Justin Verlander was the last player to complete baseball's pitching triple crown, and he did it in 2011. Verlander had the most wins and strikeouts as well as the best ERA in the American League. Of course you know, he wasn't alone in that feat. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw was the best in the National League in those same three statistical categories.
What I'm getting at here is that pitchers, relatively speaking, win the triple crown all the time. In fact, it happens so often fans and the media don't really seem to put a lot of significance to the achievement. It doesn't pass unmentioned, but it passes without much hurrah.
Winning batting triple crown , which has gone without a winner since 1967 -- that's 11 years before the last horse to win a triple crown and 45 years overall -- would not pass so quietly.
It has been chased before, but seldom do you feel like there's a realistic possibility of it occurring.
Until this year.
Miguel Cabrera's chances of becoming the first batter since Carl Yastrzemski to win a triple crown seem to be improving by the day. A two-run home run Wednesday against the Tribe helped.
If Cabrera did complete the achievement, he'd be the first third baseman in history and just the 12th individual to do so since 1900. (Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams each have two to their names.) The only Tiger to win was Ty Cobb in 1909.
Today, Cabrera sits atop the leaderboard for batting average (.330) and RBI (116). Both leads are by narrow margins. Cabrera trails in home runs by three.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout has fallen back to the pack in batting average over the past month or so. He now sits in a virtual tie at .330, while Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is third at .319.
Cabrera and Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton are battling in the other two stats. Hamilton had 38 home runs to Cabrera's 35. Cabrera has 116 RBI to Hamilton's 114.
You of course cannot assume a triple crown is in Cabrera's future. But with less than a month of baseball remaining, you can't disqualify the possibility either. Not only do Tigers fans have an exciting (gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking) division race to watch, they've got this possibility to keep atop of, too.
It's not hard to imagine winning the triple crown launching Cabrera to his first AL MVP victory either -- regardless of whether or not the TIgers make the playoffs. It would just be too ballyhooed of an event; he'd carry the day because it's just been so long since it has been done.
The only problem with the triple crown -- and I suppose this is a minor quibble for some and many don't give a flying flock of geese at all -- is that it features three traditional stats. One (average) of them requires the batter to have a bit of luck, and the other (RBI) requires him to have some nice help from his teammates as well.
That's one reason our friend, Lee Panas of Detroit Tiger Tales, posits "the alternative triple crown." He looks beyond the traditional stats, even beyond the "slash line" of batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average, taking it one step further:
The new triple crown - batting average, times on base and total bases. It addresses everything that a good hitter does - hit for average, get on base and hit for power. It considers both excellence and playing time and it's simple.
Panas notes Cabrera might even have a better chance of winning the alternative version than the traditional one, though he'd have to surpass teammate Prince Fielder in total times on base first.
So what do you think?
Can Cabrera win the traditional triple crown? What stats do you think should go into an alternative triple crown?
It's an off-day, so enjoy the discussion!