Luis Arraez by the numbers: Inside the Marlins star's quest for .400 batting average after 2023 trade

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Luis Arraez of the Marlins hits the ball.
(Getty Images)

There is only one way to describe Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez's season so far in 2023: Analytics killer.

His Baseball Savant page is shockingly blue. 31st percentile in average exit velocity, third percentile in hard hit percentage, and second percentile in barrel percentage.

Arraez, however, is blood red in some key categories. 99th percentile in expected batting average (xBA), best in the league in strikeout percentage, and best in the league in whiff percentage.

And, oh, he's hitting .400 on the year after going 5 of 5 against the Blue Jays on June 19 -- his third five-hit game in June.

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Arraez was the centerpiece of a trade in January that sent him from the Twins to the Marlins in exchange for pitcher Pablo Lopez and prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio. The move made sense for both sides, as the Twins were trying to add pitching all offseason and the Marlins needed another bat in the order. It also allowed Miami to move Jazz Chisholm — currently out with turf toe — to the outfield.

The left-handed second baseman Arraez has struck out 15 times in 255 2023 at-bats. The Nationals' Keibert Ruiz — second in MLB among qualified hitters with 19 strikeouts -- took 163 at-bats to get to 15 Ks.

So how is Arraez doing it? He isn't hitting the ball especially hard. Rather, his balls put in play simply seem to have eyes. Here's what to know about Arraez's already-incredible season, along with where it stacks up historically.

Luis Arraez stats

Arraez's stats stand in a league of their own right now.

He is slashing .400/.450/.490 with an OPS+ of 159 through June 19, and he has a pair of home runs on the year. He hit for the first cycle in Marlins history against the Phillies in April as well.

With regards to how he is racking up so many hits despite an average exit velocity of 88.4 mph and a hard-hit percentage of 24 percent, one only needs to look at Arraez's spray chart:

With that spread, 88.4 mph is downright impressive as far as exit velo goes. His average launch angle is 11.5 degrees. So all he does is hit line drives (30.7 percent line drive percentage this season) that die in front of the outfielders.

Arraez hits to all fields in a way that is almost unique in modern baseball, especially for a left-handed hitter. So even if he isn't hitting the ball especially hard, he's following the old adage of "hit it where they ain't."

Luis Arraez batting average

Arraez's batting average is back to an even .400 as of June 19, following a five-hit game against the Blue Jays -- his third five-hit game of the month.

If anyone was going to challenge the .400 mark in modern baseball, it was Arraez. He has a career batting average of .327 and hit .316 with the Twins in an All-Star effort last year. Before ripping off two five-hit games in his last three games overall, Arraez went 0 for 12 in a three-game span. So for him, this is course correction.

MORE: Will Luis Arraez hit .400 this season? History says probably not

History of players to hit .400

Hitting .400 is a holy grail of sorts for contact hitters. Hitting .330 or above is impressive, but to hit safely in four out of 10 at-bats is simply otherworldly.

In the 1800s and the early 1900s, the achievement was a bit less rare -- but still historically significant. The single-season batting average leader is Tetelo Vargas with the New York Cubans in the Negro National League in 1943. Vargas hit an untouchable .471 in that season. In the American and National League, the leader is Hugh Duffy with the Boston Beaneaters in 1894, who hit .440. The post-1900 record holder is Nap Lajoie, who hit .426 in a Triple Crown-winning season in 1901 with the Philadelphia Athletics.

It's too early to seriously consider Arraez as a threat for .400 -- averages course correct in baseball all the time -- but that doesn't make what he's doing less impressive.

Here is every .400 hitter in professional baseball history:

