LeMahieu, Soto batting champs in shortest season in century

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New York Yankees' DJ LeMahieu hits a two-run double during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Yankee Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

NEW YORK – DJ LeMahieu became the first player to win undisputed batting titles in both leagues and Juan Soto the youngest NL champion as Major League Baseball’s shortest regular season since 1878 ended Sunday.

Home runs were down from last year’s record level in a mini-season of diminished offense. The .245 big league batting average was the the lowest since .237 in 1968 and down from .252 last year.

Indians ace Shane Bieber finished with a 1.63 ERA, the lowest figure to lead the American League since Luis Tiant’s 1.60 for Cleveland in 1968, a year of pitching dominance that caused baseball officials to lower the mound the following year.

The average time of a nine-inning game set another new high, at 3 hours, 7 minutes, 46 seconds, up from 3:05:35 last year. While a three-batter minimum was instituted, active rosters expanded from 25 to 28 for the 60-game season and gave managers more pitching options.

LeMahieu hit .364 for the New York Yankees, the highest for an AL batting champion since Minnesota’s Joe Mauer hit .365 in 2009 and well ahead of 2019 AL batting champion Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox, who finished second at .322. LeMahieu won the NL batting title with Colorado in 2016.

“I wish it were over 162 games. I wish there were fans in the stands but it is what it is,” LeMahieu said. "I’m definitely proud of it.”

He became just the fourth Yankees player to lead the majors in batting average after Lou Gehrig in 1934, Joe DiMaggio in 1939 and Mickey Mantle in 1956. Despite the shorter schedule, no one approached becoming the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams batted . 406 in 1941.

Ed Delahanty hit .410 for the Philadelphia Phillies to win the NL batting championship in 1899 and is credited by some researchers with the 1902 AL crown at .376, while others accept Nap Lajoie as winning that title at .378 despite lacking the plate appearances required in more modern times.