On-Base Perception

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Melky Cabrera still has a good chance to win batting title

Melky Cabrera, of the San Francisco Giants, shows

Melky Cabrera, of the San Francisco Giants, shows off his MVP trophy after the MLB All-Star baseball game in Kansas City, Mo. (July 10, 2012) (Credit: AP)

This article comes with two warnings before you go any further:

(1) There is some math involved. I sincerely apologize for that ahead of time.

(2) This is not a feel-good article. That's because the guy who cheated also stands a good chance to be the guy who wins.

Melky Cabrera's suspension on Wednesday for testing positive for a banned substance leaves him with 501 plate appearances, one short of the minimum needed to qualify for the batting title. But Cabrera can still win the title. He just needs to finish in the lead with one hitless at-bat added to his average, according to Rule 10.22 (a). That would give him an average of .3456.

Enter the two hitters who could prevent the tainted player from winning such a coveted baseball title: Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, who enters Wednesday hitting .359, and Cincinnati's Joey Votto, who's hitting .342. Votto is currently out with an injured knee, but still projects to get the requisite number of plate appearances to qualify for a batting title.

However, there are obstacles for both to overcome.

For McCutchen, that obstruction is simply the final two months of the season.

McCutchen is a career .265 hitter in August and .269 hitter in September/October. He's hit at least .272 for his career in every other month.

His August performances have been almost universally unimpressive: .304 in 2009, .226 in 2010, .266 in 2011 and .265 so far in 2012.

McCutchen hit .281 in September 2009 and .324 in September 2010. But he plummeted to .171 in September 2011.

The ZiPS projection system estimates that McCutchen will get 587 at-bats this season, giving him 166 at-bats to go. If that holds up, McCutchen would need to go 52-for-166 (.313) to prevent Cabrera from capturing the batting title.

That pace would give McCutchen a final average of .3458

Votto, meanwhile, has been a consistent performer over the course of his career, no matter the month.

He has at least a .311 career average during every month, including a .314 average in August and .311 mark in September/October.

But whereas McCutchen only has to avoid falling behind Cabrera, Votto still has to overtake him. ZiPS projects Votto to get 440 total at-bats this season, meaning he has 142 left. Votto would have to go 51-for-142 (.359) to end up with a .3477 average.

It would take quite a performance from Votto and some improvement from McCutchen to stave off Cabrera.

Otherwise the man who violated the rules of the game gets rewarded by the game.

Tags: Melky Cabrera , Andrew McCutchen , Joey Votto , Cincinnati Reds , San Francisco Giants , Pittsburgh Pirates

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