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David Murphy and the History of Unusual Batting Champs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    David Murphy's bid for the American League batting title took a hit the last two days when he went 0-for-8 in two games against the rivals.

    He's dropped from third in the AL to fifth, 13 points behind co-leaders Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. Derek Jeter and Adrian Beltre have moved in front of him while Joe Mauer and Prince Fielder are right behind him. One of those seven names doesn't really compute.

    That's Murphy, obviously. It isn't every year that you see a 30-year-old platoon player (turning 31 later this year) who entered the year with a lifetime average of .280 move into a full-time role, which has seen him hit lefties quite well incidentally, and then challenge for a batting title. Batting average might not mean as much as it used to mean, but the history of batting champs isn't exactly filled with names that force you to search the memory bank to remember who they were.

    Murphy doesn't qualify on that front. In fact, he's never even qualified for the batting title before. He's not the first strange name to reach the top of the list, but he'd be a contender for the strangest if he did wind up winning the thing.

    Freddy Sanchez was 28 and in his second season when he won the NL crown in 2006, but he's gone on to be a productive player into his mid-30s. Bill Mueller was a journeyman when he won the AL title in 2003, but he played in Fenway and had always been a high average hitter. Derrek Lee's 2005 season was an outlier average-wise, although he was always a productive hitter.

    Terry Pendleton might be the closest contender. He won the 1991 batting title (and the NL MVP) at 30 in his first year with the Braves after being a well below average hitter throughout his years with the Cardinals. By winning the MVP and being part of those perennial Braves playoff teams, Pendleton gained some polish that his career doesn't really warrant since he only had one other good year as a hitter.

    There's never been anyone to do quite what Murphy will do if he navigates his way to the batting title. It's unlikely that he'll be able to pull it off, but it will be a moment worthy of great celebration if he does.