Desperately Seeking .300


.300 is a magic number in the baseball world. It is a measuring stick, the most basic statistical way to measure the success of a hitter. Sure, there are a million stats that can be pieced together and divided by 162 to justify a player’s worth in any person’s opinion. Hitting .300 though, is what all hitters set out to do at the major league level. Hitting .400? Sure, that would be awesome, but the fact that nobody has done it since 1941. George Brett’s .390 in 1980 is the highest since for a full season.

Hitting .300 is an attainable goal. You won’t get laughed at for saying out loud. It means making an out 70% of your at bats, yet it’s a pretty select club if you can pull it off in a single season. Do it for your career and you just might end up in the Hall of Fame.

Going into Saturday, just 24 players (with enough ABs to qualify) carry a .300 average – total. 12 in each league. Of those 12 in the American League, four are Detroit Tigers and three are Boston Red Sox.

Earlier in the week, there were 15 guys in the AL on that list, and three were Kansas City Royals.

Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Billy Butler all entered Thursday’s game in Seattle hitting .300. A 1-12 combined performance by the trio pulled Gordon and Butler under, but Melky’s hit kept him at the mark.

There’s something mystical about that .300 mark. It’s a statistical speed bump. Often times, you’ll see a guy hover right around it all year, but not be able to stay over it. Alex has been right at the .300 mark all season, but has spent a majority of the time just under it. It truly is an achievement to hit .300, and out of these three, only Butler has been able to achieve that goal. In fact, Billy has hit .300 the past two years.

In recent Royals history, there have been a few guys to hit .300, but the number drops if you’re only looking at guys with 500+ at-bats. Last year, Billy hit .318, but was the only qualifying Royal. In 2009, it was Butler (.301) and Alberto Callaspo (.300 on the dot). In 2008, only David DeJesus had at least 500 ABs and hit .300 (.307).

So, with just 16 games left in the 2011 season, we find five players who have the target in their sights. Who are the Royals who could finish the season with 500 ABs and a .300 average? Let’s look at the candidates:

Alex Gordon
Current BA: .299 170/569
Last 14 Days: .309
Home: .325
Road: .273
VS Sea: .350
VS Min: .308
VS Chi: .333
VS Det: .303
Games Played: 141 — AB/Game: 4.04 — Projected ABs Remaining: 65
Projected: 634 Total AB x .300 = 190 Total Hits – 170 Already Hit = 20 Hits to .300 (20/65 = .308)
Will he? There’s no doubt that this has been Alex’s banner year. It would be great to see him finish strong and hit .300. He’s hitting at the same clip over the past couple of weeks that he’s got to carry the rest of the season to hit that goal. He stacks up pretty well against the four remaining opponents, hitting over .300 against them for the season. I like Alex’s chances to end up over .300 for 2011.

Melky Cabrera
Current BA: .299 (179/599)
Last 14 Days: .269
Home: .273
Road: .322
VS Sea: .238
VS Min: .327
VS Chi: .367
VS Det: .311
Games Played: 141 — AB/Game: 4.23 — Projected ABs Remaining: 68
Projected: 667 Total AB x .300 = 200 Total Hits – 179 Already Hit = 21 Hits to .300 (21/68 = .309)
Will he? Melky has been a pleasant surprise for Royals fans. For better or worse, he’s kept prospects in Omaha this season. He has slumped a bit over the past couple of weeks, and can’t wait to get out of Seattle. Hitting .309 the rest of the way is an attainable goal, especially with the way he’s hit against the other three teams to finish the season. I think that Melky will get over the hump and finally hit that .300 mark.

Billy Butler
Current BA: .295 (158/535)
Last 14 Days: .288
Home: .316
Road: .275
VS Sea: .238
VS Min: .265
VS Chi: .333
VS Det: .238
Games Played: 144 — AB/Game: 3.72 — Projected ABs Remaining: 60
Projected: 595 Total AB x .300 = 179 Total Hits – 158 Already Hit = 21 Hits to .300 (21/60 = .350)
Will he? Billy is the veteran of the group when it comes to hitting .300. It’s not as much of a mental hump as it might be for the others involved. He knows that he is capable of pulling it off. The problem is that Billy hasn’t hit very well against three of the four teams he’ll face in the final 16 games. He has got to catch fire and hit .350, which I think is just too steep. Billy’s a great hitter, but I think he’s going to come up just short of the .300 mark this year.

Eric HosmerCurrent BA: .287 (130/453)
Last 14 Days: .392
Home: .293
Road: .282
VS Sea: .375
VS Min: .281
VS Chi: .323
VS Det: .277
Games Played: 112 — AB/Game: 4.04 — Projected ABs Remaining: 65
Projected: 518 Total AB x .300 = 155 Total Hits – 130 Already Hit = 25 Hits to .300 (25/65 = .385)
Will he? Hosmer’s ability to adjust to hitting at the big league level is one of the great stories of the 2011 Royals, and gives fans something to be very excited about for the future. While it seems like a long shot for him to reach .300 – having to hit .385 the rest of the way, I think he’s got a shot. He’s been killing the ball lately, hitting .392 over the past couple of weeks. I think Hos will make a run at it, but won’t be able to reach the .300 mark. However, a .390 average in his rookie year will give the kid something to be hungry for going into 2012.

Jeff Francoeur
Current BA: .282 (155/549)
Last 14 Days: .280
Home: .291
Road: .275
VS Sea: .412
VS Min: .250
VS Chi: .289
VS Det: .270
Games Played: 141 — AB/Game: 3.89 — Projected ABs Remaining: 62
Projected: 611 Total AB x .300 = 183 Total Hits – 155 Already Hit = 28 Hits to .300 (28/62 = .452)
Will he? Frenchy hit .300 in his rookie year with the Braves – with just 257 ABs. Since then, he’s gotten close (.293 in 2007), but never been able to get back there. He projects to be a solid .280 hitter, which is nothing to be upset about, but I don’t think he’s going to be a .300 hitter. Not this year anyway. He would have to hit almost .500 the rest of the way, and might be able to do it if all 16 games were against Seattle. He doesn’t have great numbers agains the Twins, White Sox, and Tigers. Look for him to land right at .280.

So there you have it. I think that when all is said and done, Gordon and Cabrera will hit .300 – maybe .299999. Either way, it’s nice to have five guys within range of the mark with just a couple of weeks left in the year. These five guys have been the first five in the lineup recently, so that stacks up well for the offense. Now, if we could just find some pitching…

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