Yes, suspended Melky Cabrera will finish the season with 501 plate appearances.
Yes, the cutoff for winning a batting title is 502 plate appearances.
So the batting title is safe, right?
Nope. As too many of us forgot in the heat of Wednesday's revelatory moment, there's a codicil. A loophole:
Melky busted for PEDs 1 AB short of qualification for batting title. Will add 0-for-1. He is now the favorite for NL batting crown. Ugh.— David Todd (@DTonPirates) August 16, 2012
Yeah. The rules for such things, which do make sense, stipulate that when figuring a batting average for the purpose of figuring a batting titlist, we simply add the requisite number of at-bats to reach 502, which of course means adding just one AB to Melky Cabrera's record. If we do that, his batting average drop from .346 to ... .346.
Now, we should mention that Cabrera is not currently the National League leader in batting average. So is he really the favorite for the crown, as Todd suggests? Here are the current leaders:
J. Votto .342
B. Posey .330
With Joey Votto on the Disabled List and no timetable for his return, it seems highly unlikely that he'll play enough to finish with enough plate appearances. So cross him off the list. Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey are both healthy and productive, though. So let's see where these guys are projected to finish, batting-average-wise, according to the ZiPS projections over at FanGraphs ...
B. Posey .323
The "problem", of course, is that neither McCutchen or Posey are supposed to keep hitting quite as well as they've been hitting; their pre-2012 performances just don't suggest they're quite as good as they've been this season. McCutchen's projected to hit just .301 the rest of the way, Posey .306. Of course the same would be true of Cabrera -- his season-ending "projection" is .336, with a .306 average the rest of the way -- except now history and regression to the mean and all those other nifty concepts are irrelevant. For better or worse, he's stuck at .346.
So yes, it's true: Melky Cabrera, despite being 12 points off the pace right now, probably is your most likely National League batting champion. And yes: Ugh. If you don't like it, root for good-guy Andrew McCutchen doubly hard.