The best pure hitter in this year’s edition of October baseball isn’t Ronald Acuña Jr., or Mookie Betts, or Freddie Freeman. It’s Luis Arraez of the plucky Miami Marlins. The Venezuela native is far from a household name, but he now has two batting titles on his shelf — one won last season, with the Minnesota Twins, and the other down in Florida this year.
Arraez was so automatic in 2023 that he exited the All-Star Break chasing a .400 batting average. The last time anyone attained the mark was way back in 1941 when Ted Williams batted .406. It’s more or less considered untouchable these days — especially in the “three true outcomes” era (strikeout, walk or home run), with the average league batting average hovering in the .240s.
Ultimately, the 26-year-old cooled off and ended up at .354 over a healthy 147 games. But only eight other qualifying batters surpassed .300 this year, and he beat the next closest guy, Acuña, by 17 points. So: how the heck is Arraez doing this? In a launch angle-happy league, with triple-digit bullpen monsters a dime a dozen, how is the Marlin (who singled to center in last night’s Game 1 Wild Card loss to the Philadelphia Phillies) so good at spraying the ball around the field?
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Life as a Batting Champ
As in any sport or concentration, this level of success is down to conditioning and routine. Arraez has one of the best around. In the offseason, he hits for three hours each morning, then drinks a protein shake, lifts weights, eats some food, takes a siesta, and hits again until sundown. He learned this “self-optimization” routine from Nelson Cruz, one of the most feared hitters of the 2010s.
In-season, according to an ESPN profile from 2022, Arraez scales it back a little bit. But his days are still oriented around hitting: he’ll spend some time with his daughters, watch video (going back seven years, to when he was in the minors), then head to the ballpark, where he’ll hit, then lift, then keep hitting.
It’s fascinating — Arraez’s approach is so anachronistic these days that it’s almost revolutionary. According to his former teammate Carlos Correa, Arraez is simply practicing his ability to “drive the ball at the shortstop’s head,” over and over again. That’s in stark contrast to the vast majority of MLB right now, which is teaching players to loft balls into the seats…and cultivate power in the weight room in order to do so.
Arraez is a lefty, so by nature, most of his hits should be to right field. But check out this spray chart. He plays no favorites and puts the ball everywhere. That ability traces back to practice with his father, in a backyard in San Felipe, Venezuela. He was instructed to hit a ball hanging from a mango tree to “left field” (or, the opposite way). Over time, as he mastered this approach, he earned the nickname La Regadera: “The Sprinkler.”
Now leading off for a playoff team, Arraez hasn’t forgotten his roots — or his regimen. Every single day, no matter where he is, Arraez spends time hitting balls off a tee. He uses a small bat and a normal-sized bat to (a) interrogate his mechanics and (b) get good at hitting balls that should be impossible to hit. A video online shows just how far inside (and far back in the box) he’ll place the tee, in order to force himself to keep his hands tight to the body. There’s only one way to hit a ball running on your hands like that. Keep your hands in, fight it off with supernatural quickness and be willing to use the whole field.
Finally, if there’s any sign — beyond the accruing accolades — that Arraez is here to stay, it’s this: he’s reportedly the favorite lefty hitter of the godfather of consistent routine and simple hitting, Ichiro Suzuki. It doesn’t get any more legit than that.