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Friday, September 30, 2016

Bigger deal in 1941: hitting .400 or hitting in 56 consecutive games?

There's going to be a special TV program about Ted Williams being the most recent, and probably last, player to have a batting average (BA) of at least .400. In promotional excerpts the usual suspects are seen rhapsodizing about the entire nation following Williams in 1941.

Rk Player Year BA Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Nap Lajoie 1901 .426 26 PHA AL 131 582 544 145 232 48 14 14 125 24 9 13 1 27 .463 .643 1.106 *46
2 Shoeless Joe Jackson 1911 .408 23 CLE AL 147 641 571 126 233 45 19 7 83 56 43 8 6 41 .468 .590 1.058 *98
3 Ty Cobb 1911 .420 24 DET AL 146 654 591 147 248 47 24 8 127 44 43 8 11 83 .467 .621 1.088 *8
4 Ty Cobb 1912 .409 25 DET AL 140 609 553 120 226 30 23 7 83 43 30 5 8 61 34 .456 .584 1.040 *8
5 George Sisler 1920 .407 27 SLB AL 154 692 631 137 257 49 18 19 122 46 19 2 13 42 17 .449 .632 1.082 *3/1
6 Ty Cobb 1922 .401 35 DET AL 137 613 526 99 211 42 16 4 99 55 24 4 27 9 13 .462 .565 1.026 *8/H
7 Rogers Hornsby 1922 .401 26 STL NL 154 704 623 141 250 46 14 42 152 65 50 1 15 17 12 .459 .722 1.181 *4
8 George Sisler 1922 .420 29 SLB AL 142 655 586 134 246 42 18 8 105 49 14 3 16 51 19 .467 .594 1.061 *3/H
9 Harry Heilmann 1923 .403 28 DET AL 144 627 524 121 211 44 11 18 115 74 40 5 23 9 7 .481 .632 1.113 *93/H
10 Rogers Hornsby 1924 .424 28 STL NL 143 642 536 121 227 43 14 25 94 89 32 2 13 5 12 .507 .696 1.203 *4
11 Rogers Hornsby 1925 .403 29 STL NL 138 606 504 133 203 41 10 39 143 83 39 2 16 5 3 .489 .756 1.245 *4/H
12 Bill Terry 1930 .401 31 NYG NL 154 708 633 139 254 39 15 23 129 57 33 1 19 8 .452 .619 1.071 *3
13 Ted Williams 1941 .406 22 BOS AL 143 606 456 135 185 33 3 37 120 147 27 3 0 10 2 4 .553 .735 1.287 *7H/9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/30/2016.

Williams fans love to point out that Williams hit for a higher BA than Joe DiMaggio during DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak that same season: May 15 through July 16. Something I learned recently that impacts how we think about DiMaggio's streak is that the Yankee games were not on the radio in New York that season. Neither were the games of the New York Giants. As far as I know all the other teams had their home games on local radio. But this should make us wonder at least a little about just how different things were back then.

This afternoon on the MLB Network I heard Chris Russo talking about retiring Dodger announcer Vin Scully and asking Joe Torre, who was a Giants fan as a kid in Brooklyn, about people walking down the street and hearing the games from one house to the next on transistor radios. TRANSISTOR radios? Before the Dodgers and Giants moved to California for the 1958 season? I doubt that. But we can easily transfer our current perspective back in time in a way that may be inappropriate.

The stats above show that a .400 BA had been done a dozen times before 1941 in the modern era, which is generally traced back to 1901. It had only been 11 years since the previous .400 hitter.

Since 1941 the same number of batters had hit at least .370: 13. Here they are:

Rk Player Year BA Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Ichiro Suzuki 2004 .372 30 SEA AL 161 762 704 101 262 24 5 8 60 49 19 63 4 2 3 6 36 11 .414 .455 .869 *9/DH
2 Barry Bonds 2002 .370 37 SFG NL 143 612 403 117 149 31 2 46 110 198 68 47 9 0 2 4 9 2 .582 .799 1.381 *7/DH
3 Nomar Garciaparra 2000 .372 26 BOS AL 140 599 529 104 197 51 3 21 96 61 20 50 2 0 7 8 5 2 .434 .599 1.033 *6/HD
4 Todd Helton 2000 .372 26 COL NL 160 697 580 138 216 59 2 42 147 103 22 61 4 0 10 12 5 3 .463 .698 1.162 *3/H
5 Larry Walker 1999 .379 32 COL NL 127 513 438 108 166 26 4 37 115 57 8 52 12 0 6 12 11 4 .458 .710 1.168 *9H/D
6 Tony Gwynn 1997 .372 37 SDP NL 149 651 592 97 220 49 2 17 119 43 12 28 3 1 12 12 12 5 .409 .547 .957 *9/HD
7 Tony Gwynn 1994 .394 34 SDP NL 110 475 419 79 165 35 1 12 64 48 16 19 2 1 5 20 5 0 .454 .568 1.022 *9/H8
8 Andres Galarraga 1993 .370 32 COL NL 120 506 470 71 174 35 4 22 98 24 12 73 6 0 6 9 2 4 .403 .602 1.005 *3/H
9 Tony Gwynn 1987 .370 27 SDP NL 157 680 589 119 218 36 13 7 54 82 26 35 3 2 4 13 56 12 .447 .511 .958 *9/H
10 George Brett 1980 .390 27 KCR AL 117 515 449 87 175 33 9 24 118 58 16 22 1 0 7 11 15 6 .454 .664 1.118 *5/H3
11 Rod Carew 1977 .388 31 MIN AL 155 694 616 128 239 38 16 14 100 69 15 55 3 1 5 6 23 13 .449 .570 1.019 *3/H4D
12 Ted Williams 1957 .388 38 BOS AL 132 547 420 96 163 28 1 38 87 119 33 43 5 0 2 11 0 1 .526 .731 1.257 *7/H
13 Stan Musial 1948 .376 27 STL NL 155 698 611 135 230 46 18 39 131 79 34 3 1 18 7 .450 .702 1.152 *987/3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/30/2016.

Ichiro Suzuki is the most recent but we don't get all mushy about it. It's not a record like the 262 hits that Ichiro had that same season. Ted Williams 1941 BA is not a record either.

There's probably no way to know but in 1941 were people more worked up about DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, which was a record, or with Williams .406 BA?

Ted Williams: the mythology of the final games of 1941. Thursday, October 13, 2011

DiMaggio hitting streak not on radio in New York. Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ted Williams hit .394 in 1941 against teams not the Yankees. Monday, August 15, 2016

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