The 2008 season is officially in the books, capping my first full season covering baseball everyday. What a season it was, as well, with all sorts of events and storylines making for one extremely entertaining seven months. With that in mind, all of us here at Fangraphs are going to discuss some of our favorite moments of this past season. For me, one of the best parts of this season occurred in the early stages, and it involved following Chipper Jones and his quest for a .400+ batting average.
Nobody has posted a batting average of .400+ since 1941, when Ted Williams hit .406. Granted, batting averageis a relatively meaningless stat from a pure evaluative standpoint, but the idea of someone posting one of .400 or higher resonates in the minds of fans whenever somebody comes close. Rod Carew hit .388 in 1977; George Brett hit .390 in 1980; Tony Gwynn hit .394 in 1994; but nobody was able to reach Williams’ mark of .406 since then.
Through 20 games, Chipper Jones had 34 hits in 79 at bats, en route to a .430/.466/.709 line. After 40 games, he was 64-156, for a .410/.475/.679 line. And after 60 games, which took us past the halfway point of June, Chipper had recorded 93 hits in 222 at bats, producing a line of .419/.504/.676. From June 12 to July 9, Jones struggled, going 15-66, for a .227/.370/.424 line, ultimately ending his quest for the gaudy .400 batting average.
Overall, he finished with a slash line of .364/.470/.574, still fantastic numbers. With a batting average of .364, he fell just shy of Mickey Mantle‘s .365 batting average record for a switch-hitter in a single season. Chipper won the batting title in the senior circuit, becoming the first switch-hitter to do so since 1991, when fellow Brave Terry Pendleton led the league. Chipper finished strong as well, hitting .408/.561/.612 in September to close out the season. And in medium leverage situations, Chipper did hit .408, so he managed to surpass .400 in one aspect of the season, but regardless, his quest for .400 well into June is my third highlight of the 2008 season.
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