Could Ty France keep up his hot start to 2023 and win the American League Batting Title?
Ever since the Mariners got Ty France, I've been enamored with his ability to hit the ball. If he can stay healthy, and that's always been the big if, Ty France seems like one of the best hitters in the game of baseball. It's not an outlandish statement either. Looking through his stats and game logs, you can see that a healthy Ty France hits around .310.
I'll take .310 every day if we know we can get it. Seeing how he has started the season in 2023 made me wonder. What if he was still hampered a bit during some of those stretches? Was he still approaching the plate a little differently while dealing with the injuries?
Does Ty France have the potential to win the American League Batting Title in 2023?
Through the first 14 games of the season, France has been mashing. He's hit six doubles and a homer already, has a strikeout rate of just 9.7%, and the BABIP of .388 supports the .357 BA. I would be a bit more worried if his BABIP was .500, but with the way he's been hitting it isn't outlandish to think he may be able to keep that up all year.
So, how often do people hit .357? Let's look back at the leaders from the last 15 years or so and see how often the League Leader has finished in that area.
Okay, so not great that he finishes at .357 or higher. Only four of the last 30 leaders have hit that mark, and LeMahieu was in the shortened season. Also, no one else has done it since 2010 when Josh Hamilton hit .359. There have been a good amount of finishes in the 340s, though. I do think it's worth noting that so far in 2023, league average on batting average is up 7 points from last season. That should go up even more as the season goes on and the temperatures get warmer.
What's a bit odd to me is that France only has an average exit velo of 86.5 mph. It's not an outlier though, as his career average is below league average. He's been hitting the ball solidly, though. 58% are up the middle, although a lot of them are still considered pulls. (Baseball Reference vs Baseball Savant makes it a big confusing). For those familiar with it, it seems like he's playing slow-pitch softball. Not trying to kill the ball, just placing it where he wants to be efficient.
If we set a goal of finishing at .330 or so to win the batting title, which seems like a reasonable guess for what its going to take, France is still going to need to hit well all year even with a .357 start. If he plays around 150-155 games and stays healthy, we will see around 215-220 hits from France, and a .327 pace for the rest of the season.
I think France can win the batting title, but I'm not super confident. He does seem to be taking early advantage of the early rule changes, and I am cautiously optimistic that France can keep it up and make a run at the batting title.
Also, if he hits 2-15 next series, don't blame me for it.