Joe Mauer, plate appearances, and hitting .400

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Joe Mauer won Player of the Month honors
for his ridiculous May performance, hitting .414 with 11 homers and 32
RBIs in 28 games after spending all of April on the disabled list with
a back injury. And he’s actually raised his batting average so far in
June.

Mauer went 4-for-4 last night,
making him 26-for-57 (.456) this month while raising his overall
average to .429. Missing the first month of the season leaves him 20
plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title, but Mauer
has been so amazing that even going 0-for-20 in those imaginary trips
to the plate would leave him with an MLB-leading .381 mark.

Three years ago Mauer became the first catcher in AL history to win
the batting title and the first catcher in MLB history to lead all of
baseball in batting average. Then last year Mauer became the first
catcher in AL history to win two batting titles. And this year he looks poised to become the first catcher, in either league, to win three batting titles.

Or maybe even make a run at .400. Of course, all you need to know about
how hard it is to hit .400 for an entire season is that Mauer has
batted .429 through mid-June and, if he continues to walk at the same
rate, would need to hit .382 over the remainder of the season to get
there with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

He ultimately needs at least 317 more trips to the plate to qualify
for the batting title and the list of players who’ve hit .380 or higher
during a season in which they had 300 or more plate appearances over
the past 50 years looks like this: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Rod Carew.
Of course, the list of highest career batting averages over the past 50
years also looks like this:

                     AVG
Tony Gwynn .338
Albert Pujols .334
Ichiro Suzuki .334
Roberto Clemente .329
Wade Boggs .328
Todd Helton .328
Rod Carew .328
JOE MAUER .325
Vladimir Guerrero .322
Kirby Puckett .318

With a .429 average in mid-June and a .325 career mark to go along with
the lack of April plate appearances, Mauer is as well-positioned to
make a serious run at hitting .400 as someone can be 66 games into the
season. And yet as Brett, Carew, Gwynn, Todd Helton, John Olerud,
Chipper Jones, Nomar Garciaparra, Larry Walker, and basically everyone
since Ted Williams in 1941 has learned he still has very little chance
of actually getting there.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.