Batting title races jumbled as MLB season winds down

Noah Trister
AP Baseball Writer

The bar for the batting title is unusually low this year – and that’s creating wild races for the honor in both leagues.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads the majors in hitting with a .321 average, and Trea Turner is atop the National League at .316. According to, the only time the leaders in both leagues were at .325 or lower was in 1960, when Dick Groat topped the NL at .325 and Pete Runnels hit .320 to win the AL title.

The lowest average to win the NL batting crown was .313 by Tony Gwynn in 1988. The lowest to top the AL was .301 by Carl Yastrzemski in the pitcher-dominated 1968 season.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Trea Turner (6) hits a base hit during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Sunday, Sept 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

These lower batting averages by the league leaders are consistent with the sense that the sport is dominated by homers and strikeouts now. Aside from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, nobody has hit over .350 since Josh Hamilton in 2010.

With nobody close to a number like that this season, there could be several players in contention for the batting crown until the final day. Houston’s Michael Brantley (.315) and Yuli Gurriel (.314) aren’t far behind Toronto’s Guerrero in the AL. Right behind the Dodgers’ Turner in the NL are another former Washington National and a current one. Bryce Harper is hitting .313 and Juan Soto is at .315.

Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. watches his solo home run against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Toronto. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press via AP)

Head to head

The St. Louis Cardinals swept a three-game series against San Diego and extended their winning streak to eight games. The Cardinals lead Cincinnati by three games for the second NL wild card. The fading Padres are now 31/2 back, along with Philadelphia.

With Jack Flaherty limited to 14 starts so far this year because of injury problems, 40-year-old Adam Wainwright is 16-7 with a 2.89 ERA for the Cardinals.

Trivia time

Turner is trying to become the first Dodgers player to win the batting title since Tommy Davis in 1963, and Harper is trying to become the first Phillie to do it since Richie Ashburn in 1958. Aside from the Rays and Diamondbacks, who have never had a batting champion, which current franchise has gone the longest since its last one?

Line of the week

Atlanta’s Eddie Rosario hit for the cycle Sunday in a 3-0 victory over San Francisco. He was the second Braves player to do that recently. Freddie Freeman pulled it off Aug. 18 at Miami.

Rosario hit a double in the second inning, a triple in the third, a homer in the seventh and a single in the ninth.

Comeback of the week

Philadelphia trailed 7-0 against the Cubs on Thursday night after Chicago scored seven runs in the third inning. The Phillies answered with seven of their own in the fourth and went on to a 17-8 victory. Chicago had a 98.2% chance to win in the fourth inning, according to Baseball Savant. But by the end of the seventh, it was the Phillies whose chances were north of 99%.

Philadelphia is two games behind Atlanta atop the NL East.


Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman came up as a pinch-hitter Friday night in the 11th inning against Atlanta, and he was able to hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to win the game 6-5. San Francisco had tied that game on a homer by Donovan Solano – also a pinch-hitter – with two outs in the ninth. The Giants were out of position players when they turned to Gausman, who hit a flyball to right field.

Trivia answer

The Athletics have not had a batting champ since 1952, when the team was in Philadelphia. Ferris Fain won it that year with a .327 average.