October 5, 2012
Miguel Cabrera's Retroactive Triple Crowns
After 60, 61, 1941, .406, 56, 755, 1.12 and 190, 1967 might have been the number most seared into my head as a child. To have gone 20 years without a Triple Crown was proof enough for me that the Triple Crown was a very difficult thing and, by extension, a very big deal. That we would go another 25 years on top of that only makes it clearer. But now 1967 doesn’t matter, and Miguel Cabrera can get used to being a somebody our grandchildren will know of.
He couldn’t have done it alone. The rest of the American League had to help. Nobody hit .390 this season, for instance. Through no fault of Miguel Cabrera’s, anybody else could have hit .390 and made a Triple Crown all but impossible. Nobody did.
What follows might strike some as an attempt to take something away from Cabrera. It’s not. Cabrera had an amazing year. I was cheering for him to win the Triple Crown. I’m glad he won it. I hope he wins it again. And again. Maybe four more times I hope he wins it. Great hitter.
No, what follows is just me being curious and wanting to know how much of this achievement is about Cabrera’s season (which was tremendous, and would be tremendous in any season) and how much is about the league. So I took Cabrera’s stats. I put them through Baseball-Reference’s neutralizer tool*, available on each player's page. And I looked at whether those neutralized stats would have led the league in each previous year since 1967. For instance:
Cabrera hit .330, with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, in a 2012 run-scoring environment. B-Ref thinks that those numbers would be .339/46/149 in a 2011 run-scoring environment. Those numbers would be good enough to lead the AL in home runs and RBIs, but not enough to beat out his own .344 batting average last year. No Triple Crown.
There were 44 seasons between Triple Crowns. In those 44,