Troy Tulowitzki, the 29-year-old shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, is trying to do something no batter has done since 1941: hit .400 for the season.
Since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, there have been a few memorable runs at the magical number. Chipper Jones made a run in 2008, but a .270 average in July derailed his chances, leaving him at .364 for the season. Tony Gwynn missed it by three hits in 1994 (.394). Ichiro Suzuki led the league in 2004 when he batted .372 playing for Seattle, while breaking George Sissler’s single-season hits record with 262.
Now it’s Tulowitzki’s turn: He has 42 hits in 103 at-bats (.408 batting average) through Tuesday’s games.
His line-drive rates are up and his BABIP — batting average on balls in play — is at a healthy .402 but still, it won’t be easy.
National League batting champs have topped out at .337 over the past few seasons and it has been more than a decade since anyone flirted with .370 (Barry Bonds, 2002) in the NL.
Strikeouts are also on the rise. Hitters in the National League are striking out more often than ever before. When Ted Williams hit .400, he struck out just 27 times in 606 plate appearances. The league average was 9 percent. Today, batters in the NL strike out almost once every five plate appearances.
Even the ballparks have changed. Tulowitzki’s home park, Coors Field, is still the most hitter-friendly in modern times but the rest of the league has seen parks bring in the fences to accommodate more spectators. For example, Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, had a park factor for hits of 92.9 in 2001 but have since moved to Citi Field where it is now 81.5.
To top it all off, Tulowitzki is not a .400 hitter. His is a career .295 hitter whose career high was set in 2010 (.315). If we assume he stays healthy and gets a total of 409 at bats, the chances of him hitting .400 or better are 0.0001 percent, or 1 in 889,710.