Sunday, March 14, 2010

Catchers with Sticks

A baseball oddity, one of many, really, if you get right down to it.

In the American League, since 1901, only one catcher has won the batting title. And it was the same guy, and he did it three times in the past four seasons. (Sorry I can't list these in tabular form. Blogger software just ain't good enough to turn out something decent when you try to do that.)

                    Joe Mauer/Minnesota/.365/2009
                    Joe Mauer/Minnesota/.328/2008
                    Joe Mauer/Minnesota/.347/2006

It's only happened three times in the National League also, and quite some time ago.

                    Ernie Lombardi/Boston (N)/.330/1942
                    Ernie Lombardi/Cincinnati/.342/1938
                    Bubbles Hargrave/Cincinnati/.353/1926

Hargrave won the title with only 326 at bats, far fewer than would be required today. But in 1926, the rules required that a player appear in 100 games to qualify for the batting title. Hargrave caught only 93 games, but he also served as a pinch-hitter on occasion, enough to bring his total game appearances to 105. His teammate Cuckoo Christensen was second in the league with .350, hit in the same way with fewer than 400 plate appearances but with over 100 games. Oddly enough, Cincinnati was not a hitter's park. The "real" winner of the batting crown in 1926 was Hall of Famer Paul Waner in his rookie year. He hit .336 in 144 games with over 500 at bats.

It's only 21 days to opening day . . . but who's counting?
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