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MLB Notebook: Unusual batting crown race

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MLB Notebook: Unusual batting crown race play video for MLB Notebook: Unusual batting crown race

The 1907 season concluded with Detroit's Ty Cobb batting .350 for his first batting crown. Cobb also paced the American League in steals, with 53. Over in the National League, Pittsburgh's Honus Wagner captured his fifth batting title (with a .350 average), and like Cobb, had more steals (61) in his league than any other player. It's rare in a season to see one player win a batting crown and also have as many as 40 stolen bases, let alone two. But 2014 might be one of those years, if Houston's Jose Altuve and Philadelphia's Ben Revere can keep doing what they've been doing.

Revere had two hits and a stolen base in the Phillies' 7-1 win over the Cardinals and moved into a tie with Colorado's Justin Morneau for the lead in the NL's batting race. Revere is sitting on a .314 average and has 38 stolen bases.

• The Phillies' franchise has seen five players in the modern era finish a year with at least 40 steals and a .300 average: Sherry Magee in 1907 and 1910, Hans Lobert in 1913, Milt Thompson in 1987 and Bobby Abreu in 2004. Of these five, Magee is the only one with a batting title; the outfielder hit .331 in 1910 as part of a year in which he also paced the NL in runs, RBIs, on-base, slugging, total bases and extra-base hits, while his 49 steals were fourth.

• The last NL player to win a batting title and steal as many as 40 bases was Tony Gwynn in 1989, when he batted .336 and swiped 40 bags.

• Revere's isolated power stands at .053; no NL batting champ has finished with a mark so low since Zack Wheat in 1918.

Altuve went 2-for-5 for his 54th multihit game of the year. The Astros second baseman -- who also swiped his 47th base of the year -- is leading the AL in hits (178), batting (.334) and steals.

• Altuve's 54 through 131 team games are the most in franchise history, and the most for any player since Miguel Cabrera had 56 in 2012.

• Altuve's 178 hits are the most for any Astros player through 131 team games, ahead of Craig Biggio's 170 hits in 1998.

• Altuve is in a position to become the first American Leaguer since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 to capture the league's batting crown and steal at least 40 bases. Before Suzuki, the AL had last seen a player do this in 1973, when Rod Carew hit .350 with 41 steals.

Gattis on the mark

Highest HR percentages for players with at least 40 HRs in first two seasons
 
Player HRs HR percentage
Mark McGwire 52 7.44
Bob Horner 56 6.41
Ryan Braun 71 6.15
Dick Stuart 43 5.96
Ralph Kiner 74 5.94
Chuck Klein 54 5.66
Eddie Mathews 72 5.65
Giancarlo Stanton 56 5.62
Evan Gattis 41 5.58


Evan Gattis homered in the Braves' 5-3 loss to the Reds, reaching 20 for the second consecutive year. Gattis is one of 64 players in history to have at least 40 homers over his first two seasons, with his 5.58 HR percentage the ninth highest among this collection.

Fiery August for Fiers
Milwaukee defeated Pittsburgh, 4-3, with Mike Fiers allowing two runs and two hits in seven innings for the win. Fiers is 4-0 in four August starts, and he owns a 1.29 ERA for the month. There have been four pitchers in the franchise's history to have a month (or a March/April or September/October) with at least four starts, a 1.000 winning percentage and an ERA lower than Fiers' current mark. Appropriately, three of the four stellar months also took place in August:

• In August 1992, Cal Eldred was 4-0 with a 0.61 ERA in four starts.

• In July 2000, Jeff D'Amico was 5-0 with a 0.76 ERA in six starts.

• In August 2003, Doug Davis was 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts.

• In August '08, CC Sabathia was 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA in six starts.

V-Mart's spree
The Tigers defeated the Twins, 13-4, with DH Victor Martinez contributing a homer, two singles and four RBIs. Martinez's homer was his 25th, tying a career high set in 2007. The 35-year-old is slugging .553, and he has 36 K's in 505 plate appearances (a strikeout percentage of 7.1).

There have been 14 switch-hitters since 1893 to qualify for the batting title, finish the year with a slugging percentage of at least .500 and strike out in fewer than eight percent of their plate appearances. The last to do this was Ted Simmons in 1979. Among this collection of players, Martinez's .553 slugging percentage would rank as the third highest, behind Ripper Collins' .615 in 1934 and George Davis' .554 in 1893.

More notches on the Beltre
The Rangers' Adrian Beltre produced his fifth straight multihit game, going 2-for-3 with a single and an RBI double. The recent performances have lifted Beltre's average to .327 (third in the AL) and have helped deepen Beltre's imprint for his career up to this point.

In the modern era, there have been six qualifying third basemen in an age-35 or older season to finish a year batting at least .320, with the most recent example being Chipper Jones, who captured the NL batting title with a .364 mark in 2008. The year before, Jones -- then in his age-35 season -- batted .337. The others: Lave Cross (1901 and '02), Stan Hack (1945), Pete Rose (1976), Wade Boggs (1994 and '95) and Tony Fernandez (1999).

Beltre now has 2,569 hits, putting him within eight of surpassing the following players on the list of hit totals for any player through his age-35 season: Richie Ashburn (2,574), Eddie Collins (2,576) and Al Kaline (2,576). Collins and Kaline are tied for the 24th most hits all-time for players through their age-35 season. Two other players stand between Kaline-Collins and 2,600: Jimmie Foxx (2,585) and Ed Delahanty (2,597).

LaTroy in lockdown mode
In the Rockies' 7-4 win over the Marlins, LaTroy Hawkins pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 20th save. Over the past 40 seasons, Hawkins is the 10th pitcher to be in an age-40 or older season (Hawkins is in his age-41 season) and record at least 20 saves. Of the previous nine, the highest save percentage belongs to Doug Jones, who converted 94.7 percent of his opportunities in 1997. This year, Hawkins is at 95.2 percent, which happens to tie the right-hander with the Royals' Greg Holland for the highest in the Majors (min. 20 saves).

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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