No Batting Title For Melky Cabrera

This story was amusing.  Melky Cabrera was leading for the NL batting title.  He was suspended 50 games for a positive steroid test.

A player needs 502 plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.  Melky Cabrera only had 501 plate appearances before getting suspended.  There was a rule that said “If a player has fewer than 502 plate appearances, he may be credited with enough outs to give him 502 plate appearances.  If he still leads, he wins the batting title.”

That is a good rule.  It benefits a player who was injured for part of the season, but played well otherwise and just fell short of 502 plate appearances.  When that rule was written, there was no possibility of a steroid suspension.

At the time of suspension, Melky Cabrera only had a slight lead.  However, the other players continued to play.  Due to mean reversion and the difficulty of maintaining a high average over a full season, Melky Cabrera now has a large lead.

They amended the rule to say “In 2012 only, a player suspended for steroids cannot get extra outs to be eligible for a batting title.”  Why go through contortions?  Does it really matter if Melky Cabrera had 501 or 503 at-bats?  The steroid suspension should make him ineligible.

A better rule is “Any player who serves a steroid suspension in a season is ineligible for any award in that season, even if he is the statistical leader.”  To avoid problems with retroactively changing records, the rule should take effect starting in 2013.

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