David Todd and Rob Neyer write about the possibility that Melky Cabrera, who was suspended for the rest of the season on Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone, might win the batting title over Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen currently leads Cabrera in the batting race, .359 to .346. But Cabrera is now more or less guaranteed to finish with an average near .346, whereas McCutchen, who will continue to play, isn't guaranteed anything. Here's Todd to explain it.
Turns out Melky has made 501 plate appearances in his 113 games. Uh-oh. In days of yore that would have been cause for celebration for Cutch fans. 502 appearances are needed to qualify for the batting title.
But things have changed. Today's rule stipulates that any player can qualify for the batting title by adding hitless at bats in order to reach the 502 number. For Cabrera, that's an 0-for-1.
Of course, McCutchen is still 13 points ahead, right? Well, yes, but the problem is that it's very difficult to maintain a .359 batting average.
Following Neyer's line of reasoning, the rest-of-season ZiPS projections over at Fangraphs have McCutchen hitting .301 the rest of the season -- still very good, but nowhere near .346 or .359. If he hits .301, his batting average for the season will be something like .342, beneath Cabrera's. Which would, obviously, be a huge shame, because it would mean that Cabrera cheated, and won the batting title more or less as a result of his cheating. Fangraphs projects that Cabrera would have batted .306 the rest of the way, for a final batting average of .336.