“Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” -Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived. Guest Writer Brian Smallshaw examines senior Randell Kanemaru’s hitting as the Lions prepare to take on Cornell in their last regular games of the season.
It’s a common question amongst baseball fans: how does someone determine who the best hitter in history is? Between the hot dog-fueled dingers smashed by Babe Ruth, the 4367 hits by Ichiro, and the fear that Albert Pujols inspired in Brad Lidge’s heart just thirteen years ago, it can be hard to choose only one player from over 100 years of baseball history. And yet, one player does stand out. Why? Because he managed to succeed four out of ten times, way better than a measly three out of ten times. His name was Ted Williams.
Last year, it seemed as if Columbia had its own college-level version of Ted Williams: then-junior Randell Kanemaru. He was just five points away from .400—an amazing feat in any league. In case you need reference for how tough that is, the last major league player to accomplish a .400 batting average was (you guessed it) Ted Williams, way back in 1941 when he posted a .406 batting average.
Halfway through this season, Kanemaru was batting well, achieving a .365 average. As Kanemaru’s senior year comes to a close, however, he’s hit a slump and drifted down to .309—a solid average by any means, but not up to the level of play that many expected going into this season. This slump comes at a particularly bad time for the Lions, who need to do well against Cornell this weekend if they hope to overtake Dartmouth in the rankings and head to the Ivy League Championship Series. If Kanemaru can get back to his junior-year level of hitting, the Lions may do just that.
Last year, Kanemaru led the entire Ivy League in batting average, outpacing Harvard’s Patrick Robinson by a full 23 points, even with 31 more at bats. And before anyone tells me that batting average is an outdated statistic and that contact hitters don’t produce runs like power hitters do, I want you to consider that Kanemaru was tied for fifth in the league in home runs (7). Overall, he slashed .395/.435/.625, which is good for a solid 1.060 OPS. Want more comparisons to major league stats? I got plenty. Last year, Yankees phenom Aaron Judge finished second in the majors with a 1.049 OPS. Right now, however, Kanemaru is slashing .309/.422/.473 which makes his OPS .895.
In order to work his way out of this slump, Kanemaru is trying to clear his head at the plate and go back to basics. “I’m just trying to relax and go back to my old approach, just like seeing the ball, hitting the ball,” he said. Head Coach Brett Boretti concurred that “A lot of it is approach, more so than even physical as far as what you’re trying to do—getting at bats, getting a pitch to work with when you’re going up to the plate.” Both Kanemaru and Coach Boretti seem confident that Kanemaru can get back on track. Hopefully he will rediscover the approach that worked so well for him junior year against Cornell this weekend.
Photo via gocolumbialions.com