Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 11/15/14

Andrew McCutchen is currently in the lead for the batting title in the National League, and his .359 average leads the majors. The biggest threat to his league leading average this year has been Melky Cabrera, who currently has a .346 average. But today it was announced by Major League Baseball that Cabrera was suspended 50 games after testing positive for testosterone.

The San Francisco Giants only have 45 games remaining, which means this suspension will end Cabrera’s season, and will lock in his batting average. A player needs 502 plate appearances in a season to qualify for the batting title. Cabrera only has 501. If a player has less than 502 plate appearances, he can still qualify. The difference between his plate appearances and 502 is made up with hitless at-bats. In this case, Cabrera would get an extra hitless at-bat added to his total, bringing him up from 501 to 502 plate appearances. That wouldn’t do much to his batting average, dropping it from .34641 to .34565.

Behind Cabrera is Joey Votto, who has a .342 average. But Votto might be out until early September, which could put him below the necessary plate appearances needed to qualify. And he will probably have more hitless at-bats than Cabrera in order to get him to 502, which will hurt his average more.

After that, Buster Posey is the next competitor with a .331 average, which is a long way from McCutchen. The same goes for David Wright, who has a .323 average behind Posey.

Matt Kemp currently has a .359 average, but also has 277 plate appearances. It’s very unlikely that he’ll get 225 plate appearances over the final month and a half, which will hurt his chances in the race.

That makes the batting title McCutchen’s to lose. He basically has to beat out Cabrera’s .34565 average. So far this year, McCutchen has averaged 3.76 at-bats per game. The Pirates have 46 games remaining on the schedule. If we assume McCutchen plays every game, and continues his pace of 3.76 at-bats per game, he would end up with 173 at-bats from now through the end of the season. In order to beat Cabrera’s average, McCutchen would need a .318 average during the remainder of the year, which would be 55 hits in 173 at-bats.

It would be hard to see Kemp or Votto getting enough plate appearances to qualify. And if they got close, it would be hard to see them staying above the Melky Cabrera line after being penalized with hitless at-bats. It would also be hard to see Posey or Wright making a jump ahead of Cabrera.

The batting title will be Andrew McCutchen’s to lose. Melky Cabrera’s season is over, and his average is locked in. There are no real challengers to McCutchen or Cabrera, which means McCutchen just needs to worry about staying ahead of Cabrera to win.

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