How TA could go full Ted Williams and bat .400 this season originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Batting .400 in a season has long seemed like one of baseball’s unbreakable records.
But after Tim Anderson raised his batting average eight points in one night, it doesn’t seem so ludicrous to suggest that his .377 batting average — tops in baseball and putting the White Sox shortstop on track for his second straight batting title — could grow another 23 points over the regular season’s final 12 games.
Yes, perhaps “TA7” needs to start being referred to as “Timmy Ballgame.”
Anderson banged out three more hits, including a home run, in Tuesday night’s White Sox win over the Minnesota Twins. It was his ninth game of the season with at least three hits and his 19th multi-hit game of the campaign. He’s only gone hitless nine times.
And though there really hasn’t been a moment this season in which Anderson hasn't been on fire, he’s been especially hot since returning from a brief stay on the injured list in early August, with a jaw-dropping .386/.427/.614 slash line in his last 31 games.
Anderson is one of the White Sox two top candidates for American League MVP honors, along with first baseman José Abreu. He leads the AL in batting average and runs scored, ranking second in hits and on-base percentage and third in OPS.
It’s been a remarkable evolution for the guy who hit .240 in 2018.
Though as he closes in on his second batting title and whatever other awards and accomplishments, Anderson has said numerous times, dating back to spring training, that he’s looking for something a whole lot bigger than an individual honor.
“You don’t get much from personal goals,” he said again Monday. “You try to get something you can share with the squad. Championships we remember way more than batting titles or whatever else comes with individual awards.
“I definitely want to get a championship. That’s the biggest thing. Forget those individual stats, I want a championship.”
But a player hitting .400? That’s Hall-of-Fame type stuff right there. It’s something Major League Baseball hasn’t seen since 1941. Ted Williams hit .406 for the Boston Red Sox that year, and no one has hit .400 or better over the course of a full season since.
So how can Anderson do it?
He’s averaging about 4.2 at-bats per game this season, and with 12 regular-season games left on the White Sox schedule, that comes out to just about 50 at-bats remaining over the course of those dozen contests. He came into Wednesday night’s game hitting .377 on the season. The fewest amount of hits he can get in those 50 at-bats and finish with a season batting average above .400 is 24. So that means he basically needs to hit .500 over the final 12 games. That number can obviously fluctuate depending on the number of at-bats he actually gets. But that’s one scenario.
Of course, even if Anderson stayed smoking hot and kept his average climbing all the way to and over the .400 plateau, those who spend their time debating baseball history would have something to say about his doing it in a shortened 60-game season.
Anderson, though, has a thought to contribute.
“I did that,” he said earlier this week, asked what his statistical accomplishments, whatever they are, would mean in a shortened season. “These games still count. Let’s not get confused.
“I do go out every day and compete against top pitching. Whether it’s 60 games or 162 games, let’s not forget you are competing at the highest level and that’s not easy to do.
“So let’s not take this for granted that I’m hitting what I’m hitting. I need a little respect.”
Well, those folks can argue all they’d like. Nothing would deserve respect more than hitting .400.
The question then becomes: If Anderson hits .400 this season, could he still lose the AL MVP race to his own teammate?
Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.