Melky Cabrera, the San Francisco Giants outfielder, will miss the final 45 games of the Giants' season after being suspended by Major League Baseball for elevated levels of testosterone. In the aftermath of his positive test, he admitted to using a banned substance.
He does not deserve to win a batting title. But mathematics and a rule known as the "Tony Gwynn rule" could allow him to anyway.
Cabrera was hitting .346 with 501 plate appearances when the suspension was meted out, which was the second highest batting average in the National League behind Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, who was hitting .360 after Friday.
Here is the tricky part: Cabrera is one plate appearance shy of the number needed to qualify for the batting title, but because of Rule 10.22(a), the Gwynn rule, he can still win it if his average is still higher than his competitors with a hitless-in-one-attempt factored into his total, getting him to the requisite 502 attempts, at which point his average would still be at .346.
Gwynn won the batting title in 1996 after hitting .353 in 498 plate appearances. Even with four hitless attempts added to give him the required 502 plate appearances, Gwynn was five points better than Ellis Burks at .344.
Cabrera's closest competitors McCutchen and Joey Votto (. 342) face tough pennant races the rest of the way, while Cabrera can sit back and wait.
In the meantime, it might be time to take another look at that rule book.
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