We went 44 seasons without a Triple Crown. In how many of those seasons would Cabrera's 2012 have been good enough to win?
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.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Some seem to think that Miguel Cabrera's race to the Triple Crown isn't getting enough attention for such an historic feat...
Here we are. It's Game 162 and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is on the verge of winning the Triple Crown. The breakdown: he has a commanding lead in RBIs (139 to Josh Hamilton's 128), is in first place all alone in home runs (44 to Hamilton's 43), and leads in batting average by seven points (.331 to Mike Trout's .324). In order for Cabrera to lose out on this historic achievement, Josh Hamilton would have to hit two home runs to Cabrera's zero this evening (or three-to-one, etc) or Cabrera would have to go 0-for-4 while Trout goes 4-for-4. Neither are all that likely to happen, especially since Cabrera has the luxury of sitting down whenever he likes tonight to preserve that batting average.
With the Triple Crown such a likely possibility—the first one in 45 years, remember—some seem to be wondering why the feat isn't getting enough attention. Now, to be fair, Cabrera's chase is definitely being talked about. It's a top news story on all major sports networks, websites, etc., and people are definitely discussing it online and at the bar. But this is a rare feat, one that hasn't happened since the mound was lowered, and one that is rightly associated with some of the greatest players in baseball history. Usually, when baseball experiences such an historic event, the media goes crazy. Think Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Think Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Think Derek Jeter and 3,000 hits. Think Cal Ripken and Lou Gehrig. Miguel Cabrera and the Triple Crown aren't being ignored, but they certainly aren't being talked about like that.
The chances of someone leading the league in batting avearge, homers, and RBI have grown long in just a week.
Over the last two weeks I have utilized a neat simulation I built in order to assess the likelihood that a Triple Crown occurs this year. Simulations are the best way to make such a determination, as the three stats involved—batting average, home runs, and RBI—are intertwined. They might not always be connected, but it is more accurate to operate under this assumption than it is to multiply together the probabilities that a player leads the league in each category. When I ran through the rest of the season 10,000 times back on September 1, the feat was only achieved 777 times even though Albert Pujols and Joey Votto ranked either first or second in all three categories. Pujols won the Triple Crown in a whopping 663 of those 777 seasons, suggesting that the feat was unlikely to be achieved, but that Prince Albert was the heavy favorite.
Albert Pujols and Joey Votto both have a chance at the first Triple Crown since 1967, if Omar Infante doesn't get in the way.
At the end of last week I wrote about the idea that a Triple Crown is not a far-fetched feat this season. Miguel Cabrera is very unlikely to supplant Josh Hamilton atop the American League batting leaderboard, but in the National League, sluggers Joey Votto and Albert Pujols find themselves ranked first or second in all three categories. To make matters more interesting, each is within striking distance of one another in the categories as well, meaning that over the next month we might bear witness to a race almost as noteworthy as that which centers on qualifying for post-season play. The main reason I argued that a Triple Crown could be achieved this year is that the number of specialists had declined; that is, there didn’t seem to be anyone running away with the batting title who didn’t hit home runs or knock runners in, and Ryan Howard was not going to mash 45-plus homers this season.
No one has won the league batting, home run, and RBI titles in the same season since 1967, but that could change this year.
Baseball is a game of inches, but those inches help shape the numbers produced for each and every player. A line drive an inch more to the right of third base will elude the long arms of Ryan Zimmerman and result in a hit, and a big fly an inch to the left of the foul pole could be the difference between a loud strike and a walk-off win. In most cases, any type of luck based on inches is expected to wash out over the course of a season, but there are currently three players vying for the coveted Triple Crown in their respective leagues for whom the aforementioned liners and dingers could make all the difference in the world. These players are Miguel Cabrera in the American League and Central Division rivals Albert Pujols and Joey Votto in the National League.
So, how unlikely is unlikely as far as that bid for the Triple Crown goes, anyway?
While scoping out the season of the one and only Albert Pujolsa couple of weeks ago, I attempted to quantify his chances of attaining the Triple Crown. At the time, Pujols led his league in dingers, stood deadlocked in the RBI race with Prince Fielder, and trailed Hanley Ramirez in batting average by a rather large margin. The methodology implemented in that piece was back-of-the-envelope at best, as the dependency of the inherent variables should have precluded the multiplication of separate probabilities. Since home runs automatically correlate to runs batted in as well as batting average, and because a higher batting average would, in theory, lead to more steaks, the three legs of the race are not independent of one another and therefore cannot be multiplied together to determine the Triple Crown likelihood. Though a more accurate process is unlikely to yield drastically different results than the 0.74 percent I found initially, the perfectionist in me felt it necessary to re-run the numbers through a more complex and accurate simulation in order to determine Pujols' chances.
Can topping your league in average, OBP, and slugging leave nonetheless you without hardware on the mantelpiece?
Let's start by stating the obvious, or at least what should be obvious to anyone reading this at Baseball Prospectus: Joe Mauer is by far the most qualified player for the 2009 AL Most Valuable Player Award. You know it, I know it, even many enlightened sportswriters know it. Despite a few recent rumblings in the mainstream media putting forward a slew of other possibilities, most of them clad in the throwback uniforms of "run producer" and "winner," Mauer's numbers are so compelling that even Joe Sheehan has expressed little doubt that voters will get this one right in the end.
How good are the chances that Albert Pujols wins the Triple Crown?
Forgive me a lapse of obviousness, but Albert Pujols is one of the greatest players of all time, the type of all-around talent I will take pride in declaring incomparable when describing his career to my future children. He makes an ample amount of contact, knocks the ball out of the yard at least 30 times a year, drives plenty of his teammates in, plays Gold Glove-caliber defense, and makes up for a lack of raw baserunning speed with smarts on the basepaths. This confluence of characteristics makes Pujols the perfect specimen, sort of like the baseball equivalent of the comic book character Deadpool. It also makes Pujols a virtually unanimous choice to be a plausible Triple Crown heir apparent to Carl Yastrzemski, the man who last accomplished the near-impossible feat back in 1967. Sticking solely to the senior circuit, nobody has topped the leaderboards in batting average, home runs, and RBI in the same season since Joe Medwick did it for the Cardinals in the 1937 campaign.
After last week's column, Dayn got plenty of mail about his new Triple Crown. So, let's try this again.
In last week's column, I proposed a revised hitter's Triple Crown, one that made notional improvements upon the current troika of batting average, home runs and RBI. I chose on-base percentage, slugging percentage and plate appearances as the components of the New and Improved Triple Crown (NITC). Well, the inclusion of plate appearances raised many a hackle among readers, and when that happens it's usually a sign I've fouled something up.
While the noise traditionally gets made around batting average, home runs, and RBI, Dayn wonders if there should be a triple crown that rewards less problematic offensive performance.
Normally, an isolated week's worth of plate appearances wouldn't merit any sort of mention, but, as you know, Lee's in pursuit of the Triple Crown this season, so even his short-term vicissitudes are of interest. Lee's recent struggles have certainly hurt his chances of becoming the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to lead his league in batting average, home runs and RBI; he's now tied with Miguel Cabrera for the lead in batting average, trailing Andruw Jones in homers and lagging Carlos Lee and Albert Pujols in RBI. So his chances are most assuredly fading.