Who Says Rooting for a Team That’s 24 Games Out of First Can’t Be Fun?
September 27th, 2011 by slangon

So we’re down to it. 2 games remain in the 2011 Baseball Season. Obviously, the Mets as a team have been a lost cause for a while now, but damn if Jose Reyes isn’t keeping baseball fun.

Last night Jose went 3 for 4 in the Mets loss to the Reds to boost his average up to .334. Technically, his average is .33396226, but it seems like that’s what it’s going to come down to. In raising his batting average, Jose jumped back into 1st place in the batting title race over Ryan Braun, who did not play last night.

Braun’s average is also listed as .334, but again, technically he’s at .33393178. That means that Jose is leading the race by .00003048 points. Both teams have 2 games left in the regular season and considering Jose sat on Saturday and Ryan sat yesterday, I see no reason why both guys won’t play in both games. I figure both guys will get 4 or 5 at bats per game. It would seem that the National League Batting Title is going to come down to 10 at-bats. Wild.

That got me wondering where this stood in terms of really close batting title races. I’m well aware of the 1910 American League race between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie.

For those who don’t know the story, towards the final days of the 1910 baseball season, Cobb held a .004 lead over Lajoie. Hugh Chalmers of the Chalmers Motor Car Company had promised a new car to whoever won the batting title. Cobb, in a rather dubious move, decided to sit out the final games to preserve his average. Meanwhile, Nap Lajoie went 8 for 8 in the Cleveland Naps final doubleheader of the season raising his average over that of Cobbs. Six of those hits though, were bunt singles up the third base line and apparently St. Louis Browns third baseman Red Corriden was instructed to play extra deep by Browns manager Peach Pie O’Conner. Some feel as though the Browns were letting Lajoie get hits just to beat out Cobb who was notoriously unpopular throughout the league. It seemed that Nap had taken the title, but after hearing about the suspicious 8 for 8 day, American League president Ban Johnson, usually a staunch Cobb hater, ordered an investigation. It was discovered that the league statistician had failed to include a Tigers game in which Cobb went 2 for 3 in his calculations. Once that was added, Cobb’s average sat at .385069 to Lajoie’s .384095. In the end, despite so much questionable behavior on both sides, Hugh Chalmers decided to give a car to both men. To this day, there is still controversy surrounding this race as some sources claim that Cobb’s 2 for 3 game was counted twice.

That race was pretty close and came down to the last few games, but a .004 difference in average is a far cry from a .00003048 difference. Was there any other races that were so close that they were decided by less than .001?

In the National League, you actually don’t have to go back that far. In 2003, Albert Pujols(.35871404) beat out Todd Helton (.35849057) by .00022347 points. Before that, you have to go all the way back to  1931 when Chick Hafey of St. Louis (.34888889) beat out Bill Terry of the Giants (.34860884) by .00028005 points. The only other time I was able to find where a N.L. batting title was determined by less than a point was all the way back in 1895 when Jesse Burkett of the Cleveland Spiders (.40540541) bested Ed Delahanty of the Philadelphia Phillies (.40416667) by .00123874 points.

Although Miguel Cabrera has a pretty comfortable .005 lead in the American League batting race, the A.L. has had it’s share of close races as well, although it’s been a while since there’s been a real squeaker. Back in 1970, Alex Johnson (.32899023), who was playing for the Angels, beat out Yaz (.32862191) by a .00036832 margin. Before that, in 1949, George Kell (.34291188) of the Tigers beat none other than Ted Williams (.34275618) by just .0001557 points. Just 4 years earlier, Snuffy Stirnweiss (.3085443) edged Tony Cuccinello (.30845771) by only .00008659 points. Back in 1935, Washington Senators infielder Buddy Myer (.34902597) beat out Indians leftfielder Joe Vosmik (.3483871) by a mere .00063887 points.

Outside of those, the aforementioned Cobb/Lajoie race was the only other time in the American League that a batting title was won by less than a 1/1000th of a point.

By my calculations, the 1945 Stirnweiss/Cuccinello race was the slimmest margin in history at a .00008659 difference. Right now, Braun and Reyes are separated by even less. I wonder if they can keep it that close. Of course with Reyes coming out on top.

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