Mains: Close, and a cigar: batters below the qualifying threshold

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on December 5, 2019:

In 1954, Ted Williams broke his collarbone on the first day of spring training. He didn’t play his first game until May 15, the Red Sox’ 19th game of the season. He missed 20 more games in June with pneumonia. He missed only one more game, the second game of a doubleheader four days after his return on June 23. Although he played only 98 games, he led the majors in on base percentage (.513), slugging percentage (.635), OPS (1.148), and, not that it had been invented, DRC+ (189).

He also batted .345, the highest in the league. But he didn’t win the batting crown. That went to Cleveland’s Bobby Avila, who batted .341, four points lower than Williams. The reason was that the standard for the batting title in 1954 was 400 at-bats, an average of 2.6 per 154 games. Williams had 526 plate appearances, an average of over 3.4 per game, but because of his 136 walks, 17 intentional (both led the league), along with three sacrifice flies and one hit by pitch, he had only 386 at-bats. 

His manager, Lou Boudreau, in a desperate bid to get him the requisite at-bats, moved Williams from the third spot in the order to second on August 1. He batted second 55 times that season and only once over the rest of his career.

The effort fell short. Despite having the 27th most plate appearances in the American League, he was only 44th in at-bats, falling 14 short of batting title qualification.

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Originally published: December 5, 2019. Last Updated: December 5, 2019.