Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mauer racing for fourth batting title

With last night's three hit performance, Joe Mauer continues to climb up the ladder for best batting average in the American League. There are still a couple of players for him to pass so it will be interesting to see if he is able to earn his fourth batting title in the last seven seasons. The other titles might come with more meaning since the Twins were fighting for the playoffs in each of those campaigns. It seems like Mauer is on a mission this season after an injury-plagued year in 2011 and his next stop could be the top of the American League batting race.

Over the last week, Mauer has missed some time with back spasms and this could have crippled any chance of him catching the leaders in the AL. Since returning from the injury, he has two multi-hit games and he had two multi-hit games before his back started acting up. He is currently in the midst of a six game hitting streak and he has hits in nine of his last ten contests. With the season winding down, it seems like Mauer is getting stronger at the plate and that could mean trouble for the other hitters ahead of him in the standings.

His opponents in the race for the batting crown are arguably the two top candidates for the American League Most Valuable Player. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are attempting to get each of their team's into the postseason so there is a lot of pressure on each of their at-bats. Here is a look at Mauer's competition over the coming weeks:

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: .333 Batting Average
The defending batting champion in the American League is in a prime position to take home the award again in 2012. He is hitting .373 so far in September and that number has only gone up with his .500 batting average in the last week. His schedule in the coming weeks looks pretty easy as he has six games left with the Twins and seven games left against pitchers from the Royals. He is currently facing Oakland's pitching staff but it only gets easier from that point. So far this season, he has hit .438 against the Twins so he is probably thrilled about the opportunity to play the Twins a couple of more times.

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: .327 Batting Average
A month ago, it looked like nothing would stop Trout from walking away with the batting title in his rookie season. In late August, Trout was still batting over .340 but he has less at-bats than most of the other contenders so a bad performance in one game hurts him more than others. So far in September, he is hitting .274 and it has been a rough week for Trout with a .227 average. Every game is important for his team and the Angels have five more games against a good staff in Texas and three games in Chicago. Trout has hit .370 versus the Rangers and .300 in limited action against the White Sox. There are six other games with the Mariners so that could mean facing Felix Hernandez twice in the last week. 

Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: .325 Batting Average
The month of September has been good to Mauer as he is hitting. 474 since the calendar turned from August. As far as the Twins schedule, Mauer has two games left with the Indians, six games left with Detroit, three games left with the Yankees, and three games left in Toronto. In 52 at-bats versus Tigers pitching this year, Mauer has a .346 batting average so facing that team could help him. He has also hit over .350 in a limited amount of action against the Yankees and the Blue Jays. The opportunity is there and he seems to be hitting his groove at the right time.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: .323 Batting Average
When comparing Jeter to Trout, it's hard to believe how many years separate these two. Jeter was a year away from being a first round pick when Trout was born. It has been a good September so far for Jeter as he is hitting .344 in the month. The last week hasn't been the greatest as he is batting a little under .300 as the Yankees push for the playoffs. For Jeter, there are some opponents that could help him move up in the standings. The Yankees face the Blue Jays seven more times, the Twins three times, and the Red Sox three times. He has hit over .340 against the Blue Jays and the Twins in 2012 so his average could rise in the home stretch.

For Mauer, he would probably rather have the Twins in position to get a playoff spot but a batting title would be a nice consolation prize. The Twins face two of the three men on the list above in the coming weeks so fans in Twins Territory will get a first-hand look at the chase for the batting title. Mauer could also look to his pitching staff to help him to the title and pitch well against some of the best hitters in the league. 

There's a chance for another batting champion in Minnesota and that's something worth watching as the season comes to a close.

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