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Friday, August 24, 2012

Castrovince: If Melky wins, keep batting ‘title’ in perspective

Don’t burst Bubbles Hargrave’s bubble!

But while the batting title is, indeed, an individual championship, it probably falls more in line with the descriptive definition. For when you win a batting title, you get a note about it in next year’s media guide bio, you see your batting average in boldface on your online stats pages and you can tell friends and associates for the rest of your life, “Hey, did you know I won a batting title?”

There is no physical representation of this so-called championship. No trophy. No plaque. No parade.

Furthermore, the prestige of a batting title, in today’s increasingly sophisticated statistical society, has been watered down. Most of us realize that batting average is not necessarily the firmest or fairest barometer. Personally, I think leading the league in on-base plus slugging percentage is more illustrative of output than a batting average is, but the “OPS title” gets about as much attention as the “triples title” or the “intentional walks title.” It doesn’t exist in that mental framework.

The batting title does exist, and its place in history is secure. Many of us know, off the top of our heads, that Ty Cobb was credited with 12 of them.

In the present tense, though, I don’t think there’s nearly as much emphasis on batting titles as there once was. Can you name the last five batting champs in the AL and NL without consulting Wikipedia? I can’t. (And now that I’m looking at the full list, I see that Bill Mueller won the AL batting title in 2003. You could have given me a dozen guesses on that, and there’s no way I would have landed on Bill Mueller.)

Anyway, the batting title is merely a title, not a title. It’s importance, or lack thereof, is ultimately up to the beholder.

Repoz Posted: August 24, 2012 at 11:28 AM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, pirates

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4216701)
Agree completely. Most hardcore baseball fans remember that Willie McGee won his in 1990 without even being on the team in the last month of the year, and I'm sure some even remember that George Brett won two of his batting titles sitting a lot. This is why we don't need asterisks or deletion of records or any such nonsense. These things happened, just couch them in context and people will be smart enough to come to their own conclusions.
   2. AROM Posted: August 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4216712)
Last 5?

AL: Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer (twice I think), um...
NL: Matt Kemp? Or was it Braun? All I know is Braun won the MVP but I though Kemp had the better overall stats. Votto, Pujols, oh wait, did Reyes win it last year? I think Hanley won it once. I'm just guessing. I used to be better at stuff like that.
   3. AROM Posted: August 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4216713)
I looked things up on BB-ref. Not impressed by my guesses, but my Bill Mueller moment was being reminded that Freddy Sanchez won a batting title.
   4. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 24, 2012 at 11:46 AM (#4216714)
Can you name the last five batting champs in the AL and NL without consulting Wikipedia?


Really? That's you go to source for baseball stats?
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: August 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4216720)
Agree completely. Most hardcore baseball fans remember that Willie McGee won his in 1990 without even being on the team in the last month of the year, and I'm sure some even remember that George Brett won two of his batting titles sitting a lot.


The McGee one I liked, as Pedro Guerrero had the best overall average in baseball and didn't win anything.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4216725)
I don't know why, but it boggles my mind Pedro Guerrero almost won a batting title. I have it in my mind he was a .250 hitter with power, but he was actually a career .300 hitter. Pretty underrated player, eh?
   7. andrewberg Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:08 PM (#4216732)
I will always remember Bill Mueller because it was so odd. Did Freddy Sanchez win one too? I recall that he was close once. Magglio Ordonez and Chipper both had crazy seasons where they hit about .370 for a year. Maggs was 07, I think Chipper was 10. Bonds, Helton, Walker, A-Rod in 97, Nomar, Jeter (I think?), Tony Gwynn, Tony Gwynn, Tony Gwynn, Tony Gwynn. Tony Gwynn won one batting title, then 6 Tony Gwynn awards.

Reyes won last year in the NL, didn't he? I remember there being controversy about whether he should play the last day, and I seem to remember that he played and got a hit or two.

