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Scott K

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Joe Mauer, plate appearances, and hitting .400

News Type: Opinion — Wed Jun 17, 2009 1:57 PM EDT

Aaron Gleeman

Joe Mauer won Player of the Month honors for his ridiculous May performance, hitting .414 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 28 games after spending all of April on the disabled list with a back injury. And he's actually raised his batting average so far in June.

Mauer went 4-for-4 last night, making him 26-for-57 (.456) this month while raising his overall average to .429. Missing the first month of the season leaves him 20 plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title, but Mauer has been so amazing that even going 0-for-20 in those imaginary trips to the plate would leave him with an MLB-leading .381 mark.

Three years ago Mauer became the first catcher in AL history to win the batting title and the first catcher in MLB history to lead all of baseball in batting average. Then last year Mauer became the first catcher in AL history to win two batting titles. And this year he looks poised to become the first catcher, in either league, to win three batting titles.

Or maybe even make a run at .400. Of course, all you need to know about how hard it is to hit .400 for an entire season is that Mauer has batted .429 through mid-June and, if he continues to walk at the same rate, would need to hit .382 over the remainder of the season to get there with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

He ultimately needs at least 317 more trips to the plate to qualify for the batting title and the list of players who've hit .380 or higher during a season in which they had 300 or more plate appearances over the past 50 years looks like this: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Rod Carew. Of course, the list of highest career batting averages over the past 50 years also looks like this:

AVG

Tony Gwynn .338

Albert Pujols .334

Ichiro Suzuki .334

Roberto Clemente .329

Wade Boggs .328

Todd Helton .328

Rod Carew .328

JOE MAUER .325

Vladimir Guerrero .322

Kirby Puckett .318

With a .429 average in mid-June and a .325 career mark to go along with the lack of April plate appearances, Mauer is as well-positioned to make a serious run at hitting .400 as someone can be 66 games into the season. And yet as Brett, Carew, Gwynn, Todd Helton, John Olerud, Chipper Jones, Nomar Garciaparra, Larry Walker, and basically everyone since Ted Williams in 1941 has learned he still has very little chance of actually getting there.

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