Here are the leaders.
DJ LeMahieu won the AL batting average championship. (That was the highest in MLB as well.) He had already been the NL batting champ back in 2016, so he joins the very tiny club of those who have led both leagues, and is the only one to do it since 1900! (Pete Browning and Big Ed Delahanty did it in the old days, but Browning won his at the old pitching distance and both of the leagues he led were of questionable quality, which is to say neither the AL, which did not exist in his time, nor the NL.) I had previously assumed that the great Nap Lajoie had also accomplished this feat, but I found out today that he never led the NL despite a lifetime .345 average in that league.
- Speaking of Pete Browning, he is not in the HoF despite a lifetime batting average of .341 – about the same as Ted Williams.
- That’s not a record. Ross Barnes is not eligible for the HoF because he played only nine years because of a debilitating illness that he never recovered from, but he was the best position player of his era and had a lifetime average of .360, including an incredible lifetime .398 in the years before his illness. (He tried two unsuccessful comebacks after his convalescence.) With the possible exception of Willie Mays, Barnes is the only player I can name who was considered the best hitter, best fielder and best base-runner in the game at the same time. He had two years when he led the league in every category except homers – even walks and stolen bases. And just to show that he could summon up power when needed, he hit the very first homer in the history of the National League – and he knocked it over the fence, which was exceedingly rare in those days when most homers stayed inside the park. I saw one all-time list written by an old-timer around WW1 era that picked Barnes as the greatest second baseman in history – and that guy had seen Lajoie and Eddie Collins play! I saw another list written in the 19th century that picked Barnes as the greatest second baseman of all time – and the greatest shortstop as well! Was Barnes a good team player? Well, I don’t know, but he was the best player on the best team in baseball for five consecutive years – two different teams, so I’m guessing he was quite OK. I don’t usually get into HoF arguments, but there’s no doubt that guy belongs, especially since many of his inferior teammates have made it, partially because they played on teams that were great because of Barnes. The fact that he didn’t play ten seasons should not keep him out.
Luke Voit led the majors in homers. That makes LaMahieu and Voit the first teammates to combine to lead the majors in both homers and batting average since 1959, when Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews pulled it off for the Milwaukee Braves.
The 2020 LA Dodgers set the all-time record for most homers per game, 1.97. (Mookie Betts was a helluva pickup.) The Dodgers’ W-L percentage of .717 was the best since the 1954 Cleveland Indians.
Max Fried of the Braves became the first undefeated pitcher in history to qualify for the lead in winning pct. His perfect 1.000 broke the record for wl% set by Elroy Face when he went 18-1 in 1959.
Shane Bieber led the AL in just about every category worth leading (wins, winning percentage, ERA, strikeouts). I assume he is a shoo-in for the Cy Young.
Juan Soto of the Nationals became the youngest man ever to win the NL batting average championship. Per MLB: “His .490 on-base percentage, .695 slugging percentage, 1.185 OPS and 201 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) are the highest rates by any qualified hitter since Barry Bonds in 2004.”
Soto’s lifetime totals are comparable to some of the all-time leaders in youthful performance:
Mel Ott: 20 years old, first 1416 plate appearances – 61 homers, 251 RBI
Ed Mathews: 21 years old, first 1274 plate appearances – 72 homers, 193 RBI
Soto: 21 years old, first 1349 plate appearances – 69 homers, 217 RBI
Per 650 plate appearances: