- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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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."