When Daniel Murphy returns to New York on Tuesday for his first game at Citi Field with the Nationals, he'll do so as the current Major League batting leader, sporting a .400 batting average.It's a figure that's long eluded Major League hitters. While many have eclipsed .400 for stretches during
When Daniel Murphy returns to New York on Tuesday for his first game at Citi Field with the Nationals, he'll do so as the current Major League batting leader, sporting a .400 batting average.
It's a figure that's long eluded Major League hitters. While many have eclipsed .400 for stretches during a season, no player has finished above the mark in the nearly 75 seasons since Ted Williams hit .406 for the Red Sox in 1941. The closest any batter has come to replicating the feat in a full season was in 1980 when George Brett hit .390 for the Royals. Tony Gwynn bested that average in 1994, hitting .394, but that season was cut short by the players strike and ended on Aug. 11.
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It's premature to put Murphy in the same conversation as early as May -- not to mention his .293 career average -- but he's just the 10th qualified hitter since the turn of the century to bat .400 or better on May 16 or later. Here's a look at the other nine players (according to data from Elias Sports Bureau):
Dee Gordon, Marlins, 2015
Much like Murphy, Gordon was scorching hot at the plate, batting .425 at this point last year. His reign above .400 didn't last much longer, however. Gordon slipped to .395 on May 20, then finished the season as the National League batting champion at .333. His productive year at the plate resulted in a Silver Slugger Award and his second All-Star appearance. He also paced the Majors in stolen bases (58) and earned a Gold Glove Award.
Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 2012
May 16 represented the tipping point for Hamilton. Then a perennial All-Star for the Rangers, Hamilton started the year with hits in 32 of his first 35 games. He was hitting .404 on May 16, but his average dipped to .399 the next day and steadily declined over the course of the season, ending up at .285.
David Wright, Mets, 2012
Wright started the season on a tear, batting .500 (17-for-34) through nine games. He again hit .400 or better from May 15-22 and ended the day above the mark one last time on May 24. The longtime Mets third baseman finished the year with a .306/.391/.492 slash line, making his sixth All-Star team.
Victor Martinez, Indians/Red Sox, 2009
Prior to being dealt to the Red Sox in July, Martinez bolstered his trade value by hitting .284 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 99 games for Cleveland. That included a stretch from May 14-21 in which he was batting at or above .400 for seven straight games. Boston tied for the third-best record in baseball that year (95-67), but fell short of the postseason, finishing second in the American League East to the 103-win Yankees.
Chipper Jones, Braves, 2008
Jones was batting above .400 for 55 consecutive games (54 starts) from April 13 through June 18. And while he couldn't sustain that pace, Jones took home his first Major League batting title with a career-best .364 average, just ahead of then-Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (.357).
Manny Ramirez, Red Sox, 2001
Prior to the season, Ramirez inked an eight-year, $160 million deal with the Red Sox. The outfielder provided an immediate return on that investment by hitting above .400 for much of April and May. Ramirez stayed there through May 26 and finished the year batting .306 with 41 homers en route to one of 12 straight All-Star appearances.
Doug Mientkiewicz, Twins, 2001
Ramirez wasn't the only player batting over .400 in May 2001. He was joined by Mientkiewicz, who fell below .400 just a few days before Ramirez, on May 23. In his first season entrenched as the Twins' full-time first baseman, Mientkiewicz hit .306 with 15 homers and 74 RBIs -- all career bests -- and earned his first Gold Glove Award.
Todd Helton, Rockies, 2000
Helton batted above .400 for much of May and remained there as far as June 10. His average nearly eclipsed .400 again a few months later, getting as close as .399 on Aug. 18 with a three-hit game against the Marlins. That season ended up among the best in Helton's career, as he led the Majors in batting average (.372), doubles (59), RBIs (147), slugging (.698) and OPS (1.162). He was also tops in the NL in on-base percentage (.463) and hits (216).
Nomar Garciaparra, Red Sox, 2000
Unlike Helton, Garciaparra spent just three games at or above .400 in 2000, but he did so later than any other player on this list. Garciaparra reached .400 on July 14 and peaked at .403 after the first game of a doubleheader on July 20. He ended the year with a career-best .372 average, giving him the AL batting title for a second consecutive season.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.