Yeah, we all know - or should - that batting average is far from the best measure of a player's offensive abilities. However, this is simply a bit of fun, and to some extent, we've already covered slugging in yesterday's home-run question. So, we'll take the caveats as read, and today, we're simply asking who is going to lead the 2011 version of the Diamondbacks in batting average.
Single-season Champions [qualifying hitters only]
- 1998: Devon White, .279
- 1999: Luis Gonzales, .336
- 2000: Luis Gonzales, .311
- 2001: Luis Gonzales, .325
- 2002: Junior Spivey, .301
- 2003: Luis Gonzales, .304
- 2004: Shea Hillenbrand, .310
- 2005: Chad Tracy, .308
- 2006: Conor Jackson, .291
- 2007: Orlando Hudson, .294
- 2008: Conor Jackson. .300
- 2009: Justin Upton, .300
- 2010: Kelly Johnson, .284
Historically, the median is at .301, but the past five years have all been below that mark - the last Diamondbacks to hit better than .300 was Chad Tracy in 2005. Will anyone do better this year? Here are who I think will be the top candidates for this category in the upcoming season.
Stephen Drew. High: .291 (2008). Last year: .278. Career: .272
Drew's main issue is probably consistency. He has has good months - such as August last year, where he hit .310 (with a .303 BABIP, so wasn't "lucky"). Or even over more extended periods, such as his insane second-half in 2008, when it seemed he got a hit every time up, batting at a .326 clip. That has led to expectations, or hopes, to which he hasn't quite been able to live up. He pushed Johnson close last year; just four more hits over the course of the year would have given Drew top-spot.
Kelly Johnson. High: .287 (2008). Last year: .284. Career: .269
KJ's career numbers are lowered by a disappointing rookie year (.241 in 87 games), and also the injury-affected 2009 (.224 in 106), which made the Braves non-tender him, to our benefit.. Excluding those, his career number is up at .283, almost identical to the number last season. That may have been BABIP-assisted, as Johnson posted a .339 figure, more than twenty points above his career figure there. On the other hand, his line-drive percentage was a career-high 21%, which lends itself to a high BABIP. Can he repeat that?
Melvin Mora. High: .340 (2004). Last year: .285. Career: .278
Mora has the best career average of any of our candidates. And while his peak season took place when Upton was in high-school, his number for the Rockies last year was better than any D-back managed, albeit over fewer at-bats (316). That could have been somewhat due to BABIP (.324, vs. career .307) and the spacious confines of Coors, but Chase isn't all that far behind in terms of hitter friendliness these days. But Mora is now aged 39, and no-one that age has hit even .280 in 400+ PAs, since Jeff Kent in 2008.
Justin Upton. High: .300 (2009). Last year: .272. Career: .272
I'm tempted to copy and paste yesterday's comments regarding Upton, since much of it applies here too - the first step is that we hope he gets enough at-bats to qualify. With regard to his average, my main concern is a career BABIP of .345, despite a line-drive rate exactly at league-average (19%); I'm curious what's powering that, and whether it can be sustained through another season; after 1,700+ trips to the plate, it's fairly anomalous. Maybe J-Up can use his speed to leg out some more bunt hits this year.