It also seems that there used to be some physical award for a batting title. I remember having a Kirby Puckett baseball card as a kid where he was holding some sort of inscribed bat, and I don't think it was a Silver Slugger. That might be wrong, though.

Altogether, the point is a pretty fair one, similar to the argument for putting steroid use on a HOF plaque. Steroids are part of the Melky story, as is his batting average. Neither gets the point across without the other.
   8. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:13 PM (#4216737)
The McGee one I liked, as Pedro Guerrero had the best overall average in baseball and didn't win anything.


That was Eddie Murray, who hit .330. Brett led the AL at .329 and McGee's combined NL and AL average was .324. Dave Magadan and Lenny Dykstra in the NL and Rickey Henderson in the AL also finished ahead of .324.

I kind of lost interest in baseball for a few years starting in 1991, with girls and then college and all that. It was the last year I followed baseball like a kid, so I remember all kinds of stuff about 1990 that I'lll never know about 2011 or 2012.
   9. Tippecanoe Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:25 PM (#4216754)
Pretty underrated player, eh?


He definitely had TEH FEAR at one time.

Bill James in the abstracts used to call him 'one of the best hitters God ever made' or something like that. Park effects/injuries/bad defense, plus the fact that his raw numbers were quickly overwhelmed during sillyball, and he's been sort of forgotten.
   10. Steve Treder Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:33 PM (#4216763)
Bill James in the abstracts used to call him 'one of the best hitters God ever made' or something like that. Park effects/injuries/bad defense, plus the fact that his raw numbers were quickly overwhelmed during sillyball, and he's been sort of forgotten.

My favorite James line about Guerrero was when he wrote, "They asked Guerrero to play third base, and he said, 'Is it that one over there?' but just kept on hitting up a storm."

And, of course, we can't fail to relate the great LaSorda quip. LaSorda is grilling Guerrero (who was not only a hilariously bad fielder, but a space cadet of epic proportion): "Pedro, there are runners on first and third, and one out. What are you thinking?"

Pedro: "Don't hit it to me?"

Tommy: "OK, but then what?"

Pedro: "Don't hit it to Sax?"
   11. McCoy Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4216768)
I couldn't even tell you who won last year.

Batting title champs off the top of my head but for most of them not exact years: Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Ty Cobb, Yaz, and Wade Boggs. If you made me sit down and think about it I could add more but it would take awhile.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:40 PM (#4216774)
Bill Mueller always stands out to me too. The fluke guys kinda stand out. Freddy Sanchez. Terry Pendleton. John Olerud.

Looking at the list, I never would have guessed Derrek Lee has a batting title and Derek Jeter does not.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:43 PM (#4216777)
That was Eddie Murray, who hit .330. Brett led the AL at .329 and McGee's combined NL and AL average was .324. Dave Magadan and Lenny Dykstra in the NL and Rickey Henderson in the AL also finished ahead of .324.


D'oh. You are of course right, horrible with names, and was thinking Guerrero , took a quick glance at Pedro and saw that he finished second in the NL that year, and said "that seems like the guy". Should have doubled checked the al stats.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:01 PM (#4216812)
I can remember all of the BA champs from the time I was about 5 or 6 until the time I graduated from high school, and almost none of them after that. Yaz in 67, Carew in 77, Brett in 80, and of course Miller in 03.

And Castrovince is completely right. I'm rooting for McCutchen to win it, but if he doesn't I won't lose any sleep. This isn't exactly the Hall of Fame we're talking about.
   15. Steve Treder Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:08 PM (#4216823)
I can remember all of the BA champs from the time I was about 5 or 6 until the time I graduated from high school, and almost none of them after that.

Me too. Of course, that also applies to every single other fragment of knowledge at my disposal.
   16. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:11 PM (#4216825)
I can remember all of the BA champs from the time I was about 5 or 6 until the time I graduated from high school, and almost none of them after that.

