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June 29, 2005 12:00 am
Nate Silver looks into the "Derrek Lee for Triple Crown" debate, and discovers Lee might not be the best candidate to pull it off, after all.
I decided to perform a statistical analysis of this question to add a bit more, well, statistical analysis to the debate. But first let me make a quick assertion that will seem to contradict decades worth of history: winning the Triple Crown shouldn't inherently be all that difficult. There's nothing all that difficult about leading the league in batting average, home runs, or RBI. Of course only one guy gets the opportunity to lead the league, per category and per year, but it isn't a feat on the order, say, of hitting .400 or in 56-straight games-or hitting 73 home runs.
Derrek Lee's got a shot at the Triple Crown--he's also got a lot of factors working against him.
Lee is currently hitting .388/.466/.719 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI, ranking among the top three in each of the Triple Crown categories: He's first in batting average, second in home runs, and tied for second in RBI. The "glass half full" crowd has already begun the Triple Crown Watch, while the "glass half empty" crowd is convinced that Lee will merely join the long line of players who have fruitlessly threatened the Triple Crown from time to time. Either way, with the season almost halfway over, it's a good time to step back and scrutinize Lee's monster 2005 campaign.
One of the many challenges in baseball forecasting is identifying which performances are early signs of emerging trends, and which are likely sample-size blips that will even out or disappear as the season progresses. For a thumbnail sketch of Lee's season to date, consider his ranking according to Value Over Replacement Player. Lee currently leads the majors with a VORP of 66.6, nearly 20 runs more than second-place Brian Roberts. In other words, Lee has been far and away the most dominant player in baseball this season.
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