Major League Baseball
Steven Kwan and MLB's top 10 pursuits of .400 since Ted Williams
Major League Baseball

Steven Kwan and MLB's top 10 pursuits of .400 since Ted Williams

Updated Jun. 21, 2024 3:53 p.m. ET

For about half an hour Thursday, Cleveland Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan was hitting .400. 

Sure, there are caveats involved, like the fact Kwan was appearing in just his 46th game of the season and currently does not qualify for the batting title. But it's also late June and .400 is .400. Kwan's average entering Friday — .396 — is 74 points ahead of American League (and MLB) qualified leader Bobby Witt Jr.

Clearly, what Kwan is doing is special. It's also on the verge of historic. More than 80 years have passed since Ted Williams completed MLB's last .400 season. There's been only a few close calls in the decades following, though more than a handful of players have flirted with .400 deep into the summer. 

That brings us to Kwan, who missed most of May with a hamstring injury but has been scorching hot since his May 31 return. He's hit safely in all 13 games following his IL stint and recorded multiple hits in more than half of them while tallying a .510 average. 


So, how long will his pursuit of .400 continue? Will he be above the threshold while qualifying for the batting title? If so, he'd easily crack the list below. 

Here are the 10 best pursuits of .400 since Williams' iconic .406 campaign in 1941.

(Sorted by how many team games into a season each player was still hitting .400)

10. Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres, 1994

Latest batting .400: May 15th (36 games)
Final average: .394
Won the batting title? Yes
Won MVP? No (7th; Jeff Bagwell)

Gwynn was unmatched in his ability to spray hits all over the field, and his .394 average is technically the closest anyone has gotten to hitting .400 since Williams in 1941. While Gwynn's average dipped below .400 earlier than all the others on this list, it was remarkably never lower than .376 for the season. Gwynn was batting .475 in the month of August when the players went on strike, raising his overall average nine points and forever leaving us to wonder if he would have finished a 162-game version of 1994 at .400.

9. Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1957

Latest batting .400: June 5th (46 games)
Final average: .388
Won the batting title? Yes 
Won MVP? No (2nd; Mickey Mantle)

Yes, Williams almost hit .400 twice. And the second occurrence came in his age-38 season. The Splendid Splinter posted an unfathomable .454 average in the second half of the season, including .632 in the final month of play. But a .295 mark in June ultimately cost him a second .400 campaign, something only Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb and George Sissler accomplished.

8. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves, 2008

Latest batting .400: June 18th (73 games)
Final average: .364
Won the batting title? Yes  
Won MVP? No (12th; Albert Pujols)

Jones was already an MVP and a future Hall of Famer by this point. But at 36 years old, a bit of his power had diminished as he favored a more contact-oriented approach. It made for quite the final act of his illustrious career. Jones batted a career-high .337 in 2007 and then topped that by 27 points a year later. He topped .400 in both April and May before producing a .304 mark from June to August. That effectually ended his chase by the middle of the summer, but Jones still hit enough to win the only batting title of his career, and one of just two in Braves history over the past 49 years (Terry Pendleton, 1991).

7. Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals, 1948

Latest batting .400: July 11th (76 games)
Final average: .376
Won the batting title? Yes 
Won MVP? Yes

One of the best (and perhaps most underrated) hitters of all time, Stan "The Man" was at his very best in 1948. Not only did he produce his highest batting average, but he fell just one home run short of the triple crown. As for Musial's pursuit of .400, his .415 batting average on the road helped his chances. Interestingly, hitting just .334 at home did him in.

6. Luis Arráez, Miami Marlins, 2023

Latest batting .400: June 24th (78 games)
Final average: .354
Won the batting title? Yes
Won MVP? No (8th; Ronald Acuña Jr.)

Arráez was a hitting machine for the first half of 2023, his chase for .400 stretching the longest in more than 20 years. He was still hitting .381 by the end of July, but a .236 mark in August ended his bid. It wasn't enough to stop him from winning another batting crown, however. In the process, the former Twin became the first player in MLB history to lead each league in hitting in consecutive seasons.

5. Rod Carew, Minnesota Twins, 1977

Latest batting .400: July 10th (85 games)
Final average: .388
Won the batting title? Yes 
Won MVP? Yes

Carew's .400 bid in 1977 was, at the time, the longest of any player since Williams pulled it off in 1941. Following a modest July in which he hit .304, Carew recorded a .441 average over his final 31 games. He finished the year hitting .401 at the Twins' Metropolitan Stadium. Carew won seven batting titles in his HOF career, but this was by far his most impressive, as he held a 52-point lead over AL runner-up (and teammate) Lyman Bostock.

4. Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox, 2000

Latest batting .400: July 20th (91 games)
Final average: .372
Won the batting title? Yes
Won MVP? No (9th; Jason Giambi)

Garciaparra was instantly one of the top hitters in baseball upon becoming a full-time player and the 2000 campaign was arguably his best. A head-turning June, in which the star shortstop hit .452, put him in position to make a run at his fellow Red Sox legend. Alas, a .294 August sunk his cause. Still, 2000 marked Garciaparra's second consecutive batting title and the peak of a career that would soon be sapped by injuries. His .372 clip is also the highest for a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio hit .381 in 1939.

3. Larry Walker, Colorado Rockies, 1997 

Latest batting .400: July 17th (96 games)
Final average: .366
Won the batting title? No (2nd; Tony Gwynn, .372)
Won MVP? Yes

Walker went into the 1997 All-Star break hitting .398, which prompted endless discussion about his bid. His sustained excellence at Coors Field made a .400 campaign feel possible, but a .346 mark on the road this year was far too much to overcome. He didn't even hold onto the batting title, yet he would claim the crown in three of the next four seasons. His .379 average in 1999 is topped only by Gwynn's '94 season over the past 40 years.

2. John Olerud, Toronto Blue Jays, 1993

Latest batting .400: Aug. 2nd (107 games)
Final average: .363
Won batting title? Yes
Won MVP? No (3rd; Frank Thomas)

For much of the summer of 1993, it appeared as though Olerud would actually hit .400. His average sat above the benchmark on more days than it didn't through July, but he finally cooled off in August and he hit just .256 in September. Nevertheless, Olerud won the lone batting title of his career (and still the only one in Blue Jays history) and helped lead Toronto to a World Series title.

1. George Brett, Kansas City Royals, 1980

Latest batting .400: Sept. 19th (148 games)
Final average: .390
Won the batting title? Yes
Won MVP? Yes

Brett's run at .400 was not only the most serious since Williams, but the most unusual. He was still batting under .300 on May 30th. There were only 16 games all season in which he finished the day as a .400 hitter, but they all came in August and September after he hit a blistering .494 for the month of July. On Sept. 19, his average was at .3995, which would round up to the magical milestone. 

Brett batted just .304 over the final 13 games, though, which dropped him 10 points. (He still finished the second half of the season with an incredible .421 mark.) While the Royals legend won two other batting titles over 21 seasons in the big leagues, his next-highest average was .335. Brett's 1980 campaign undoubtedly stands alone, even in his Hall of Fame career.

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