New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu has made batting title history. LeMahieu clinched the American League batting title Sunday and became the first player in the modern era to win a batting title in each league. He'd previously won the National League batting title with the Rockies in 2016, hitting .348. LeMahieu led MLB in batting average both times.
"Guys don't win batting titles in both leagues, because you win it in one league, they probably keep you," Marlins manager Don Mattingly, the 1984 AL batting champ, told reporters following Saturday's game (NYY 11, MIA 4), including the Associated Press. "It's a different game nowadays."
The modern era begins in 1900 and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty won the batting title in each league at that time. Delahanty won the 1899 NL batting title with the Philadelphia Phillies and 1902 AL batting title with the Washington Senators, but the 1899 batting title is disputed, hence LeMahieu being the first in the modern era.
According to YES Network researcher James Smyth, the only other player to win the batting title in multiple official leagues was Pete Browning. He won the 1882 and 1885 American Association batting titles with the Louisville Eclipse and the 1890 Players' League batting title with the Cleveland Infants.
LeMahieu, an impending free agent poised to land a significant payday, is the first Yankee to win the batting title since Bernie Williams hit .339 in 1998. Here is the final 2020 AL batting average leaderboard (186 plate appearances needed to qualify):
- DJ LeMahieu, Yankees: .364
- Tim Anderson, White Sox: .322
- David Fletcher, Angels: .319
- Jose Abreu, White Sox: .318
Anderson (.335) won the batting title last year and LeMahieu (.327) finished second. This is only the seventh time in history the same two players finished first and second (in either order) in the batting title race in back-to-back years, and the first time since Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams did it in 1956 and 1957.
Of course, LeMahieu's batting title this year occurred in an unusual 60-game season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it's difficult to consider it on par with a 162-game batting title. That said, you can only play the schedule you're given, and every team played the same number of games. This is baseball in 2020.
LeMahieu won the batting title and Yankees teammate Luke Voit led MLB with 22 home runs this year. They are the first set of teammates to lead the league in batting average and homers since Hall of Famers Hank Aaron (.355) and Eddie Mathews (46 homers) with the 1959 Braves, not counting single players who led in both categories.
"Everybody wishes this year wouldn't have been so weird,'' Voit told reporters, including Dan Martin of the New York Post, on Saturday. "You've got to just roll with it. I did what I could this year."
Over in the National League, Nationals outfielder Juan Soto edged out Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman for the batting title. Soto hit .351 and Freeman hit .341. Soto is the first Nationals player to ever win the batting title and the third in franchise history, joining Al Oliver (.331 in 1982) and Tim Raines (.334 in 1986). Oliver and Raines did it during the Expos years.