Not a single baseball fan believes that New York Mets third baseman David Wright will be batting .400 by the end of September, not even David Wright. But it’s fun to follow along as the days and games go by and he still maintains his high average.
Going into Tuesday night’s New York-Pittsburgh Pirates game, Wright is hitting .415. Given the trajectory of Wright’s career and its historical precedent, he will consider the 2012 season a success if he bats .315. We can all dream, and we will all be riveted to the stats lists as long as he holds steady above .400, but it will be a huge surprise if he is still there by the end of June.
Twice within the last week I have seen Wright play, once in person, once on television, and I am due to catch him again. In both of the previous games he had two hits and he also walked. Those unofficial at-bats sprinkled in will help a hot hitter keep the average rising if he still gets his hits in those other plate appearances.
Wright, who turns 30 late this year, is a five-time All-Star. He has won two Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Slugger Awards. His career average was .304 entering the 2012 season. So it is not as if he has come completely from nowhere to be hitting .415 seven weeks into the season.
Hitting .400 in Major League ball was a relatively common occurrence through the first 25 years of the 20th century. But as has often been noted, the last time a player topped .400 was Ted Williams in 1941. The Red Sox outfielder finished at .406.
In all a .400 average has been recorded 28 times. Ty Cobb batted .400 three times. So did Rogers Hornsby and Ed Delahanty. Hugh Duffy, who batted .440 in 1894, recorded the highest single-season average of all. Billy Terry, then with the New York Giants, hit .401 in 1930 and that’s the last time a National League player has accomplished the feat. Only 13 of the 28 .400 seasons were recorded in the 20th century.
The odds against Wright joining the heaviest of the heavy hitters are astronomical. What a treat it would be if Wright could defy them and pull off the achievement. Wright is the most recognizable player on the Mets and is popular in New York. He has a charitable foundation, which can’t hurt a good-guy image. And he has been a very solid performer for the Mets since 2004.
Wright either has his name stamped on several Mets records, or is on the verge of setting new ones. There have been likelier characters around baseball to make a run at .400 over the years. Although they are past their hitting primes right now, Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners, and Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, seemed like better prospects to do it.
Going back a little bit Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres, winner of eight batting titles, and possessor of a .394 average in the strike-shortened 1994 season, would have been the most obvious candidate of the last several decades to exceed .400. George Brett of the Kansas City Royals hit .390 in 1980 and is the only player since 1941 to carry a .400 average until September.
But none of those guys, and none of their predecessors going back to the 1950s, could stay above .400 for the season.
How long can David Wright keep this up? Don’t know. He has not been in my top group of favorite ballplayers. He doesn’t play for a team I root for. But I will be rooting for Wright to keep those hits coming.
Topics: .400 Hitting, All-Star, Bill Terry, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, David Wright, Ed Delahanty, George Brett, Hugh Duffy, Ichiro Suzuki, Kansas City Royals, New York Giants, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Rogers Hornsby, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Ted Williams, Todd Helton, Tony Gwynn, Ty Cobb