of hitless at-bats to his current total, he'd be awarded the title if the season ended today. That's MLB's rule, not mine. (Rule 10.22 to be precise). Mauer would get to keep his .429 average, too.
Don't completely dismiss .400 as an impossibility in the modern era. It's a plateau that's actually been reached over stretches of 162 consecutive games in recent years, though not within a single season. Tony Gwynn hit .402 between July 27, 1993 and May 13, 1995; Wade Boggs hit .401 between June 9, 1985 and June 6, 1986.
Mauer has had terrific luck on balls in play this year (.443 BABIP), and you can't reasonably expect that pace to continue. Still, the 26-year-old does have a pair of batting crowns to his credit. It's not difficult to argue that Mauer is a hitter of Gwynn/Boggs quality. If he continues to draw walks at his current rate (13.3 BB%) and he manages to get another 320 plate appearances, this blog's research department believes that a .386 rest-of-season average would allow Mauer to finish at .400.
Of course, a .386 average is crazy-high. It's a wild longshot and Mauer plays baseball's most physically demanding position. But if he were to DH a bit more frequently, and if he were to keep his at-bat total low, and if he could take advantage of rule 10.22, well...it's not entirely unimaginable, right?
Let's hear your forecast in comments. Some of us have midseason drafts tonight, and projecting Mauer is an urgent matter.
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