I was basically going to say this. When I was in college in about 1992, I could have told you the AL MVP, NL MVP, AL Cy, NL Cy, and a host of other leaders from 1980 on. After that, it gets hazy. I don't think it's a matter of not emphasizing, I think it just happens to everyone. I mean, I know that Bonds won 7 MVP's, but I couldn't tell you the years.
   17. GEB4000 Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:51 PM (#4216881)
George Brett only missed time for the 1980 batting title. He won the MVP that year and deserved it. Bill Madlock is the batting title shoplifter. 1981 and 1983 he had a combined 27 PAs above the minimum.
   18. Bob Tufts Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4216883)
I'm sure some even remember that George Brett won two of his batting titles sitting a lot.


Considering his well-chronicled outbreak of hemmorrhoids, I am impressed that Brett was actually able to sit a lot.
   19. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4216884)

Bill Mueller always stands out to me too. The fluke guys kinda stand out. Freddy Sanchez. Terry Pendleton. John Olerud.

Olerud was a borderline HOFer, beautiful swing, career .295 hitter who also had a .354 season in which he finished second in the league to Coors Field Larry Walker. I don't lump him in with those other guys.
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:56 PM (#4216885)
I can remember all of the BA champs from the time I was about 5 or 6 until the time I graduated from high school, and almost none of them after that.

Me too. Of course, that also applies to every single other fragment of knowledge at my disposal.


I was basically going to say this.


Obviously what we need to rule the world is a carefully assembled team of Primates ranging from Dan Evensen to Harvey, with all ten year gaps of age groups represented in between. We can call it Appling to Morgan to Pujols.
   21. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4216886)
George Brett only missed time for the 1980 batting title.


He sat out a few games at the end of the 1990 season. He only had 5 plate appearances (4 AB) in KC's last six games.
   22. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 24, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4216892)
I couldn't even tell you who won last year.

Same here. Once I saw the names, I at least remembered Reyes, but I don't remember any fanfare for Miggy winning one last year.

Derek Jeter does not.

It's been a heartbreaking ride. He's been in it the last week or so a few times (1999, 2003, 2006). I think Bernie and Paul O'neil are the only Yanks I've seen win a batting title.

Just glancing at the list, it looks like Trout is going to be the first non-Seattle rookie to win a batting title in a long time.
   23. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2012 at 02:33 PM (#4216936)

Olerud was a borderline HOFer, beautiful swing, career .295 hitter who also had a .354 season in which he finished second in the league to Coors Field Larry Walker. I don't lump him in with those other guys.


I didn't say he wasn't any good, but his batting title year was pretty fluky. He had two .350+ seasons, but aside from that never hit higher than .302 in a season, and only had four .300 seasons in his career.
   24. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4216962)
Carlos Gonzalez won it a couple of years ago, as did Matt Holliday.

It seems to me like more sluggers are winning batting titles, like Cabrera and Bonds and Pujols and Chipper and Josh Hamilton, and I wonder if that's one reason people are paying less attention to the batting crown. When people like Rod Carew and Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn were winning lots of them, it was a big deal for them, because BA was their central skill. Nowadays, if Josh Hamilton wins the batting title, it's just not a big deal, because it's not the most important part of his game.

Winning that BA title sure seems to be more significant to the Jose Reyeses and Ichiros of the world.
   25. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:31 PM (#4216972)
I used to like it when singles-hitting guys would win the batting title, because I knew that my less-knowledgeable fantasy opponents would WAY overvalue them in the draft next year.

   26. andrewberg Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4216981)
We are also in a period where there aren't guys who pile them up like Boggs or Gwynn. Jeter, as CP mentioned, has been close many times. Other than him, there's Pujols, a power hitter, and Mauer, who plays a position that grinds him down. Trout might be the emergent candidate to rattle off 5+.
   27. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4216984)
I know Matt Holliday won in his MVP year. I know Mauer has two batting titles, Helton has one from 2000, and Ichiro won in the year he set the hits record, and probably also in his rookie year.
   28. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4216985)
pedro in 1985 was as hot a hitter as one could see. just white hot once the weather warmed up.
   29. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:54 PM (#4216992)
I don't know why, but it boggles my mind Pedro Guerrero almost won a batting title. I have it in my mind he was a .250 hitter with power, but he was actually a career .300 hitter.


