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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Anaheim's .300-hitting lineup

What? It's Wednesday afternoon? That must mean it's time for a visit to the ol' mailbag! First, I'm grateful for your forgiveness. Given the standings at this moment, I can only hope that I was ill that day, or sleep-deprived, or trying to impress a girl.

Are the Angels special? You better believe it. I did mention them in this morning's Wangdoodles, but I probably haven't given last night's lineup enough play.*

* And as you suggest, last night's nine didn't even include Howie Kendrick, a lifetime .299 hitter. Let's not go overboard, though. Kendrick's batting only .275 this season. To reach .300, he'd have to hit something like .400 the rest of the way.

Anyway, how special? From today's L.A. Times: "According to the Elias Sports Bureau, you'd have to go back to the 1930 New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals to find lineups in which each player hit .300 or better and had at least 200 at-bats."

Which would have been, roughly speaking, my first guess. In 1930 the hitters in the National League went nuts, thanks largely to a new baseball that was expressly intended to boost offense. And did it ever. The whole league batted .303 and six teams topped .300 with the Giants (.319) leading the way. The Giants finished the season with nine players over .300 (and with at least 200 at-bats); the Cardinals had 10 guys like that.

So, yeah. It was 79 years ago.

I don't believe there's been anything remotely like that since. When I was growing up, I would sometimes marvel at the Red Sox' (Fenway-inflated) batting averages, as they would routinely bat .283 as a team in the late '70s and early '80s.

Other teams have done even better in more recent seasons; in 2000 the Indians and the Royals (!) both finished the season at .288, and the Mariners matched them a year later. Just two years ago, the Yankees batted .290, so the Angels' current .291 batting average is not particularly exceptional.

What's exceptional is the Angels' balance. They don't have a single hitter who's even remotely involved in the batting race. Instead they have nine players who are sporting averages between .300 and .313, which is more bizarre than impressive.