Losing at .400

Ed Delahanty

It’s been a long time since anyone won a batting title by hitting .400. You have to go all the way back to Ted Williams in 1941 to find one. But you know what’s kind of odd? There are a handful of guys who’ve hit .400 and not won the batting title. Here’s a quick list of them.

First, one of my caveats. This includes on the period since the beginning of the National League in 1876. In the old National Association there were a couple of occasions when someone hit .400 and didn’t win the batting title, but those were incredibly short seasons. There surely were players who hit over .400 in the even older Association of the 1860s and didn’t win a title, but we don’t have enough information to determine them. So it’s at least easier to find the players since 1876 (OK, I’ll admit to being lazy).

1887-Tip O’Neill wins the American Association (it was a Major League in 1887) batting title at .435. Runner up Pete Browning hit .402.

1894-There was something in the water in Philadelphia in 1894 when the entire City of Brotherly Love outfield, and their primary outfield sub all hit .400. Billy Hamilton hit .403. Ed Delahanty hit .405. Sam Thompson hit .415. That was the starting outfield in Philly. Super sub Tuck Turner hit .418. And none of them won the batting title. Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy managed to hit a still record .440 to take the batting title.

1895-Delahanty again hit over .400, this time coming in at .404. Again he lost the batting title. This time to fellow Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett who hit .405.

1896-This time Hughie Jennings hit over .400 by ending up at .401. Burkett again won the title. He managed .410.

That does it for the 19th Century and I suppose I ought to take a moment to remind you that the National League moved the mound back to 60′ 6″ just before the big outbreak of .400 hitting in 1894. Some hitters adjusted more quickly and obviously a lot of pitchers didn’t.

1911-Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .408, which is the record high in the 20th Century for a hitter that didn’t win a batting title. He lost to Ty Cobb who hit .420.

1922-Cobb was on the other end of hitting .400 and losing the batting title in 1922. He hit .401 and lost to George Sisler who hit .420. Interestingly enough, Rogers Hornsby won the National League title at .401. Had he been in the American League, he would have also joined the batting title losers who hit .400.

Thought you might like to know.


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5 Responses to “Losing at .400”

  1. William Miller Says:

    What would you say is the biggest reason why, apparently, we’ll never see another player ever hit .400 again? Would you say it’s quality relief pitching, better defensive metrics (which place defenders in the optimal position for them to make a play), or something else?

    • verdun2 Says:

      I wouldn’t argue against either of those things, plus I might add that there are now 8 more games per season than in 1941 (which is 8 more games to lose batting points). I’m sure there are others.

    • wkkortas Says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say there is an outside chance we will have another .400 hitter– I think someone will respond to all the shifting in baseball (which I think has allowed a lot of guys to play infield who wouldn’t have the range to do so without it) by going the Matty Alou route and hitting the ball on the grounds to all fields–someone could sneak in a .400 season before the game has a chance to adjust to that approach.

  2. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    Good grief … the entire 1894 Phillies outfield each batted .400+? There were points this season when the entire Orioles outfield didn’t bat .400 when all three of their BAs were added together. (Slight exaggeration. Slight.)

    Loved this post!

  3. Precious Sanders Says:

    This is fascinating. Thanks for this!

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