The Boston Red Sox will have a batting champion with Mookie Betts winning the crown and Betts will add to the merger total of right-handed batting titles in team history. A look at Red Sox batting champions history.
The Red Sox are a hitting team and the vision is they always have been, but one unusual historical footnote does exist. Of the original American League teams, the Red Sox were the last to produce a batting champion. That honor went to right-handed slugger Jimmie Foxx in 1938 with a .349 average.
Mookie Betts will win the batting crown as the statistical numbers are now so cumulative that J.D. Martinez will not win. No last day drama. Betts is also right-handed and after Foxx, the title was the domain of left-handers with Ted Williams leading the charge with six titles. Sandwiched in the Williams streak was a title by lefty Billy Goodman (.354) in 1950.
Pete Runnels – a left-handed line drive hitter – won a pair of titles after Williams departed and did lose the possibility of a third when Williams edged Runnels out the last week of the 1958 season. Then came the Carl Yastrzemski years and three more titles for the lefties. Fred Lynn won a title in 1979 with a .333 average. When will the lefties give way?
That happened in the strike-shortened 1981 season when Carney Lansford hit .336, but Lansford – a third baseman – was gone after the 1982 season and the reason quickly became apparent with Wade Boggs. Boggs led the AL five times in the next six seasons before passing the crown to another infielder – Nomar Garciaparra.
Right-hand hitting Garciaparra won back to back crowns in 1999 and 2000 with .357 and .373 averages and then in 2002, another righty won the title when Manny Ramirez hit .349. Then came a rarity with switch-hitter Bill Mueller (.326) winning in 2003. That 1938 to 2003 period made up for lost years, but everything has stalled since then.
Betts also has an excellent shot at Most Valuable Player and the only Red Sox champions to achieve that honor is Foxx and Yastrzemski. When Williams won his two MVP’s he was not batting champion. Yastrzemski also holds the title for the Red Sox and MLB with the lowest average to win a title – .301 in 1968. Williams – as all should know – has the highest average for a Red Sox champion at .406.
Williams also has another statistical note with his championships and that is 1957 (.388) and 1959 (.328) – a drop of 60 points yet still winning a batting championship. No player has come close to that.
What Betts will not capture is surpassing Yastrzemski’s 12.5 bWAR of 1967. As good as Betts has been this season that 1967 was something remarkable and special. Now Betts can start a streak since the Red Sox record books do some balancing. The lefties have accounted for 18 titles, righties five, and the one switch-hitter title. Maybe Betts can get the righties into double-digits, unless, of course, that Andrew Benintendi steps in.