Aaron Judge’s run at a triple crown ended when he sat out of Wednesday’s season finale against the Texas Rangers, but New York still managed to have a batting champion as Jeff McNeil, the second baseman of the Mets, survived a challenge from Freddie Freeman of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League crown.
McNeil, who is only the second Met to win a batting title, entered Wednesday’s home game against Washington late as a defensive replacement and did not hit in the 9-2 win. He finished his season with the top average in the majors at .326, which beat out Freeman, who went 3 for 4 on the final day of the season to finish at .325. Judge, meanwhile, finished at .311, which was second in the American League to Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who went 1 for 1 to finish at .316.
Mets Manager Buck Showalter insisted it was his decision to keep McNeil out of the lineup ahead of the start of the postseason Friday against the San Diego Padres. But McNeil will undoubtedly take some criticism for not starting on the final day with the batting title on the line, just as the Mets’ José Reyes did in 2011 when he bunted for a single in his first at-bat of the last game of the season and then was removed, at his request, for a pinch-runner.
Even without McNeil taking an at-bat, the Mets secured their 101st win of the season, the second most in franchise history behind the 108 that the team won in 1986 on the way to a World Series title.
As for Judge, his rest on Wednesday was not a surprise after he had started 55 consecutive games while he was in pursuit of the A.L.’s single-season home run record. He ended up falling short of a triple crown, but in a season that is likely to earn him his first A.L. Most Valuable Player Award, he did lead the majors in home runs (62), runs (133), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686) and total bases (391). He tied Pete Alonso of the Mets for the major league lead with 131 R.B.I.
Judge ended up with 16 more home runs than the next closest batter, Kyle Schwarber of the Philadelphia Phillies, which is the largest gap in a season since the Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx led the majors by 17 in 1932.
Judge’s main competition for the M.V.P. Award, Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, led his league in only one category — strikeouts per nine innings — but he took his two-way stardom to the next level by being the first player in major league history to qualify for the leaderboards as both a pitcher (one inning per team game) and a hitter (3.1 plate appearances per team game). Babe Ruth approached the feat only once, at least by the modern standard, qualifying as a batter but falling just over 20 innings short of qualifying for the pitching leaders in 1919, his last year with the Boston Red Sox.
In addition to the hitting exploits of New York’s stars, Gerrit Cole, who broke Ron Guidry’s Yankees franchise record for strikeouts in a single season, led the majors in that category with 257. He is the first Yankee to lead the A.L. in strikeouts since Al Downing did it in 1964 and the first Yankee to lead the majors since Vic Raschi tied two others for the top spot in 1951.