Yes, the Marlins’ Luis Arraez is chasing .400 in 2023

It’s time to officially call it like it is: Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez is chasing baseball’s first .400 batting average since Ted Williams in 1941. After a 5-for-5 outburst against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night, the 26-year-old is sitting at precisely .400 with 73 team games and 282 plate appearances in the books.

He’s almost halfway to a plateau that has been unreachable since World War II, since integration boosted the level of competition, since the sport took its full turn toward modernity.

MLB teams and hitters have embraced the run-scoring efficiency of power out of necessity. They recognize the folly, for most hitters, of trying to string together multiple hits against high-octane pitches designed in a lab to miss bats entirely. Arraez is not so much a throwback as an outlier whose skills are so finely tuned he can recall an era where fastballs weren’t as fast, breaking balls didn’t break as much and strikeouts were failures instead of the cost of doing business.

It’s jarring to think of a statistical chase — in the 2020s! — involving batting average instead of home runs or strikeouts. But that’s where we are. It’s happening. Here’s what you need to know to follow Arraez’s quest.

Luis Arraez’s .400 batting average is already notable

With 73 Marlins games down and Arraez at .400, he’s already making history. Thanks to research from’s Sarah Langs, we know that only one qualified hitter since 2000 has floated above .400 later in the season than Arraez. That was Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in 2000.

By reaching .400 on Monday night, Arraez matched the Atlanta Braves legend Chipper Jones, who dipped below the line — never to return — in the 74th game of the 2008 season.

Going back further, we can start to set some milestones. Since Williams’ actual .400 season in 1941, only four hitters — including Garciaparra — have pushed their chases longer than Arraez’s current run. Garciaparra’s run, the longest of the 2000s, lasted 91 team games.

Here are their marks, and the dates after which Arraez could surpass them based on the Marlins’ schedule:

  • 91 games: Garciaparra in 2000, July 8

  • 96 games: Larry Walker in 1997, July 17

  • 107 games: John Olerud in 1993, July 31

  • 134 games: George Brett in 1980, Aug. 31

Hitting .400 in 2023 would be a much bigger feat than in earlier years

If you’re thinking that Arraez being in the race at all is already more impressive than say, Walker in Coors Field or Brett against less advanced pitching, you’re right.

FanGraphs uses era-adjusted “plus” stats to compare league environments for a variety of stats on a neutral playing field. So because the leaguewide batting average is low, by historic standards, in 2023, Arraez’s current pace is even more remarkable.

His 160 AVG+ — meaning he’s 60% better than league average — thus far would be the best qualified season by an AL/NL hitter not just since 1941, but in the World Series era dating back to 1903.

The closest competitors are mostly from the early days of baseball, with Williams unsurprisingly logging the best full season since integration (.388 AVG, 148 AVG+ in 1957). Closer to our time, Rod Carew’s 1977 (.388 AVG) finished at a 146 AVG+ and Brett’s 1980 (.390 AVG) was a 145 AVG+.

In other words, there’s a decent chance Arraez could still post the most impressive batting average in MLB history without hitting .400.

His Statcast profile doesn’t look like most great hitters. And that’s a good thing

If you dig a level deeper into Arraez’s numbers, you’ll see that he doesn’t actually hit the ball that hard. As the baseball world has become more familiar with Statcast metrics, we have learned what a great hitter’s exit velocity metrics and spray charts tend to look like.

But, as Arraez is showing, the usual path isn’t the only path. He is a great hitter through contact rate and bat control. More than batting average specifically, Arraez’s superpower is his penchant for not striking out. Putting the ball in play at all gives hitters at large more than a 30% chance at getting a hit — the league BABIP is .297, and that doesn’t include home runs. Arraez simply does not strike out. His 5.3% strikeout rate is the best of 157 qualified hitters, and less than half of the fifth-place hitter in that statistic. He has as many doubles as strikeouts this season.

So he benefits from putting the ball in play, and also from doing so in a very specific way. He takes advantage of the “donut hole” in batted ball metrics.

Basically, if you train to hit the ball optimally, you’ll be aiming for an angle between 15 and 30 degrees. Naturally, everyone trains to hit the ball as hard as they can. But hitting the ball at 95 mph — a good exit velocity, in theory — is far less likely to get you a hit at a 20-degree launch angle than hitting it at 80 mph. It’s just far more likely to get you a home run.

Batting averages at a 20-degree launch angle, by exit velocity:

Arraez doesn’t really go for the homers. He just goes for hit after hit after hit, spraying loping liners all around the park that are borderline impossible to defend.

The Twins traded the batting champ now chasing .400

So, the Minnesota Twins did flip Arraez to the Miami Marlins this winter, after he won the AL batting title, for starting pitcher Pablo Lopez. Many harebrained, fun-hating analysts (points at self), praised that deal … for the Twins … by noting that for all his batting average excellence, Arraez lacks a good defensive position and the power to be a true difference-maker.

The critiques are still true, but Arraez has been a huge and much-needed spark for the Marlins offense as they have bolted to a surprising 42-31 start.

So mea culpa, and kudos to the Marlins. With Arraez atop the lineup, they have two chases worth following: .400, and a race for the playoffs.

Jun 19, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez (3) hits a single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the seventh inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 19, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez (3) hits a single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the seventh inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports