Bud Selig's backed himself into some awkward situations as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. But at the end of this season, he could have a real doozy on his hands, as Melky Cabrera has a decent shot at winning the National League batting title.
Yes, the same Melky Cabrera who was just suspended 50 games for testing positive for testosterone.
Stick with me for a second because this math is going to get tricky. Melky currently has a .346 average. He's not even leading the National League in average as things stand right now, as Andrew McCutchen has a .358 average. Melky's in second, though, with Joey Votto at .342 and Buster Posey at .330.
The "problem" for Melky for is that he only has 501 plate appearances. The batting title requires 502 plate appearances for qualification purposes. But you can't breathe a sigh of relief just yet, because there's a rule about how baseball rectifies that in case someone with less plate appearances has a high average.
From MLB's official rule book:
Notwithstanding the foregoing requirement of minimum appearances at the plate, any player with fewer than the required number of plate appearances whose average would be the highest, if he were charged with the required number of plate appearances shall be awarded the batting, slugging or on-base percentage championship, as the case may be.
So what does that mean for Melky? Well, it means we get him up to the minimum number of plate appareances to be eligible. And that means we add an 0-for-1 plate appearance to his season total, make him eligible and drop his average to ... .346. (You could do the same thing for Joey Votto once he gets back and finishes his season, but the problem is he's so far off eligibility that his average would likely plummet.)
Basically, this leaves McCutchen and Melky's teammate Posey to try and maintain or raise their respective averages in order to prevent Melky from winning the batting title.
Will they do that? Well, projections say no. FanGraphs projection system (ZiPS) has McCutchen pegged for a .301 average the rest of the way, which would give him a .342 average for the season. Posey is projected to hit .304 the rest of the way, which would give him a .323 average for the season.
If those projections hold true, Melky Cabrera will win the 2012 National League batting title and it'll happen while he's serving a 50-game suspension. It's almost too awkward to even be plausible, and yet, it's absolutely realistic.