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MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: Altuve taking a Hack at batting title

All-Star on pace to be first player 5-foot-6 or under to hit at least .330 since Wilson

MLB Notebook: Altuve taking a Hack at batting title play video for MLB Notebook: Altuve taking a Hack at batting title

On Sept. 28, 1930, the Cubs' Hack Wilson concluded his remarkable season with a two-hit game -- an effort that saw him drive in two runs to reach and then surpass 190 RBIs for the season and lift his batting average to .356. And while Wilson's 56 home runs and 191 RBIs did pace the National League, his batting average in that silly ball season was only good enough for 10th in the Senior Circuit.

Wilson's line that year -- even when accounting for the heights reached by batters -- can still boggle the mind, with 423 total bases (eighth most in history), a .723 slugging percentage (22nd all-time) and, of course, those homers and record-setting number of RBIs. But for the 2014 season, Wilson's astonishing assemblage of stats probably has the most meaning in the batting-average category, because that mark creates a sublimely fun link to Houston's Jose Altuve.

Yes, Altuve.

For although the Astros second baseman has hit only five home runs and driven in 37 runs (Wilson had more homers and RBIs in the month of August 1930), Altuve is batting .339. And no qualifying player who is listed at 5-foot-6 or shorter has finished a season with a batting average of at least .330 since Wilson during his historic campaign.

No small feat for Altuve
In a 10-4 Astros win against the Twins on Tuesday, Altuve went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Altuve has 19 games with three or more hits this season -- the most in the Majors and four shy of tying Craig Biggio (1998) for the most for the Astros in a season. Altuve's latest hit-heavy line pushed his batting average back up to .339.

• The past five second basemen to qualify for the batting title and finish the year at .340 or better: Rod Carew in 1975 (.359), Julio Franco in '91 (.341), Chuck Knoblauch in '96 (.341), Robinson Cano in 2006 (.342) and Placido Polanco in '07 (.341).

• Altuve is listed at 5-foot-6 and he is leading the American League in batting average with his .339 mark. Willie Keeler -- who led the NL with a .385 average in 1898 -- is the most recent batting champ with a listed height that extends no higher than 5-foot-6. Keeler was listed at 5-foot-4.

Cater taking off in Houston
Chris Carter produced his sixth multhomer game of the year to help lead Houston's win over Minnesota. Carter's six tie him with Edwin Encarnacion for the most in the Majors this season. They also tie Carter with Lance Berkman (2006) for the most for an Astros player in a season.

Carter is slugging at .521. He also owns a .303 on-base percentage and an OPS+ of 127 to go along with a .230 batting average. There have been two qualifying players in history to finish a year with a slugging percentage at or above .520 and an on-base percentage at or below .310. In 1984, Boston's Tony Armas slugged .531 with an on-base percentage of .300; in 1992, Texas' Juan Gonzalez slugged .529 and produced a .304 on-base percentage.

There have been 10 qualifying players in history to finish a year with an OPS+ of at least 120 and a batting average no higher than .230. In addition to Carter hitting these two marks this year, Cleveland's Carlos Santana (.229 with a 127 OPS+) is also doing it.

Sale on historic pace
White Sox lefty Chris Sale fanned 12 in eight scoreless innings but came away with a no-decision in Chicago's 3-2 victory over the Giants in 10 innings. The 12 K's gave Sale his 16th career double-digit strikeout game, leaving him one behind Ed Walsh's total for the all-time franchise record.

Sale lowered his ERA to 2.01, giving him an ERA+ of 197. There have been five AL left-handers to qualify for the ERA title and produce a season-ending adjusted ERA+ that high: Dutch Leonard (282) in 1914, Lefty Grove (217) in '31, White Sox hurler Billy Pierce (200) in '55, Ron Guidry (208) in '78 and Randy Johnson (197) in '97.

Sale's WHIP now stands at 0.885. The only AL southpaw to finish a year with a mark so low was Dave McNally in 1968, when he owned a 0.842. Sale's current mark is just a tick lower than Leonard's 0.886 produced in 1914.

Sale has struck out 29.9 percent of all batters he's faced. Only one left-hander in an age-25 or younger season has finished a year with a higher percentage: Johan Santana (30.1) in 2004.

Young stays stingy on the mound
Chris Young allowed two hits over six innings of one-run ball and picked up win No. 11 in the Mariners' 6-3 win over the Blue Jays, which moved Seattle into a tie with Detroit for the second AL Wild Card spot.

With the effort, Young is now holding opponents to a .218 batting average -- fourth lowest among AL qualifiers, but a significant distance from the league leader, Mariners teammate Felix Hernandez and his .191. The most recent AL team to have two qualifying starters conclude the year with a batting average against at or below .220 was the 2011 Rays, with James Shields (.217) and Jeremy Hellickson (.210).

In Young's start Tuesday, he fanned three, got four outs on the ground and saw 11 come when the ball was caught in the air. For the season, Young's groundout-to-flyout ratio stands at 0.37, the lowest in the Majors for any qualifying starter. No pitcher has finished with a ratio like this since the Mets' Sid Fernandez fashioned a 0.35 in 1989.

In the Mariners' victory, Kyle Seager singled and connected on his 18th home run of the year, and he now owns an .824 OPS, which calculates to a 133 OPS+. The most recent Mariners third baseman to qualify for the batting title and conclude the year with an OPS+ of at least 130 was Edgar Martinez, who posted a 164 while claiming the batting title in 1992.

Here and there
• Kyle Hendricks allowed six hits in 7 1/3 scoreless innings and improved to 4-1, as the Cubs blanked the Brewers, 3-0. Hendricks has made six career starts and owns a 1.73 ERA, with eight earned runs in 41 2/3 innings. Hendricks is one of 24 Cubs pitchers since 1914 to have all six of his first Major League appearances come in starts. Among those two dozen, his ERA is the lowest, undercutting Randy Martz's 2.08.

• In the Cubs' victory, first baseman Anthony Rizzo hit his 26th home run of the year. The Cubs have seen three players in franchise's history hit at least 30 while being in their age-24 or younger season. Ernie Banks hit 44 in his age-24 season in 1955, Sammy Sosa banged out 33 in '93 in his age-24 season, and Ron Santo reached 30 in his age-24 season in '64.

• Josh Donaldson homered twice to help the Athletics emphatically snap the Royals' eight-game winning streak, defeating Kansas City, 11-3. Donaldson's second long ball of the game gave him 25 for the season. He is the third A's third sacker to hit at least 25, joining Eric Chavez (six such seasons) and Sal Bando (three).

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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