In 1980, it was George Brett chasing the highest batting average in an MLB season.
In 1994, it was Tony Gwynn tormenting pitchers. Six years after that, Nomar Garciaparra had his run. In 2004, Ichiro Suzuki captured the imagination of fans with a .379 average on Sept. 4.
A decade later, after Major League Baseball implemented major rule change in 2023 to increase the pace of play and offense, fans kept an eye on Luis Arráez of the Miami Marlins in the first half of the season to see if he could post a .400 batting average over the full campaign.
Brett fell shy in 1980 with the Kansas City Royals, dipping below .400 in early September and finishing with a .390 batting average. Gwynn’s bid in ’94 with the San Diego Padres was ended on Aug. 12 via a strike-shortened season, when he was up to .394 after heating up with a .475 clip in August.
Garciaparra was as high as .403 with the Boston Red Sox on July 20, 2000, but finished at .372. Ichiro ended up hitting .372 for the Seattle Mariners.
Whenever a player is collecting hit after hit, the rarity of .400 or higher over a full season (among hitters who are qualified for the batting title) also comes into focus. It’s rarer than a perfect game in MLB, occurring 13 times and involving just nine players since the American League formed alongside the National League into the major leagues in 1901, and not since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.
The list of .400 hitters swells over 30 other times when including season leaders prior to the 19th century (walks also were often credited as hits) and the Negro leagues, but in the MLB era, it’s the highly skilled (not lucky) 13, as we look back to them:
Highest Batting Averages in an MLB Season
Historical baseball statistics can vary among credible sources, with some using published season statistics as the official numbers and others totaling game logs. Here, we’re going with Stats Perform’s data, which uses published season statistics.
1. .424 – Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals, 1924
The Hall of Famer, who also played for the New York Giants, Boston Braves, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Browns, hit over .400 in three of the four seasons between 1922-25. In addition to posting the highest single-season batting average in ’24, his BA+ of 146, which compares a player’s average to the league average, is No. 1 over a full MLB season. He’s second in career batting average (.358) behind Ty Cobb. Hits/At-Bats: 227 for 536.
2. .422 – Nap Lajoie, Philadelphia Athletics, 1901
Lajoie spent the 1896-1900 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL, but after being declined an increase in salary, he jumped to the Athletics in the newly formed AL (two years before the first World Series), and proceeded to bat 40 points higher than MLB’s next-best hitter. Hits/At-Bats: 229 for 543.
3. .420 – George Sisler, St. Louis Browns, 1922
In Sisler’s second of two .400+ seasons, he had a 41-game hit streak, which is the longest for a hitter on this list (Ty Cobb had a 40-game streak in his 1911 campaign above .400). Hits/At-Bats: 246 for 586.
4. .420 – Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1911
Baseball’s career leader for highest batting average (.367) was over .400 in three different seasons, including back-to-back in 1911 and ‘12 before a 10-year gap to the third time (1922). He finished with a career-high 24 triples in 1911. Hits/At-Bats: 248 for 591.
5. .410 – Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1912
Hits/At-Bats: 227 for 553.
6. .408 – Joe Jackson, Cleveland Naps, 1911
All of the .400 hitters on this list have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame except for “Shoeless” Joe, who remains banned by MLB due to his association with the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Hits/At-Bats: 233 for 571.
7. .407 – George Sisler, St. Louis Browns, 1920
Hits/At-Bats: 257 for 631.
8. .406 – Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1941
MLB’s last .400 hitter had such discipline at the plate that he walked 147 times with only 27 strikeouts. He also had 37 home runs, 120 RBIs and a then-record .553 on-base percentage. Only Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth had a better OPS than Teddy Ballgame’s 1.287 mark that season. Williams famously finished second in the AL MVP voting to Joe DiMaggio, who had his record 56-game hitting streak – a story Steve Hirdt told in this podcast. Hits/At-Bats: 185 for 456.
9. .403 – Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals, 1925
The perennial All-Star finished with a .756 slugging percentage in 1925. Only Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig have posted a higher single-season mark. That’s good company. Hits/At-Bats: 203 for 504.
10. .403 – Harry Heilmann, Detroit Tigers, 1923
A four-time AL batting champion, Heilmann has been overshadowed in history by his longtime teammate Ty Cobb, who also served as the Tigers’ manager in half of their 12 seasons together. Hits/At-Bats: 211 for 524.
11. .401 – Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals, 1922
Hornsby finished with a whopping 450 total bases, which ranks second all-time behind Babe Ruth’s 457 in 1921. Hits/At-Bats: 250 for 623.
12. .401 – Bill Terry, New York Giants, 1930
The NL’s most recent .400 hitter dipped below the magical level after going 0-for-4 on Sept. 19, but went a combined 11-for-16 when the Giants played a doubleheader against Cincinnati each of the next two days. His 633 at-bats were the most among the .400 hitters. Hits/At-Bats: 254 for 633.
13. .401 – Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1922
Hits/At-Bats: 211 for 526.
Stats Perform’s Emory Brinkman contributed research to this story.