Arraez big hit in both major leagues


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Luis Arraez may be the best hitter hardly anyone in North America knows about. His middle name is Sangel, but it may as well be Anonymous.

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Luis Arraez may be the best hitter hardly anyone in North America knows about. His middle name is Sangel, but it may as well be Anonymous.

Avid baseball fans surely know about Arraez because he won the American League batting championship last year with the Minnesota Twins. In the off-season, he was traded to the Miami Marlins, but he brought his bat along to the National League team and appears ready to accomplish a rare feat: Back-to-back batting titles in two different leagues.

Only a few players, in the era going back more than half a century to the 1970s, were so-called natural-born hitters. Only a handful could seemingly bat .340 or .350 without blinking, such as Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Larry Walker, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki. In the past 50 years, pitchers have become dominant in the mano-a-mano battle with hitters. Need proof? In 1987, for instance, major league batters hit a combined .261. Last year, that figure was .243.

Miami Marlins infielder Luis Arraez singles to left field during a game against the New York Mets last month. Arraez is off to a strong start this season after winning the American League batting title last year with the Minnesota Twins. (The Associated Press)

Thirteen batters in MLB history have won batting titles with an average over .400, with Ted Williams in 1941 the most recent to do so. That’s 82 years ago.

Since 1970, the highest winning batting average was Gwynn’s .394 in 1994, but that season ended prematurely, on Aug. 12, because of labour problems. Brett hit .390 in 1980 and Carew batted .388 in 1977. Walker’s .379 in 1999 stands out. Suzuki and Todd Helton both hit .372 to win batting titles since 2000.

And now, it appears, Arraez is about to included in the unofficial list of natural hitters. In 2022, Arraez won the AL batting title by hitting .316. The pitching-deficient Twins needed fresh arms and got them from Miami, but had to give up the AL’s best hitter to do so. Arraez’s batting title accomplishment was no fluke. In his first three MLB seasons, the Venezuelan posted batting averages of .334, .321 and .294.

There has been no production reduction since he joined the Marlins. Through 20 games, Arraez was leading the majors with a .444 batting average, going hitless in only three of those games. His closest rival, Ronald Acuna, Jr., was a distant .375.

Do-Hyoung Park of wrote this about Arraez: “When Arraez goes up to the plate, he scans the infield to look for the gaps. His specialty is to dump line drives in front of the outfielders for singles. He rarely swings and misses, and he still has more career walks than strikeouts.”

Luis Arraez may be the most anonymous player bordering on superstardom who exists in Major League Baseball. Fans will be following his progress this season to see if his career .320 batting average has been a fluke, or just a harbinger of hits to come.


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