Bogaerts and Devers’s race for a batting title brings back memories
The Boston Red Sox schedule continues to condense, and the lingering hopes of a playoff slot follow suit. With the expanded playoff structure, the Red Sox could be in the hunt until the season’s final week, but I would not – to quote Dennis Eckersley: “Bet the farm on it.”
There is a glimmer of excitement, a personal accomplishment for players. In this instance, the batting title race for the American League, and Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are as close as the proverbial peas in a pod to each other. A different story exists for the league lead.
Bogaerts is currently trailing Luis Arraez of the Twins, Andrés Giménez of Cleveland, José Abreu of the White Sox, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of the Blue Jays. All are jockeying for spots 2-5 in the batting race with Arraez having a comfortable lead – at least for now. The thinnest of margins separate all four. This race could have been a tantalizing attraction in the last game of the year especially if Devers and Bogaerts had not recently slumped.
The same applies to the hits leader, as Devers’s recent IL stay had his first place position lost, and coupled with a slump Devers is now out of the top ten. As with batting average, the top ten are all one good or bad series away from shuffling a position change with Bogaerts in fourth place thanks to his recent tailspin.
As a team, the Red Sox manufactured a boatload of doubles so far this season. This is a team title that Boston will coast to an easy win, but as far as an individual leader, it may come down to J.D. Martinez and José Ramírez of the Guardians with Ramírez currently legging out a lead.
Other notable titles such as RBI, home runs, runs scored, slugging percentage, and so on and on are not in the individual accomplishment picture this season. The metrics are the same as the Red Sox players are not on the dance card for 2022.
Then there is the pitching. Michael Wacha is tied at one for shutouts and has second place with a slew of others for complete games – a mere one! which gives you an example of how the compete game has deteriorated. Nick Pivetta is tied in starts and possibly closing in on earned runs allowed, but that would take a serious meltdown. Pivetta is fast establishing himself as a workhorse.
Now back to that batting title and Red Sox history.
The two vying for the 1958 batting title were Ted Williams and Pete Runnels. Williams was coming off a spectacular 1957 season in which he hit .388. The race was on for September, with the lefty-hitting Runnels always inching a few points ahead of Teddy Ballgame and 1958 was a race between teammates.
The race would be decided in Washington with a three-game set against the Senators at the end of the season. Runnels entered the series, hitting .323, and Williams at .320. Williams went 7/11 with home runs in each game to finish at .328. Runnels kicked in with just 4/15 to end the season at .322.
Runnels was not done and captured two batting titles with the Red Sox. His first was in 1960, hitting .320. Williams finished that season at .316, and it might have been a race, but Williams was limited to 390 PAs.
Runnels won his second title in 1962, hitting .326. The Red Sox rewarded Runnels by trading him to Houston and back to his native Texas. Runnels did little in his two seasons with Houston, which was it for his playing career. Runnels is in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
So the possibility existed that the 2022 batting title race could mirror the one from 1958. Using the phrase “if only” Devers and Bogaerts had not slumped. As the chances of a playoff dwindle the next big thing could be who gets the coveted title for team honors.
Stats through 8/18