LeMahieu wins National League batting title

Second baseman finishes 2016 season with .348 average

LeMahieu wins National League batting title

DENVER -- DJ LeMahieu added his name to the impressive list of Tony Gwynn National League batting champions who have represented the Rockies.

LeMahieu finished the year with a .348 (192-for-552) batting average -- a point ahead of the Nationals' Daniel Murphy (184-for-531, .347) -- to give the club its 10th such title.

Andres Galarraga won with a .370 average in the Rockies' expansion year of 1993. Larry Walker won three (1998, 1999, 2001), and other winners were Todd Helton (2000), Matt Holliday (2007), Carlos Gonzalez (2010), Michael Cuddyer (2013) and Justin Morneau (2014).

"It's a good place to hit, obviously," LeMahieu said. "There are a lot of good names that have done it in the past. It's pretty cool."

LeMahieu's 2016 average led the Majors, was the eighth-highest in club history and was the highest since Helton batted .358 and finished a point behind the Cardinals' Albert Pujols in 2003. It's the highest average for an NL batting champ since the Braves' Chipper Jones hit .364 in 2008.

"I wouldn't have said it wasn't possible, but I would have been surprised if someone would've told me that three or four years ago, when I was breaking into the big leagues," said LeMahieu, 27, who debuted with the Cubs in 2011 before being traded that winter to the Rockies. He split 2012 between Triple-A and the Rockies, but by the 2013 season, he was establishing himself as a regular.

With the Rockies well out of contention, manager Walt Weiss began monitoring the race with Murphy, who has been bothered by a left glute muscle strain that limited his participation for most of September.

In preparation for the postseason, the Nationals gave Murphy an at-bat on Sunday, but he flied out. Weiss was prepared to send LeMahieu into Sunday's 6-4, 10-inning loss to the Brewers had Murphy hit safely.

"We were monitoring it -- you didn't hear that from me," Weiss said, chuckling. "I would've found a way to give him an at-bat."

Weiss said he didn't mind making sure LeMahieu finished on top.

"Certainly one of the best storylines of this season, when you take into account the type of guy DJ is and how hard he's worked to achieve that," Weiss said. "That's no small achievement, to win the batting title in this league. Where he came from two or three years ago is pretty amazing. It's a testament to his work ethic, and to everything else about him."

In 2014, a lengthy slump led to a .267 batting average. But last year, LeMahieu batted a career-best .301. This year, LeMahieu made more solid contact, as evidenced by career highs in home runs (11), RBIs (66), doubles (32) and triples (eight). While he benefitted from Coors Field to the tune of a .391 batting average, he also hit .303 on the road.

"I was more consistent this year than I was in the past driving the ball," LeMahieu said.

The batting title adds to a solid career that has included the Rockies' Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013, a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2014 and an All-Star Game appearance last year.

"DJ's a star," Weiss said. "He's a superstar in this game. I think he'll continue to be. He's going to get better and better."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.