The main reasons why it's impossible to reach baseball's most mythic mark are quite plain. Most important is that much as the 60-home run campaign is basically an artifact of the steroid era, the .400 batting average was more or less an artifact of the early live ball era, when fielders hadn't yet adjusted, in terms both of technique and equipment, to new realities of the game. Between 1921 and 1930, batters hit .400 seven times, which is one more time than all major league hitters managed between 1901 and 1920 and between 1931 and the present day. We can either conclude that all the best hitters for average in history peaked in the 1920s and that all the best home run hitters in history peaked in our own time, or we can acknowledge that all baseball numbers are a product of their time, to be viewed with a wary eye.Marchman goes on to make a great point that no one else is making, and that's that for as nice and satisfying as .400 might be, it may be just as big an accomplishment, adjusted for context anyway, for Jones to hit .375 as .406 was for Williams in 1941.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Sweet, Wonderful Context
For as far as we have come in terms of baseball writers recognizing the notion of context, I'm certain that for as long as Chipper Jones stays within shouting distance of .400, we will see 10 mindless "Can Chipper do it?!" articles for every one, like this one from Tim Marchman, which rationally assesses his chances rather than simply concludes "nah probably not":