Year Player Team League AVG
1876 Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings NL .429
1884 Fred Dunlap St. Louis Maroons UA .412
1887 Tip O'Neill St. Louis Browns AA .435
1887 Pete Browning Louisville Colonels AA .402
1894 Hugh Duffy Boston Beaneaters NL .440
1894 Tuck Turner Philadelphia Phillies NL .418
1894 Sam Thompson Philadelphia Phillies NL .415
1894 Ed Delahanty Philadelphia Phillies NL .404
1894 Billy Hamilton Philadelphia Phillies NL .403
1895 Jesse Burkett Cleveland Spiders NL .405
1895 Ed Delahanty Philadelphia Phillies NL .404
1896 Jesse Burkett Cleveland Spiders NL .410
1896 Hughie Jennings Baltimore Orioles NL .401
1897 Willie Keeler Baltimore Orioles NL .424
1899 Ed Delahanty Philadelphia Phillies NL .410
1901 Nap Lajoie Philadelphia Athletics AL .426
1911 Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers AL .420
1911 Shoeless Joe Jackson Cleveland Naps AL .408
1912 Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers AL .409
1920 George Sisler St. Louis Browns AL .407
1921 Oscar Charleston St. Louis Stars NNL .433
1922 George Sisler St. Louis Browns AL .420
1922 Rogers Hornsby St. Louis Cardinals NL .401
1922 Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers AL .401
1923 Biz Mackey Hilldale Club ECL .423
1923 Harry Heilmann Detroit Tigers AL .403
1924 Rogers Hornsby St. Louis Cardinals NL .424
1924 Oscar Charleston Harrisburg Giants ECL .405
1925 Oscar Charleston Harrisburg Giants ECL .427
1925 Rogers Hornsby St. Louis Cardinals NL .403
1926 Mule Suttles St. Louis Stars NNL .425
1927 Red Parnell Birmingham Black Barons NNL .422
1927 Jud Wilson Baltimore Black Sox ECL .422
1929 Chino Smith New York Lincoln Giants ANL .451
1930 Bill Terry New York Giants NL .401
1934 Buddy Burbage Newark Dodgers NN2 .438
1934 Ray Dandridge Newark Dodgers NN2 .432
1941 Ted Williams Boston Red Sox AL .406
1943 Tetelo Vargas New York Cubans NN2 .471
1943 Josh Gibson Homestead Grays NN2 .466
1948 Artie Wilson Birmingham Black Barons NAL .435

Last player to hit .400

The feat has not been achieved in professional baseball since 1948, when Artie Wilson hit .435 for the Birmingham Black Barons. The last player to hit .400 in the American or National Leagues is famously the Red Sox' Ted Williams, who hit .406 in 1941.

Most hits in a MLB season

The most hits in a Major League season is 262, set by Ichiro Suzuki for the Mariners in 2004. George Sisler is in second place from his 1920 season, in which he had 257 hits.

Arraez is at 102 hits through 67 games. He's still a ways off from challenging Ichiro's record. Projecting him out to 150 games played (somewhat generous), at his pace he would be at 228 hits at season's end. Ichiro hit .429 in the second half of the 2004 season, and notched an outrageous 143 hits. It would take a similar tear to challenge his record.

Here is Ichiro breaking Sisler's record (with a Dave Niehaus "My Oh My" tossed in for good measure).

With that being said, Arraez has had an unmatched consistency this season. He is at the same number number of hits through 73 team games as Ichiro was at the same point in 2004 (h/t Redditor /u/regrinzel), so if he does pick up that torrid pace, nothing is impossible.

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Luis Arraez trade

  • Marlins received: Second baseman Luis Arraez
  • Twins received: Pitcher Pablo Lopez, infield prospect Jose Salas, outfield prospect Byron Chourio

The Jan. 20 trade seemed mutually beneficial at the time it was made. The Twins had sought pitching help but came up short, while the Marlins were shopping Lopez and wanted to acquire another bat. Arraez is, of course, closer to Tony Gwynn than Barry Bonds on the spectrum of average to power. Which is to say, not every team is going to value his contributions.

While Arraez has taken off, Lopez has sputtered this year. He's allowed 44 runs over 90 innings, putting him at an ERA of 4.40. He started the season off outstanding, but things haven't gone his way since the end of April.

Pablo Lopez stats 2023

Traditional stats have not favored Lopez this season.

Starts Innings Wins-Losses ERA WHIP Ks BBs ERA+
15 90 3-4 4.40 1.144 110 26 96

In a twist of irony, where the advanced stats don't favor Arraez relative his production, they do favor Lopez. He's 70th percentile or above in average exit velocity, expected ERA, expected batting average, expected slugging, chase rate, whiff percentage, and strikeout percentage.

Will the numbers eventually bear that out? It's hard to say. But the Marlins have gotten what they wanted out of Arraez. The Twins now need to do the same with Lopez.

Luis Arraez contract

One of the big boons of trading for Arraez is the amount of control left on his deal.

Arraez is currently on a one-year contract of $6.1 million in his second year of arbitration. The Marlins have two years of arbitration left before he hits free agency in 2026.

We may see an extension before then, of course, but if the Marlins are scared about the hard hit average of Arraez, they may sit on his arbitration years. He's to be a free agent for his aged-29 season, so there's time to figure thing out with the star hitter.

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Kevin Skiver is a content producer at The Sporting News