I assume that you are confusing Pedro with some one else in your mind...
   30. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:56 PM (#4216995)
I know Mauer has two batting titles


Doesn't Mauer have 3 batting titles?

edit: looked it up. Yes, he does. 2006, 08, 09.
   31. Steve Treder Posted: August 24, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4217023)
pedro in 1985 was as hot a hitter as one could see. just white hot once the weather warmed up.

His stroke was a thing of profound beauty. And I say that as a Giants' fan who was terrified at the thought of him.
   32. JoeHova Posted: August 24, 2012 at 04:37 PM (#4217038)
andrewberg is right, there is an actual physical award for the batting title. They have a few on display in Cooperstown and they're very similar to the silver slugger except they don't have the plaque or stand or whatever behind the bat. I remember it well because it's my wife's favorite trophy design.
   33. BDC Posted: August 24, 2012 at 04:38 PM (#4217039)
Some comps for Guerrero in terms of career length and OPS+. Unsurprisingly, several of them were Godawful fielders: most guys who can hit this well stay in the league longer if they can field worth anything. Collectively, they hit the stuffing out of baseballs, though.

Player                BA   PA OPS+  OBP  SLG      Pos
Babe Herman         .324 6228  141 .383 .532     
*937
Jack Fournier       .313 6033  142 .392 .483  
*3/7981
Pedro Guerrero      .300 6115  137 .370 .480  35978
/4
Rico Carty          .299 6318  132 .369 .464  7D
/3295
Mo Vaughn           .293 6410  132 .383 .523      
*3D
Larry Doby          .283 6299  136 .386 .490 
*89/7436
Dolph Camilli       .277 6352  135 .388 .492       
*3
Danny Tartabull     .273 5842  133 .368 .496 
*9D/4675
Darryl Strawberry   .259 6326  138 .357 .505   
*9D/78 


   34. Steve Treder Posted: August 24, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4217051)
Unsurprisingly, several of them were Godawful fielders: most guys who can hit this well stay in the league longer if they can field worth anything. Collectively, they hit the stuffing out of baseballs, though.

Big time. Herman and Carty in particular were famously (infamously?) dreadful fielders.

Doby's the interesting exception. Rarely does an athletic center fielder with his breadth of tools break down so quickly and thoroughly in his mid-30s.
   35. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: August 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM (#4217057)
Reyes won last year in the NL, didn't he? I remember there being controversy about whether he should play the last day, and I seem to remember that he played and got a hit or two.

Reyes got a bunt single in the first in Game 162, then sat the rest of the game with his title secured.
   36. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: August 24, 2012 at 05:51 PM (#4217088)
I used to be able to remember every Super Bowl team and score up until 1990 when I went to college. There must be something that happens once you hit 20 although there are still a lot of us with arrested development.
   37. Walt Davis Posted: August 24, 2012 at 09:36 PM (#4217393)
Lots of injuries and extracurricular activities in that group in 33 though. Between injury and severe illness, Carty lost about 2.5-3 years of his prime. Vaughn missed a full season. I assume Doby got hurt at some point.

Of course big bodies and poor fielding often go with injuries and short careers but there's an alternate universe where Carty had Edgar's career.
   38. Buzzards Bay Posted: August 24, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4217474)
If you watched Mueller play in '03 you wouldn't put fluke or outlier in a sentence with him
he played a brand of attack baseball---always on--always in--
attack defense-- offensive defense
attack offense
special player robbed of time due to an injury sliding into the 3rd base wall at wrigley
the only time I was at HOF there was a display near the Reds case with what he did in '03
maybe one of the ultimate examples of the mind and body all in
special player

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