Miguel Cabrera had 33 home runs entering play on Sept. 1, 2012. Josh Hamilton had 36. A Triple Crown seemed within grasp, yet so remote a possibility that seriously carrying the idea seemed a bit silly. Players just don't win the Triple Crown anymore. It would be close, but ultimately Cabrera would fall short.
We know how that turned out: with a crown upon his head. You sell Miguel Cabrera short at your own risk.
It seems as if we'll enter the final stretch of the season in almost the same position as before. Actually, you might say Cabrera and Tigers fans are in even better position this season. That's because Cabrera has safe leads in both batting average and RBI. So home runs are the only stat we have to concentrate on.
Before Chris Davis hit his 47th longball of the year Wednesday night, Cabrera had again closed to within three.
So, can Miguel Cabrera catch him to win a second consecutive Triple Crown?
Let's put that question off for a few.
Home runs per month
Although it feels like Cabrera is catching Davis from behind, that's mostly due to a two home run difference in August. Actually, when you take the last three months as a whole, Davis has added to his lead.
Cabrera has also seen an increase in his rate of home runs per fly ball, from 27 percent leaving the park in the first half to 34 percent in the second half. Davis, meanwhile, has gone the opposite direction, dropping from a 36 percent HR/FB rate in the first half to 26 percent in the second. Both players have hit a higher percentage of fly balls in the second half.
So, from that point of view, if the season went on long enough and the players continued their second half rate, you'd have to like Cabrera's chances.
Of course, it doesn't actually work that way. You could complicate things a bit by adding in park factors, opponents, opponents pitching staffs, whatever have you, to sound more certain about the future.
For instance, more than half, and actually closer to three-quarters, of Davis' remaining games will be played in power-friendly parks, half at the friendly confines of Camden Yards. Cabrera will spend half his at home as well, and Comerica Park has played like a hitters park in its recent years despite center field fences that some find unfair. This would seem to be an advantage for Davis, who has 25 home runs at home against Cabrera's 16.
Let's look at opposing pitching staffs. Well, that one's good. Those ones are average. This other one is kinda bad. And we don't even know who's going to pitch for sure in those games. Advantage: No one.
OK, so it seems like it's a lot easier to say what happened than what will. Sure there are people out there who could plug it all into simulations and probably come up with an estimate -- what percentage of the time did Davis have more home runs? (I imagine it's pretty high). How often did Cabrera have more home runs?
Well, this is just getting difficult.
Doing all that might make you sound smarter, and may even be an informative exercise, at least you learned something, but in the end it doesn't get you any closer to what will actually happen. Only day after day of actual baseball can do that.
And to me, that's a lot more fun.
But since you came to me for an answer, so I'm going to give you one. Do I think Miguel Cabrera can win a second Triple Crown?
You sell Miguel Cabrera short at your own risk.