This time of year, especially for fans of teams that have fallen out of postseason contention, it's nice to be able to find some other things to keep an eye on during the final weeks of the regular season. For Indians fans, one thing worth watching during the final quarter of the season will be the American League leader board for batting average.
Yes, most of us understand that batting average is far down the list of good ways to measure offensive production, but historically it's been the statistic with the most cache, and league leaders have long been said to possess the batting crown.
As of Friday morning, the AL leaders look like this:
- Jason Kipnis (Indians): .325
- Prince Fielder (Rangers): .321
- Nelson Cruz (Mariners): .320
- Michael Brantley (Indians): .319
- Eric Hosmer (Royals): .315
- Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox): .313
- Lorenzo Cain (Royals): .309
- Jose Iglesias (Tigers): .306
- Jose Altuve (Astros): .305
- Ian Kinsler (Tigers): .304
Yes, Kipnis leads the league right now, and Brantley is in 4th, only 6 points behind his teammate. It's been a long time since the Tribe had a batting champ: You have to go all the way back to Bobby Avila in 1954, which means it's something most of us have never seen before.
Before him there was Lou Boudreau in 1944, Lew Fonseca in 1929, Tris Speaker in 1916, Nap Lojoie in 1910 (look that one up, it was quite a fiasco), Elmer Flick in 1905, Lajoie in 1904, and Lajoie in 1903.
With six players separated by only 12 points, this race could be wild all the way to the end. It could be that the most likely winner isn't even listed above though. Miguel Cabrera is currently batting .358, making him a heavy favorite to finish with a better average than any of the ten players on that list. The issue is, due to injury he only has 363 plate appearances right now, not enough to be considered qualified.
A player needs 502 PA at the end of the season to be considered qualified, which means Cabrera is 139 away with 42 games to go for the Tigers. If he starts even 30 of those games, he'll be qualified by the end of the season. Perhaps Detroit will see fit to rest the big fella, what with their postseason chances sunk and Cabrera having a harder time staying healthy during the last couple years.
In the meantime, let's hope Kipnis and Brantley keep posting multi-hit games. Maybe they'll even finish 1-2!