‘It’s amazing:’ Luis Arráez’s pursuit of .400 the envy of every hitter in baseball

SEATTLE — The city is filled with All-Stars and celebrities, but he can walk up and down the streets, and not a soul will recognize him.

You won’t find him on TV endorsing your favorite sandwich, offering insurance deals with a cartoon character or telling you which credit card is best.

He just happens to be baseball’s greatest pure hitter at this 93rd All-Star Game, threatening to go where no man has gone since 1941.

He is Luis Arraez, second baseman for the Miami Marlins.

And the envy of every hitter in the game of baseball.

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Arraez, who’ll be batting sixth for the National League in Tuesday’s All-Star Game (8 p.M. ET, FOX) is leading the majors in hitting, batting .383, 135 points higher than the MLB batting average this season. It the highest batting average by a player at the All-Star break in 23 years.

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“What’s he’s doing is incredible in today’s game,” Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “It’s amazing, it’s fun to watch. He’s an incredible hitter, he really is.

“Most of the time you’re facing three different pitchers, they’re throwing 95-97 (mph), nothing straight, and you’re trying to cover four different pitches.”.

There are only 12 players in baseball hitting .300 this season, and here is Arraez, leading the NL batting race by 52 points over Ronald Acuna of the Atlanta Braves. He could become the first player in history to win consecutive batting titles in different leagues after leading the American League with a .316 batting average last season with the Minnesota Twins.

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And, yes, there’s also that magical .400 number, last accomplished by Hall of Famer Ted Williams in 1941.

“It’s pretty impressive what he’s doing,” said NL batting champion Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets, “but he still has a long ways to go. We got half a season left.”.

So, can he do it?

“I don’t think so, to be honest,” McNeil says. “The pitching is too good. I mean, you’ve got to go 2-for-4 every day just to raise your batting average.

“If he does it, it will be the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.”.

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Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn had the highest batting average since Williams’ magical year when he hit .394 during the 1994 strike season. George Brett had the highest batting average (.390) in a full season in 1980, and carried a .400 batting average 134 games into the season, the deepest into a season since Williams. The last time anyone has even batted .375 was in 1999.

But as Brett can attest, the longer you carry a .400 batting average into the season, the more the pressure mounts.

It’s impossible to keep a .400 batting average a secret, especially in today’s instant-news world.

“You have social media to regular media,” Freeman says. “You have a ticker on MLB Network. And MLB Network is in every single clubhouse that shows what his batting average is, and the .400 chase.

“I think that’s what’s so hard. It’s always in your face. Now, everybody is expecting you to get hits. For him to even sit at .390-something this long is pretty incredible in today’s game.”.

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Arraez’s hitting prowess has opposing managers and pitchers almost to the point of surrendering.

Why even bother pitching to him when you know he’s going to lace a single to center or left field, anyways?

“I told him today that he can just go to first base when he comes to the plate,” Milwaukee Brewers closer Devin Williams said. “I’m not going to pitch to him anymore. I told him, you’re going to get a hit anyways, so from now on just go to first base. I don’t want to waste any pitches.

“I mean, the guy is unbelievable. I remember when I was in Low-A ball, and was still a starter, and he got a hit off my fastball, my changeup, and my slider in one game. Unreal.

“This game needs more like that, you know. Everybody can’t be a home-run hitter.”.

Arraez knows better than to try to swing for the fences. He has hit only 17 homers in his career, and just three this season. He has just 22 extra-base hits. But, oh, can he ever hit singles, with 104 of them the first half.

He has 126 hits, 35 multiple-hit games, 12 three-hit games, five four-hit games and three five-hit games, one shy of the major-league record. He has struck out just 19 times all season, never twice in the same game.

You know you’re doing something special when Seattle Mariners future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki told Arraez that he’s his favorite hitter to watch.

“When he told me that, I told him he’s my favorite hitter, too,” Arraez said. “When I started with the Twins in 2013, I started following him. I saw him hit the ball to left field, hit the ball to the middle, and he did that every time. It was amazing to me.”.

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Well, what Arraez is doing these days, is resurrecting memories of Rod Carew, Gwynn and Suzuki, with no one able to figure the best way to get him out.

“We just got done playing him and we couldn’t get him out,” Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “He is really an incredible hitter. He knows the strike zone. He’s got a short stroke. He uses the entire field.”.

When Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker ran into him in the hotel lobby Monday morning, he congratulated him, told him that he’s rooting for him to hit .400, and that he was thankful the Marlins are in another league.

“He’s probably close to being one of my favorite hitters to watch,” Baker said. “He’s full of energy. He is like the Energizer Bunny. He moves every muscle every time he moves. He’s fun to watch, and he’s fun to watch hit.

“I’m pulling for him.”.

Really, it’s like that wherever Arraez goes. He hears it from first basemen when he’s standing on first base after a single. He hears it from opposing second basemen and shortstops when he gets doubles. There’s not a current player alive who was around for Williams’ 1941 season, or even Brett’s 1980 season.

“Everybody keeps telling me, ‘Keep it going, keep it going, you can hit .400,'” Arraez said. “I’m just going to go out there and do my thing, enjoy the game, and try not to think about it too much.

“I keep telling myself I can do this, but sometimes I’ll go 0-for-4, 0-for-5, and say, ‘Wow, this is so hard.’ Hitting .400 is hard. Hitting .300 is hard. But it’s not impossible.

“I’ve just got to trust myself, and see what happens.”.

History awaits.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale.