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At 37, a batting title would put Yuli Gurriel among the greats

In his sixth year with the Astros, Gurriel is in the middle of another good season and carries a .316 batting average.

Houston Astros v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Yuli Gurriel got to Thursday with an AL-leading .316 batting average, tied with teammate Michael Brantley. That mark is part of Gurriel’s best-ever 2021 season for the Astros, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The veteran star is slashing .316/.384/.478 while carrying a six-game hitting streak since August 20.

But I’m mentioning those facts to get you in context. What I am trying to say is that there is a good chance for Gurriel to win the 2021 American League batting title, especially if he stays consistent at the plate. At 37 years old, that would be a pretty impressive feat that we haven’t seen in a while.

It’s been almost 20 years since the last time a hitter won the batting crown during his 37-age season or later — Chipper Jones fell short by one year when he captured it in 2008 (36). In fact, only three players have been crowned as batting champions in their 37-age campaigns since 1980.

Those men are...

  • George Brett. The only guy ever to lead the league in average in three different decades: 1976, 1980, and 1990, his 37-age season.
  • Tony Gwynn. The second player with the most batting titles in history won his last one in 1997 (37) with a .372 mark.
  • Barry Bonds. The MLB home run king is the only man to do it twice. First, he captured the crown in 2002 (37-age season) and then won it again in 2004 (39-age season). Actually, Bonds was 40 years, 71 days old on the last day of the 2004 regular season, becoming the oldest player in MLB history to win the batting title — Ted Williams achieved the same being 40 years, 29 days old.

For Gurriel, he’s never finished a season with an average above .299, but this could be his first one if he keeps it going. However, the first baseman will face an important challenge as he’s had consecutive bad regular-campaign performances in September/October. As a matter of fact, Gurriel averaged .175 across 154 combined at-bats (27 hits) between 2019 and 2020 (42 games).

The good thing for Gurriel is that the Astros have plenty of games ahead in 2021 against teams with bad pitching. They have seven contests vs the Rangers (23rd in ERA), six vs the Mariners (16th), seven vs the Angels (26th), and three vs the Diamondbacks (29th).

If he ends up at the top, Gurriel —with a club option for 2022— would add another big achievement to his short, but brilliant, consistent career in the Major Leagues.