The American League batting title race is a wide open affair as of this writing, with ten players realistically in the hunt for the coveted prize. Currently the AL batting title lead belongs to Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees at .324, but that could change in a hurry with hitters like Magglio Ordonez, Milton Bradley, Ian Kinsler, and Joe Mauer in hot pursuit. The American League batting title race is certain to go down to the wire and if the leaders fail to raise their standards above A-Rod’s .324 mark, it will be the lowest average to win since Rod Carew’s .318 in 1972.
Rodriguez has played in 91 games for New York in 2008, tied for the fewest among the top ten in batting with Texas Ranger Milton Bradley. A-Rod has spent time on the disabled list this season, while Bradley is nursing a strained quadriceps muscle and has sat out the last five contests. The Tigers’ Ordonez at .321 is very much in the hunt for a second consecutive AL batting crown, having won it in 2007 with his .363 average. Bradley at .320 and teammate Ian Kinsler at .318 are fast on their heels, with Joe Mauer, the only AL catcher to ever win a batting title, in 2006, breathing down their necks attempting to win another as he is in fifth at .316.
Johnny Damon of the Yanks and Kevin Youkailis of the Red Sox both stand at .315. Justin Morneau’s .313 is the same as Boston’s Dustin Pedroia’s. Ironically, Placido Polanco, another Tiger, rounds out the top ten at .311, the significance of that being that five teams each have a pair of players battling for the AL batting title- New York, Boston, Detroit, Minnesota, and Texas!
Rodriguez might have the toughest row to hoe, seeing how the Yankees play a majority of the games they have left on the road and against some of the iron of the American League. This could get to the third baseman, who would be only the second third baseman since George Brett in 1990 to win a title, the other being Boston’s Bill Mueller in 2003. Ordonez has rebounded from a mundane June in which he hit just .266 with a sizzling July of .386, but he also missed the first half of July with injuries. Bradley and Kinsler could wilt in the scorching heat of the Texas summer; only two Rangers have ever won an AL batting crown- Michael Young and Julio Franco.
Mauer and Morneau are in the midst of a close divisional chase and although they get to face the woeful Detroit staff again, along with hapless Seattle, they also face Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Kansas City down the stretch. Youkilis and Pedroia are on a Red Sox squad that is right in the middle of a three-way dogfight with the Rays and Yanks for a playoff spot. Damon is in the same boat, as is A-Rod, making every at-bat and every pitch a pressure-packed moment. If you subscribe to this way of thinking, then Ordonez and Polanco on the Tigers, who are on the fringe of the wild-card chase, coupled with Kinsler and Bradley playing on a Texas team that is out of the hunt, will have far less importance placed on their plate appearances.
Odds are that Ordonez will overtake A-Rod for the AL batting title since he makes better contact on a regular basis and plays in a cavernous home park that favors gap hitters like him. However, if A-Rod is able to pull it out then he will have won his first batting crown since his .358 led the AL while with Seattle in 1996. His 24 homers are the most of these contenders, while Morneau’s 87 runs batted in are tops of this group. The AL batting title will more than likely be decided in the last week of September, much like some of the playoff races that these hitters are involved in.
Tags:2008 American League Batting Title Up for Grabs