Arraez captures back-to-back batting titles

October 4th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- ": batting champ 2022-23."

Marlins closer Tanner Scott walked around the visitors’ clubhouse at PNC Park on Sunday morning with an empty bottle of champagne for his teammates to sign. Arraez jumped at the opportunity to write out his latest accolade for the first time.

The 26-year-old Arraez became only the second player in the Modern Era to capture a batting title in both leagues, joining DJ LeMahieu (Rockies in 2016, Yankees in ‘20), and the first to do so in back-to-back seasons. His .354 average (147 games) is the highest in a full season since the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton's .359 in 2010. The 17-point gap over the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. (.337) is the largest in the league since '18, when Mookie Betts (.346) led Red Sox teammate J.D. Martinez (.330) by 16 points.

"It means a lot," Arraez said. "I worked hard for this. I worked hard to help my team win, and this is amazing. And I can't wait until we get to 27 outs today and then they come and say, 'Hey, you won the batting title again.' It's making me happy because I work hard."

The Marlins entered last offseason aiming to upgrade their lineup and complement their talented pitching staff. The Winter Meetings came and went without much movement. Then in January, general manager Kim Ng dealt from the organization's starting-pitching depth to acquire reigning American League batting champion Arraez from the Twins for right-hander Pablo López. It has been a win-win for both postseason-bound clubs.

In just his 12th game as a Marlin, Arraez recorded the first cycle in franchise history. He collected three five-hits games during a 14-game stretch in June, and he flirted with .400 through the All-Star break. The Venezuelan is the third Marlin to reach the 200-hit plateau in a season, and his 203 knocks ranked third in MLB.

"We've said it before, what we were looking for for our lineup, we were looking for pure hitters, and obviously he fits that mold," Ng told in July. "Obviously, I didn't know him like I do now. He's hard to appreciate until you see him every day. And that's not anything against him, especially in the right stretch. But nonetheless, when you watch his barrel control, when you watch how he approaches his at-bats, you can look at the numbers, but you still don't appreciate actually watching what he does pitch to pitch."

Arraez's 7.8% whiff rate ranks as the second-lowest mark in a qualified season in the Statcast era (since 2015), behind his own 7.1% from last season. With just 34 strikeouts in 617 plate appearances, Arraez became the first player since Placido Polanco (Tigers) and Juan Pierre (Dodgers) in 2007 to finish a season with more than 600 plate appearances while striking out less than 40 times.

Mentor Nelson Cruz, who took Arraez under his wing during their overlapping time with the Twins, compared him to Ichiro Suzuki in his prime. Both can find holes in the defense and aim hits.

"He's special," Cruz told over the summer. "You don't find that type of hitter, especially in this day and age. It's hard to find this type of hitter. We know he can hit. He's really intense. He can focus on every single pitch, and he fights for that pitch like that's the end of his life. He doesn't want to give up pitches, he doesn't want to give up at-bats. It doesn't matter the situation, doesn't matter the scoreboard. He will go out there and give everything he has every single pitch. Besides the great hitter that he is, that's what makes him special. He doesn't give up pitches."

Arraez hasn't started since Sept. 23, when he aggravated his left ankle sprain tripping on the dugout stairs at the end of the eighth inning. His only game action since came on a pinch-hit single in Friday's win.

Arraez is hopeful for a return to the lineup for the National League Wild Card Series against the Phillies, which will begin on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Miami could use its leadoff batter and All-Star second baseman.

“Incredible year,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “It felt like he was hitting .400 the majority of the year. When he slumped, he hit .360. It's insane to think about. Again, he's the heartbeat of our lineup, and it just feels really good when he's in it. It's been not so fun with him out of it lately, but he's one of the better hitters I've ever seen. Just the way he manipulates the barrel and controls the strike zone, and he's had a lot of big hits, too, wasn't just like singles. It was walk-off hits and timely hits, and I'm looking forward to seeing him on Tuesday.”