Mauer, Suzuki taking AL batting title to the wire

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Posted Sept. 26, 2009, at 2:22 a.m.

In 1957, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees hit .365. He did not win the batting title.

That was the year that Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox hit .378 to take the crown.

That was also the last time in the American League that a player hit better than .360 and did not get the title. It could happen again this year.

Joe Mauer of the Twins and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners are in a battle for the best average. Mauer entered Friday’s games at .371 and Ichiro at .355.

In MLB history, there have only been 69 players to hit better than .360 and not finish first.

The last to do so were Larry Walker (.366) and Mike Piazza (.362) in 1997. They lost out to Tony Gwynn at .372.

In fact, the last three players not to win the title with a .360 or better average played in the NL — Piazza, Walker and Jeff Bagwell (1994) at .368.

Tris Speaker hit .360 or better seven times without a title. Babe Ruth suffered that fate five times.

In 1921, Ty Cobb (.389), Babe Ruth (.378), George Sisler (.371) and Tris Speaker (.362) all failed to win a title. That went to Harry Heilman of the Tigers, who hit .394.

There have even been two players to hit .400 and not win the title. Yikes!

In 1911, Joe Jackson, he of Shoeless fame, hit .408 and lost the title to Ty Cobb at .420.

Cobb then had the tables turned on him in 1922 when he hit .401 and lost the title to George Sisler, who hit .420, the very number Cobb won the title with in 1911.

This year’s race between Mauer and Ichiro has more history attached. Mauer would be the first catcher in the history of MLB to win three batting titles.

Mauer could also surpass the highest average ever for a catcher. That is held by Bill Dickey of the Yankees (1936) and Piazza with the Dodgers (1997) at .362.

No, Dickey did not win the title in 1936. That went to Luke Appling who hit .388.

Perhaps most incredible in Mauer’s run is the fact he recently has not had his protector, Justin Morneau, in the lineup hitting behind him to give him better pitches to hit.

Morneau is injured. In the first seven games without Morneau, Mauer hit .591.

Suzuki has won two titles and is recognized as one of the game’s best ever pure hitters.

He should reach the .360 mark or better since the Mariners are out of postseason contention and will be playing games where the pressure is off and more strikes are thrown.

The postseason teams are all but set and the champagne will be flowing this weekend as more claim their prize.

The batting race in the AL may take a little longer.

bdnsports@bangordailynews.net

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/09/26/sports/mauer-suzuki-taking-al-batting-title-to-the-wire/ printed on December 18, 2014