Texas Rangers: David Schoenfield

David Murphy chasing batting title

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
5:15
PM CT
Sure, in this ERA of OPS, VORP, wRC, WAR and other advanced metrics, a batting title doesn't mean what it used to, at least to the more sabermetrically inclined fan.

But it's still fun to follow the races, and the Rangers' David Murphy is third in the AL race with his .321 average (Mike Trout leads at .333 and Miguel Cabrera is at .330). Murphy has hit .363 in the second half and Ron Washington has even started playing him against left-handers (Murphy is hitting .400 against lefties in 60 at-bats), allowing Murphy to acquire enough plate appearances to join the league leaders list.

If Murphy somehow catches Trout and Cabrera, he'd certainly rank as one of the more surprising batting title winners in history, considering his .280 career average entering 2012 and his platoon status (he's never received the required 502 plate appearances in a season).

The most unlikely batting average champ in recent years was Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez in 2006, when he hit .344 as a 28-year-old vet in just his second full season in the majors. While a bit of an outlier compared to the rest of his career, Sanchez is still a .297 career hitter and hit .304 the following season.

In 2003, Boston's Bill Mueller hit .326 to win the AL title, the only time he hit .300 over a full season (he hit in the .290s five times, however, so a leap to .326, especially in Fenway, isn't necessarily a huge fluke).

Going back a bit further, Terry Pendleton led the NL with a .319 mark in 1991. Pendleton had signed with the Braves that year after seven seasons in St. Louis, where he compiled a .259 average. Pendleton won the batting title and MVP Award that year, which also makes him one of the least likeliest MVP winners. People do forget that he followed that season by finishing second in the MVP voting in 1992 as he hit .311 and drove in 105 runs. After those two big seasons he basically returned to being Terry Pendleton, a brief ray of excellence on our historical radar.

The odds are against Murphy, but he's in the right park to win a title. Murphy isn't focusing on that, however.

"To focus on that [a batting title] and not focus on the team would be pretty selfish," Murphy told ESPN Dallas the other day. "It would take away from what each guy in here brings to the table. There’s no guarantee that because I qualify on Sept. 3 that I’m going to qualify after game 162. But it’s not like it really matters."

Ron Washington in the mix for AL honor

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
8:11
AM CT
Quick, who won last year's Manager of the Year awards?

Exactly. Not the most interesting of the postseason awards. But here's a quick preview of the award that usually goes to the manager whose team surprised the most.

American League

Joe Maddon, Rays: The odds-on favorite to win his second award, following Tampa Bay's miracle playoff run in September. Positives: Kept team positive after 0-6 start, Evan Longoria's April injury and Manny Ramirez's drug test/retirement; overcame two shortstops who hit under .200; mixed and matched guys like Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez for maximum producitivity; rebuilt bullpen thrived; sent up Dan Johnson to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of game No. 162. Negatives: Was that a mullet?

Ron Washington, Rangers: Remember, postseason performance doesn't come into play. Positives: Moved Alexi Ogando to the rotation; got a big year out of Michael Young by moving him around the DH role and the infield; let Mike Napoli eventually take over as the regular catcher. Negatives: Remember, postseason performance doesn't come into play.

Jim Leyland, Tigers: A two-time winner with the Pirates and once with the Tigers, Leyland could be the first manager to win the award four times (the award began in 1983). Positives: Gave the ball to Justin Verlander and stayed out of the way. Negatives: Poor lineup construction.

Manny Acta, Indians: The Indians ended up at 80-82, but it was a positive season as they remained in the playoff race much of the season. Positives: Hung in there despite injuries to Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo; worked in young players like Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall; adeptly handled no-name bullpen to a nice season. Negatives: Couldn't straighten out Fausto Carmona; stuck with Orlando Cabrera way too long in No. 2 hole.

SweetSpot network voting
Joe Maddon: 114 points (21 first-place votes)
Jim Leyland: 32 points
Ron Washington: 28 points (1)
Manny Acta: 20 points (1)
Joe Girardi: 20 points (1)
Terry Francona: 1 point
Mike Scioscia: 1 point

My ballot
1. Joe Maddon
2. Manny Acta
3. Ron Washington

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Colby Lewis
WINS ERA SO IP
10 5.12 123 158
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .323
HRA. Beltre 18
RBIA. Beltre 71
RA. Beltre 75
OPSA. Beltre .876
ERAC. Lewis 5.12
SOY. Darvish 182