In 1941, Ted Williams hit .406. That was the last time anyone hit over the .400 to end a major league baseball season. Others have come close since. Tony Gwynn hit .394 in 1994 and George Brett hit .390 in 1980, among those those have finished baseball seasons with high averages. But none have been able to achieve the vaunted .400 mark.
With a shortened 60-game season ready to kick off, the idea of a .400 season has never been more plausible in modern baseball. In fact, there have been a number of players that have had a .400 batting average over the first sixty games.
Sarah Langs of MLB.com recently published a piece about this very thing highlighting twelve players that have the potential to hit .400. Not surprisingly, Christian Yelich was on this list. Her analysis suggests that Yelich is very capable of carrying a .400 batting average throughout the season.
Yelich’s best sixty game stretch regarding batting average happened in 2018. During a stretch that spanned the dates of July 14 - September 23, that year’s National League MVP hit .365. While being very hot at the plate at that time, he still was no where close to .400.
Langs suggests that Yelich ability against both fastballs and breaking balls could be advantageous for him for a .400 chase. Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com goes a bit further. He identifies Yelich as the most likely player to top a .400 batting average. He identifies Yelich’s hard hit and exit velocity numbers coupled with an 87th percentile sprint speed and left-handed bat as his unique assets that give him a leg up on the competition. Other sites have listed Yelich as a leading candidate to hit .400. In fact, Yelich seems to be on everyone of these lists. Craig Edwards of Fangraphs even put a probability percentage to it. Edwards thinks there is a .22% probablility it gets done.
It just makes sense to put Christian Yelich on these types of lists. He is one of the greatest hitters of this generation. With that, it is my opinion that a .400 batting average is more likely to be achieved by a hitter who has great bat-to-ball skills, but also looks to hit early in counts, does not strike out a lot, and hits well with two strikes.
Yelich is a patient hitter that is looking to drive the ball. In other words, the face of the Brewers’ franchise is not looking to slap the ball just out of reach of the shortstop. He is looking for a pitch to hit really hard. That hitting mentality might not be best for someone to hit .400. Plus pitchers are going to do their darnedest not to give in to Yelich. He will also take his walks. Yelich also does not perform all that great with two strikes from a batting average perspective. In 2019 he hit just .237 with two strikes. He does pretty well in the power department with two strikes though. He hit 16 home runs in two strike counts.
It is not out of the realm of possibility for Yelich to hit .400. Other sluggers have had hot 60-game stretches that reached that mark. However, I think there are other MLB hitters that have the approach to do it more than Yelich. Jose Altuve and D.J. LeMahieu come quickest to mind.
By the way, who cares if Yelich hits .400 in the whole scheme of things? I don’t expect he will. What I do expect is that Christian Yelich produces runs at a very high clip, hits for a good average while doing significant damage in more important areas like OPS, disrupts the in-game strategy of Brewers’ opponents, and challenges for another National League MVP.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference