Thursday, October 4, 2012

Buster Posey's batting title

Buster Posey hit .337 this year. It was the second-best
batting average on his team and in the National League,
but he's the official batting champion.
Buster Posey is the odds-on favorite to win the National League MVP award, and deservedly so. The San Francisco Giants catcher had a great season — .337 batting average, 24 homers, 102 RBIs.

He will be officially recognized as the NL batting champ — officially because,  in one of those odd fits of self-righteousness we seem to be prone to, disgraced teammate Melky Cabrera, whose .346 batting average came one plate appearance short of qualifying, is being denied Rule 10.22(a).

Catchers and batting average crowns are an odd combo. This is the seventh time a catcher has led a major league in batting average — and the third time it was disputable. Follow along ...

1926: Bubbles Hargrave, a part-time catcher with Cincinnati, hits .353. The qualifying standard at the time was 100 games played; Hargrave, who split playing time with Val Picinich, appeared in 105 games and had just 366 plate appearances. By today's standards, he would have needed 478.

It's really a weird list of leaders. After Hargrave, it's teammate Cockoo Christensen, an outfielder who also played just part time (385 plate appearances). Third is Earl Smith — another catcher, with even less playing time than Hargrave. Fourth is Cy Williams — and again, he had less than 400 plate appearances. You have to get to rookie Paul Waner, a future Hall of Famer, to find a true regular on the leaders list.

(Perhaps the real problem in 1926 is that it's the one season in a decade-long span in which Rogers Hornsby didn't top .360. He hit a mere .317. But he did manage the Cardinals to the pennant and a World Series title.)

1938: Ernie Lombardi, Cincinnati, hits .342 in 529 plate appearances. By any standard, it's legit. Lombardi also wins the MVP award.

1942: Lombardi, now with Brooklyn, hits .330, but in only 347 plate appearances (105 games).  He is awarded the title over Enos Slaughter of St. Louis, who hit .318.

2006: Joe Mauer, .347 in 608 plate appearances.

2008: Mauer, .328 in 633 appearances.

2009: Mauer, .365 in 606 appearances. (And the MVP.)

2012: Posey.

All this is not to denigrate Posey's season. He had a superb year. He didn't have the best batting average in the league, not by the rules in place.

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