Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

Joe Mauer’s Batting Title Average — An Ephemeral Stat

Posted by verywellthen on June 15, 2009

[Update: Joe Mauer now qualifies for the batting title — this post is now irrelevant.]

 

Under the “Tony Gwynn Rule” Joe Mauer just took the batting title lead.

Apply the batting title criteria to Joe Mauer’s stats and Joe took the lead for the batting crown over the weekend, capped by his 3 for 5 performance against the Cubs on Sunday.    Joe doesn’t have the “qualifying” plate appearances – but you don’t need all those PA’s to truly qualify, you just pay a major penalty if you’re short.

Call it the “Tony Gwynn” rule, if you will.  The rule has been around since 1967, but it was Tony who benefitted from the rule in 1996 — a season where he ended up 5 plate appearances short of the batting title threshold of 3.1 plate appearances per game.  

Tony’s season ending average was .353, ahead of Ellis Burks’ .344.   Ellis had the highest batting average of any National Leaguer who qualified for the batting title.  Did he take home the batting crown?  No.  The rule allows for trading in a player’s deficient PA’s for outs.  Apply a theoretical zero-for-five day to Tony’s stats to get him to 503,*  and Tony’s batting average would have been .349, keeping him ahead of Ellis.   

* Most use 502 as the qualifying PA’s, but I come up with 503 using my canons of construction to interpret the horribly worded Official Major League Rule 10.22(a).    The rule establishes a “minimum” of “as many or more total appearances at the plate” “as the number of games scheduled” multiplied by 3.1.     The rule includes an example, which misses in its attempt to add clarity.  The example reads: “If a major league schedules 162 games for each club, 502 plate appearances qualify (162 times 3.1 equals 502)” (emphasis mine).   

162 times 3.1 does not equal 502.  It equals 502.2.  If 502.2 is a “minimum” then 503 is the first integer above the minimum.    When interpreting a statute, I would look to the text for the meaning, and give little credit to an illustration with loose math. 

Tony’s official batting average that year remained at .353, of course, but what if Ellis had hit .350? Tony would have appeared second on the batting title list with a .353 average, confusing future stat gazers who would see a .350 ranking higher on the list.    I’ll do what any baseball geek does when he wants to minimize confusion — I’ll create a new stat (yeah, right).    Tony’s batting average that year was .353, but his “Batting Title Average” (BTA) was .349. 

As of close of business today (Sunday, June 14, 2009), Joe Mauer’s batting average is .413.   His 181 plate appearances leave him 21 short of the 202 necessary for the Twins’ 65 games to date.   Adding a hypothetical O-fer 21 streak to Joe’s season gives him a .364 BTA.  Ichiro has a batting average (if you’re above the minimum, your BTA and BA are the same)  of .360 as I type this.    A season-ending strike breaks out overnight and Joe is the champion. 

The batting leader lists of MLB, ESPN, et al.  won’t bother to adjust for this dynamic during the season.    There’d be too much ‘splainin’ to do.    I doubt I’ll have the time to update this chart during the next few weeks until Joe catches up and it just won’t matter anymore.   But here it is, shown below in a chart — a moment in the season when there is a secret champion. 

 

 

 

2009 AL BTA Leaders  as of the date below plus the top 2 in the 1996 NL race. 

UPDATE:  [Observation about Batting Title Average :  If Joe Mauer sits a game, his batting average stays the same, but his Batting Title Average drops (an assumed 0 for 3.1). ]

                     [Another observation about BTA:  Walks don’t impact BA, but improve BTA b/c they count toward plate appearances to reduce shortfall without assuming an out.]

End of July 5, 2009            
Player At Bats Hits PA’s Games Average PA Shortfall Batting Title Average
               
Joe Mauer 216 84 256 83 0.389 2 0.385
Ichiro Suzuki 323 117 342 81 0.362 0 0.362
               
Gwynn 96 451 159 498 162 0.353 5 0.349
Burks 96 613 211 685 162 0.344 0 0.344

 

[Original posting on 6//14/09 — the stats used as the basis of the article above.]

Player At Bats Hits PA’s Games Average PA Shortfall Batting Title Average
Joe    Mauer

152

63

181

65

0.414

21

0.364

Ichiro Suzuki

242

87

257

63

0.360

0

0.360

Kevin Youkilis

172

57

216

63

0.331

0

0.331

Victor Martinez

242

82

331

65

0.339

0

0.339

Justin Morneau

249

82

287

65

0.329

0

0.329

               
Tony Gwynn 96

451

159

498

162

0.353

5

0.349

Ellis Burks 96

613

211

685

162

0.344

0

0.344

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One Response to “Joe Mauer’s Batting Title Average — An Ephemeral Stat”

  1. […] Very Well Then explains to us that Joe Mauer is already leading the American League in Batting Average despite being 21 plate appearances short of 3.1 per Twins game. […]

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