Paul Konerko and the Rest of the over .350 Club: Who Is Most Likely to Hit .400?
Over a quarter of the season has passed and there are a handful of players that have averages above .350, some of which you would not be surprised with and others that would shock anyone prior to this season.
An average over .350 is not that rare, in fact from 2008-2010 the MLB batting average leader hit over .360 and Josh Hamilton led the league in 2011 with a .359 average.
The question is still out there though, are any of these players capable of maintaining the average over the entire season and raising it a bit to get over .400?
Let's take a look at the guys hitting over .350 in 2012 and which ones are the most likely to be chasing .400 as the season winds down.
We'll begin with the least likeliest and one of the most surprising name on the list, Melky Cabrera.
6. Melky Cabrera
The Melk Man is off to a ridiculous start this season. He is currently third in the MLB with a .369 average and has four home runs and 25 RBI to go with it. Cabrera leads all of baseball with 73 hits.
So who is to say he can't approach .400 when the season ends?
For starters, Melky is a career .280 hitter who has also only hit over .300 once when he hit .305 last season.
He also hits in a very tough division, the NL West, and it is only a matter of time before the elite pitchers get to him. Will his average plummet? Probably not, especially considering the breakout year he had last year.
There is definitely a positive trend with Cabrera but not a good enough one to threaten .400.
5. Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz
Chooch is off to one of the most shocking starts of the season in 2012. He continues to perform better as the season progresses and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Ruiz is a career .272 hitter however and has only gone over .300 once in his career when he hit .302 in 2010.
He is probably the best feel good story of the season but the magical year can only go so far. He will likely come back down to earth, although it would not be shocking to see him finish the year around .330.
Ruiz is currently fifth in the MLB with a batting average of .366 with seven home runs and 29 RBI.
The one thing Ruiz has going for him is his low strikeout rate. He has only struck out 15 times this season and whenever you put the ball in play, there is a chance that a fielder does not get to it.
4. Paul Konerko
He is the hottest hitter thus far and is sporting a cool MLB-leading .399 batting average. The formula is simple for Konerko: Maintain the same production all year and he might get to .400.
Is it really possible that a 36-year-old veteran can lead the league in average and attempt to do something that has not been done in 70 years?
Well, he certainly has the luxury of having his average close to .400 already but it is going to be hard for him to do it all season. He is bound to tire out throughout the year and his production will suffer.
His previous career high is .312 in 2010 and although he won't hit .400 this season, he will set a new career high. At this point in his career, it is a remarkable achievement for Konerko.
3. Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp is on his way back from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss time on the disabled list. Before he went on the DL, he was hitting .359 but cooled off considerably once the injury began to bother him.
If Kemp is completely healed then he might have the best chance to complete the feat. If he runs into problems with the hamstring as the season continues however, then he will not be able to keep his average up.
He is an intense player and gives it his all every time he takes the field. If he is hindered by the though of a recurring hamstring injury, then he might not have it all together for a while.
He might be the most likeliest to do it this season if the time off healed him but if it didn't then he might fall quickly.
For now, there are two other guys who have better averages thus far and have been healthy for the most part this season.
2. David Wright
David Wright is having a tremendous bounce-back season and is currently second in the MLB with a .382 average.
Wright will likely become an even better hitter at home as the season progresses but will definitely drop off with his road production (.309 home average vs. .438 on the road.)
He is very capable of keeping his average pretty high all year, but he is in arguable the best pitching division in all of baseball. With the big three in Philly and the statistically best pitching staff in the league residing in Washington D.C., it is going to be increasingly difficult for Wright to keep it up.
Wright hit over .300 for five consecutive seasons from 2005-2009 but has not done so since then. He will lead the NL in batting average at the end of the season but unfortunately, he will not hit .400 and will not lead all of the MLB in 2012.
1. Josh Hamilton
Hamilton has already shown that he can post insane numbers in a season, as he hit .359 in 2010 in 133 games.
He also has proven that the second half of the season is no problem for him. In his career he has hit .313 both before and after the All-Star break.
Hamilton is not going to tire out and slow down after the break and that is an encouraging sign when debating whether or not he can maintain his .368 average going forward.
Hamilton has incredibly consistent numbers this season as well. Entering Sunday, Hamilton was hitting .367 versus left-handers and .368 versus righties.
He is hitting .389 on the road and .345 at home this year, leaving room for improvement at his home ballpark. Once it heats up in Arlington, more balls will be flying out of the yard and Hamilton's average will only creep higher and higher.
In 2010 when Hamilton hit .359, he was shut down at the end of the season because of injury. Who knows how much higher his average would have been that year if he finished out the season.
Perhaps in 2012 we will have a chance to see what happens if he can stay healthy all year at the pace he is currently on.
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