Just wanted to point out something you may or may not have noticed: Curtis Granderson is obviously a major MVP candidate in the American League. He might even be the front-runner. Whether or not he should be the MVP is not the point of discussion here — we can talk about that in a couple of weeks.
No my point of discussion is simply this: Curtis Granderson is hitting .264 for the season.
No player has ever won an MVP with a batting average that low. The lowest batting average to win the MVP since World War II was Roger Maris’ .269 — and he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record that year. There have been more MVPs to hit higher than .320 than lower, more MVPs to hit .390 or better than .270 or worse.
The lowest batting averages to win the MVP:
1. Marty Marion, .267 (1944)
2. Roger Maris, .269 (1961)
3. Johnny Bench, .270 (1970)
(tie) Hank Sauer, .270 (1952)
5. Yogi Berra, .272 (1955)
You will notice all those are quite a long time ago. The lowest batting average to win the last 25 years? Andre Dawson’s .287 back in 1987. The last MVP to win not hitting .300 was Jimmy Rollins in 2006 and, heck, he hit .296. No MVP has hit less than .290 since Dawson.
So now you say: So what? Who cares? How many words have been spilled on this blog to rip batting average as a metric?
What, suddenly we care about batting average?
Of course not. Here’s my point: There’s a lot of talk about WAR going on. There’s a lot of talk about the pressure of being in contention. There’s a lot of talk about the MVP award and what it means. There’s a lot of talk about advanced stats and old stats and how people should watch and enjoy baseball. The Granderson for MVP supporters point out he’s having a great year (and he is), that he leads the league in runs scored AND RBIs, that he has been the Yankees most consistent force, that he plays an all-around game, that his hits have mattered more and that. The opposition party might say that Jose Bautista is having a better year or that Justin Verlander has been a force of nature or point to WAR or whatever.
But here’s the thing — as far as I know NOBODY has brought up Curtis Granderson’s relatively low batting average until now. Nobody cares.
And that’s a big win, I think. I’m going out to Oakland to see the movie “Moneyball,” and I think that it was really in that book that many baseball fans first came to realize the limitations of batting average. Now, the movie comes out and … hey, we just might beat batting average yet.