Melky Cabrera’s season may be over, but his pursuit of a batting title is not. (Ben Margot/AP)

But while Cabrera will not take the field for the Giants again this regular season, he still has a great shot to win the National League batting title.

Cabrera is currently second in the league with a .346 average and is one plate appearance short of the 502 needed to qualify for the league batting title. But according to MLB rules, he would have hitless at-bats added to his total until he reaches the minimum. In Cabrera’s case, that single at-bat would have no impact on his average — in fact, it could give him the edge over Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who could be hard-pressed to maintain his league-leading .359 mark the rest of the way.

But if McCutchen tails off and Cabrera does finish atop the league, would MLB really give a proven cheater the award?

It’s hard to say. Last winter National League MVP Ryan Braun avoided punishment when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. But even had he not become the first player to successfully challenge a positive test, it’s impossible to know whether he would have been stripped of his honor.

In Cabrera’s case, he has already been suspended and admitted his “mistake,” which makes it seem likely that the league would try to avoid celebrating his tainted season any more than it already has. Cabrera was voted MVP of the All-Star Game after his 2-run homer helped lead the NL to victory.

In addition to McCutchen, Cabrera’s teammate Buster Posey (.330) and Reds slugger Joey Votto (.342) are also in the hunt for this year’s batting title. But including this season, Posey is a career .308 hitter while Votto has not played since July 15th due to injury and could finish well below 502 plate appearances.

Last September New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes took a ton of flak — and deservedly so — for demanding to be pulled from the final game of the season to assure him the batting title. That seemed like a cheap move at the time, but if baseball allows a suspended Cabrera to take home the crown, Bud Selig will have a much bigger problem to address.

(H/T Big League Stew)

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