Baumann: Michael Jordan’s .202 batting average is more impressive than it seems

From SABR member Michael Baumann at The Ringer on May 12, 2020:

On Sunday night’s installment of The Last Dance, the ESPN docuseries about the rise of the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan retired from basketball to try his hand at baseball. It was an astonishing story back in 1994—Jordan leaving the NBA at the top of his game to pursue an MLB pipe dream—but it seems even more bonkers in retrospect. At that point in time, two-sport stars were relatively commonplace: Bo Jackson was in his final MLB season, while not one, but two former Atlanta Falcons defensive backs (Brian Jordan and Deion Sanders) were patrolling National League outfields.

By those standards, it looked downright risible for Jordan to hit just .202/.289/.266 with 114 strikeouts in 497 plate appearances in his sole Double-A season. (He was also hit by four pitches, which, imagine being some anonymous minor league kid with no fastball command and plunking Michael Fucking Jordan. Yikes.) Even though Jordan stole 30 bases, his success rate was just 62.5 percent, well below the accepted break-even point of 70 percent. In a vacuum, Jordan was a very, very bad ballplayer. But take into account his history with the game (or lack thereof) and a few other factors, and it starts to look like a minor miracle that he was even as good as he was.

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Originally published: May 13, 2020. Last Updated: May 13, 2020.