Jose Altuve and Justin Morneau lead Close Races for Batting Titles

If you would have heard on January 1, 2014 that Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros was leading the race for the American League batting title in mid-August, what would your reaction have been? “Impossible!” With a cast of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, and Evan Longoria, in the same league, how could Altuve pull such a task off? The National League has Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Freddie Freeman, and Paul Goldschmidt. Who would have thought that out of that list, Goldschmidt would be the only one to crack the top ten batting average leaders?

Though Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau currently holds the lead, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Ben Revere is putting up a “phight.” Revere has a Batting Average of .357 and a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) of .403 in August, but that is still not enough compared to Morneau’s August of .396 BA and .432 BABIP. And let’s not forget about Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Though Puig’s August has shown some dropoff (.274 BA, .340 BABIP), he is still close in the race for the batting title.

Altuve leads the American League with a Batting Average of .339, .359 BABIP on the 2014 season. Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners is close behind is a .332 BA and a .355 BABIP. Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez is falling nicely into third place on this distinguished list of hitters with a .326 average and a .310 BABIP, but watch out for Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley with a .319 average and a .318 BABIP. If Altuve and Cano have a tough 40 game finish, Martinez and Brantley have a clear shot at capturing the coveted batting title in a very competitive American League.

The same goes in the National League. If Revere can keep up his hot hitting streak (recorded multiple hits in 23 out of last 45 games dating to June 26 and leads Major Leagues with 70 hits and a .376 BA during that span), and continue to persevere through the pain in his surgically repaired ankle, (Ben Revere, SIA player profile), then he might be able to gain points on a consistent Morneau. Overall, it looks like Morneau should be able to hold off Revere in the NL with his .323 BA, but then there is Puig. Even if the singles leader in the NL does not take down Colorado’s first baseman, LA’s sensational superstar outfielder might. Puig is only one point behind Revere in batting average, .313 and .314 respectively. So can Morneau hold off Puig?

As of August 17, Morneau has a total of 13 home runs, Altuve has six home runs. We know that home runs do not count in the batting title, but when you think of someone winning a batting title, you think of a consistent gap to gap hitter. That is not necessarily the case. The batting title is just the player who hits for the highest average among qualifying at-bats. It is the most prestigious individual statistical award in baseball for hitters and the hardest part of the triple crown for most hitters.

It does not matter how far or how hard the ball is hit. The number of bases a batter acquires from one hit does not count towards his batting average. The batting average is the only statistic that counts towards the batting title. So it is very conceivable that a singles hitter like Ben Revere, who has one career home run, could win the National League batting title and Jose Altuve, who leads the American League in hits, stolen bases, singles, at bats, and batting average, could hold on to win the coveted trophy.

But never forget about Robinson Cano or Yasiel Puig in their respective leagues. Yes it took a while for Cano’s power to show, but he remained a consistent hitter in the Mariners lineup throughout the season. Puig came out a little slow in April, but then heated up as the season wore on. He has shown signs of the “sophomore slump” throughout the year, but seemed to maintain a good On-Base Percentage (OBP), Slugging Percentage (SLG), and On-Base plus Slugging Percentage (OPS), until recently. In August, Puig has gone into a slightly larger decline, hitting only two doubles, zero triples, zero home runs, and four runs batted in. However, Puig has 17 hits during the first 17 days of August, giving him a .274 batting average in 16 games.

So will the singles hitters steal the batting title in each league this year, or will a “power” hitter run away with it? Keep watching baseball, and keep reading to see. Anything can happen.

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