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George Brett and the Williams Sisters

Big day over at SportsWorld.

Unless the game changes dramatically, I think George Brett’s run at .400 in 1980 might be the last one we see in our lifetime. Of course, it depends what you mean when you say  “run at .400.” There are some players since then — John Olerud, Larry Walker, Todd Helton, even Barry Bonds — who have sort of closed in on .400, but not really. And, of course, we were all robbed of what no doubt WOULD have been Tony Gwynn’s great run at .400 in 1994, when the season was stopped in mid-August. But it wasn’t to be.

Brett was hitting .400 on September 18. That’s a run. That’s a very real dance with batting average’s magic number and it came with all the pressure and intense coverage of a real .400 run. With strikeouts up, with defenses shifting, with hard-throwing bullpens, I’m not sure .400 is possible anymore. It never was easy. Anyway, I write about George’s .400 run.

The Serena-Venus match on Tuesday was one of the more emotional sporting events I’ve ever seen. As I wrote, it wasn’t exactly “competitive,” as that word is most often used. It was, instead, two soloists trying to sing louder. It really was remarkable.

Chasing .400

Fun and Games: Serena and Venus.

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17 Responses to George Brett and the Williams Sisters

  1. Jake says:

    It was pointed out to me yesterday that George Brett in 1980 played just 7 more games, with just 40 more PAs and 30 more ABs than Gwynn had in 1994. As amazing as it is that Brett put up a full season’s worth of stats in 117 games, some of the shine comes off saying that his was the “real” run at .400 when he missed an entire month in the middle of the season.

    • David says:

      Very much agree. I’ve kind of always thought of Rod Carew’s 1977 as the last REAL run at .400; after all, he had almost 700 PAs that year!

    • Cuban X Senators says:

      Funny, when I saw Joe’s blurb here, I thought having very few PA’s above 502 would be a requirement of having a shot.

      And I chuckled when I read this, “George Brett played every single game of 1980 scared out of his mind.” The first 7 words untruth are a big reason why he had a shot, really.

  2. Marc Schneider says:

    The problem with Gwynn or Carew, in terms of their batting averages, is that they were sort of empty. Neither had a lot of power. Ted Williams hit, I believe, 37 home runs in 1941. Carew, especially, was basically a singles and doubles hitter. Hitting .400 is a great accomplishment and probably won’t happen again but, from a team perspective, it’s not that big a deal. Brett, of course, did have power but, as people pointed out, he missed a lot of time. I say the same thing for Ripken’s streak. Great accomplishment but what difference did it really make? Arguably, the team might have benefitted if he had taken some days off at times when he was struggling.

    • jroth95 says:

      “Less impressive than Ted Williams” ≠ “empty.” Even if the guy never took a walk and never hit a single XBH, that’s a .800 OPS, which is productive in any era. Indeed, Carew’s OPS in ’77 was 1.019, best in all of baseball, and that’s with a AVG of “just” .388. If he’d reached .400, his final OPS would have been about 1.050—in a low offense era.

      • I agree. Carew’s slap the ball around the park style was certainly unexciting. I never got all that excited about Tony Gwynn for the same reason. But nobody can deny their talent and production. Now, add to that a good amount of power like Williams and to a lesser extent Brett, and you definitely have more excitement. It’s no longer just compiling a couple hundred slap hits. You’re watching someone really drive the ball.

        • buddaley says:

          I certainly agree that BA has been a vastly overrated state in evaluating ball players. But for me, as an observer, not an analyst, what Carew (and Gwynn) did was very exciting because it demonstrated such artistry. Carew seemed like a magician with the bat.

          When Carew played my team and was at bat late in a close game, if he had no hits yet, I always thought he was due. If he had gone 3-3, I figured he was hot. Either way, as a fan, I was tense because I guessed he would get a hit. Not scientific, I know, but definitely exciting (or nerve racking).

    • Spencer says:

      Yes, hall of fame players having hall of fame seasons isn’t a big deal.

  3. wordyduke says:

    Great piece on the Williams tennis match! I suspect it’s the last time we’ll see them together on a big stage, unless they retire to be doubles specialists.

  4. otistaylor89 says:

    I have to agree that, as good a season Brett had in 1980, the fact that he only played 117 games really lessens the .400 drive. Brett played about 70% of the schedule.

  5. KHAZAD says:

    I don’t think the number of games he played lessened it at all. He got 515 PAs. That’s a qualifying season.

    Touched on by Joe, but not in detail, was how slow he started off the season, and what he had to make up for to even make it to .400. More than 100 PAs into the season, he was hitting .247, and then he found the groove. Over his next @300 PAs he hit .464 to move to his season high of .407. Four. Sixty. Four. Do you really think losing a month in the middle of that incredible groove HELPED his race to .400? I am more inclined to think that losing a month when he was in a seemingly unstoppable groove may have prevented him from reaching it.

  6. otistaylor89 says:

    Yes, I do think losing a month helps in this case. Baseball is a grid, especially during the middle of a hot summer in KC and Brett missed a lot of that. I believe he would have been worn down by everything, sort of like what happened to Carew, much earlier in the season. It only takes a few games when you are tired for a 0-4 or even a 1-5 to kill your average. 80,85% of games is one thing, but 70%? Eh…no.

  7. duffy01 says:

    Brett was near 400 at the end of the season. He faced incredible pressure at the end. Gwynn’s season was cancelled. He didn’t face the kind of pressure Brett did.

    • otistaylor89 says:

      Yes, but imagine if he had to play even 20 more games before the middle of September how wiped out he would have been. Remember, he qualified for the batting title based on PA because he was on a team that batted .286 collectively (he, of course, was a big part of that) and that produced some very high PA.

  8. Greg says:

    I distinctly remember a Bob Ryan column from the 80s in the Boston Globe that, in discussing the wonders of watching Wade Boggs’ at-bats, noted that the Chicken Man had hit .400 for 162 games, but that streak began midway through one season and ended in the next season.

  9. Unvenfurth says:

    Sorry, Joe, tennis is the most boring sport on earth. Some may say, then just don’t watch it. Don’t worry, I don’t but unfortunately, when I go to one of my favorite sports blogs, often time it is the subject of discussion. Paint drying is much more compelling to me.

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