November 21, 2017

Fun With Retrosheet: Come-From-Behind Batting Champions, An Update

September 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

John Pastier was wondering (among other things) about the record for the most days leading the league in batting average without winning the title. Here’s the list:

Player             Year  LED  DNL  DNQ  First   Last
Pete Reiser        1942  131   36    0   5-11   9-24
Lenny Dykstra      1990  125   37   10   5-11   9-14
Larry Walker       1997  124   57    0   4-10   9-19
John Kruk          1992  117   64    0   4- 7   8-27
Tony Cuccinello    1945  115   18   34   5- 1   8-27
Jimmie Foxx        1929  110   63    0   4-17   9-12
Tommy Holmes       1945  106   61    0   4-22   8-31
Mike Piazza        1996  105   77    0   5-26   9-25
Stan Musial        1958  104   63    0   4-23   9-11
Jeff Burroughs     1978  100   78    0   4-27   9- 6

Where LED is the number of days leading the league, DNL the number of days not leading the league, DNQ the number of days not qualifying (again, by modern standards), and First and Last contain the first and last dates they led the league.

And the flip side, the leaders who were in front of the pack for the fewest days.

Player             Year  LED  DNL  DNQ  First   Last
Harry Heilmann     1925    2  165    7   6- 5  10- 4
Ellis Burks        1996    4  177    0   9-26   9-29
Ted Williams       1958    4  152    9   9-13   9-28
Lou Boudreau       1944    5  153    8   9-27  10- 1
Buddy Myer         1935    5  158    3   8-13   9-29
Enos Slaughter     1942    5  162    0   4-23   9-27
Willie Mays        1954    6  161    0   9-20   9-26
Lew Fonseca        1929    8  166    0   9-29  10- 6
Chick Hafey        1931    8   17  110   9-19   9-27
Paul Waner         1926    9   92   66   9-21   9-29

We discussed some of these in the original article and of course, some of the entries on each list are paired. So when Foxx faded down the stretch in 1929, Fonseca eventually grabbed the title, Reiser lost his lead at the end of 1942 to Slaughter, and Piazza was passed by Ellis Burks in 1996,

John also wondered about the closest three-way batting races. Between 1918 and 2010 (and once again, using the modern standard of 3.1 plate appearances per game), the closest races:

Year Lg   Gap    Players
1991 NL  .00213  Tony Pendleton (.31911)  Hal Morris (.31799)     Tony Gwynn (.31698)
2003 AL  .00268  Bill Mueller (.32634)    Manny Ramirez (.32513)  Derek Jeter (.32365)
1976 AL  .00275  George Brett (.33333)    Hal McRae (.33207)      Rod Carew (.33058)
1935 AL  .00323  Buddy Myer (.34903)      Joe Vosmik (.34839)     Jimmie Foxx (.34579)
1944 AL  .00325  Lou Boudreau (.32705)    Bobby Doerr (.32479)    Bob Johnson (.32381)
1940 NL  .00335  Stan Hack (.31675)       Johnny Mize (.31434)    Jim Gleeson (.31340)

Note: this does not include the 1931 NL race, which officially included three batters within a single percentage point. One of these, however, was Jim Bottomley, who appeared in only 108 games and would not have qualified under modern standards.

The above was originally posted by Tom Ruane at Retrosheet.org.

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