July 12, 2023, 7:09 a.m. ET
Luis Arraez has his chance in history.
The Miami Marlins’ second baseman entered the second half of the season with a . 383 batting average, putting him within striking distance to finish the season at . 400. 400 over a full season since Ted Williams in 1941. He would do it against pitchers throwing 100 miles an hour regularly, defenses that had all his hitting tendencies on video. , and in an environment where strength and patience are emphasized more than contact.
380 through the All-Star break since 1980, and none since the 2000 season. For just how high of a mountain Arraez still has to climb, here’s what happened to each of them in second round:
2000: Nomar Garciaparra (.389), Darin Erstad (.384), Todd Helton (.383)
Even in a 2000 season with high averages, Nomar Garciaparra stood above average. Chuck Solomon/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images
The 2000 MLB season wasn’t heaven for big pitchers. The team batted . 270 overall (compared to . 248 in 2023), which partly explains why the three players flirted with . 400 at the All-Star break. In all three cases, their second half was just damn good rather than potentially legendary. Garciaparra and Helton won the AL and NL batting titles with a . 372 average, while Erstad finished at . 355.
1999: Larry Walker (.382)
Say what you will about the Colorado Rockies player getting a Coors Field push, but Larry Walker can pull it off. Walker owned 1,410 OPS homes in 1999 – to be sure in a world of absurdity – but his . 894 road OPS pales in comparison. In this case, instead of the spike he needed to get to .400. Walker’s second-half average fell to just .374. Not too bad.
1997: Larry Walker (.398), Tony Gwynn (.394)
400 at break in 1997, raising the very real possibility that the barrier could be broken twice in the same season. However, as is often the case in this kind of chase, the two players weren’t too down on the back of Earth for a bit. Walker hit . 328 in the second half and Gwynn hit . 344, bringing his season-ending totals to . 366 and . 372 respectively.
1994: Tony Gwynn (.383), Frank Thomas (.383), Paul O’Neill (.382)
Tony Gwynn’s 1994 season was one of the great “what ifs” in MLB history. Jonathan Daniel/Getty’s image
This one’s sick. The 1994 MLB season ended on August 11 with a strike that lasted into the start of the 1995 campaign. Thomas and O’Neill fell early in the second half, both posting under-. 300 averages, but Gwynn fired up. From the end of the All-Star break to the start of the strike, Gwynn hit an astounding . 423, taking his final average to . 394. Who knows where he will end up if the season is played out?
1993: John Olerud (.395), Andrés Galarraga (.391)
300, but they accomplished a lot in 1993. Olerud dropped to a . 324 average in the second half, and Galarraga hit . 342. They had to settle for just winning the batting title in their respective leagues.
1983: Carew’s Stem (.402)
Rod Carew had plenty of tank left in his 1983 season. Owen C. Shaw/Getty image
Carew is one of the greatest contact hitters in history and had hit . 388 in 1997, but at 37 years old in 1983, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would be impossible for him to challenge the . 400 barrier. He clearly has a lot left in the tank, however, and at the All-Star break his average was two points over that holy mark. 280 cut his final average to .339, a distant second in the American League to Wade Boggs’ .361.