The Triple Crown is worthless.
History regards the Triple Crown as the apex of offensive baseball accomplishment because before the statistical revolution, nobody knew any better. For us to sit here now, with what we know, and accept that on its face is lunacy.
That isn't the platform that I signed up for when I declared myself a follower of sabermetrics. Those are both real quotes. The first I've seen on more than one occasion from those who claim there can only be one answer to a subjective question. The second came from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
I've waited my whole life for a Triple Crown of any sort. Baseball, horse racing. I really didn't care. Baseball's hadn't happened since 1967. Horse racing's since 1978. I was beginning to think it would never it. Yet, today, we are on the verge of Miguel Cabrera earning a spot in the pantheon, someone at last winning a Triple Crown. And yet I'm told it doesn't matter? It's worthless? You know what? I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.
Thankfully, Passan does not work for the Ministry of Truth. Two plus two does not equal five. Record books will not be rewritten to reflect the MVP award going to the highest WAR, or the Triple Crown that includes how often a player walks. We still have a choice whether to respect great accomplishments for what they are, rather than to spit on them for what they aren't. We still know better.
Baseball's Triple Crown still matters. Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't. They are true face of lunacy.
The Triple Crown is a statistical fluke
Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Joe Medwick, Lou Gehrig, Jimmiee Fox, Chuck Klein, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Tip O'Neill, Paul Hines. Triple Crown winners, all. Name after name you recognize, and name after name can be found in the Hall of Fame, at least the ones from the past 100 years, because name after name these were some of the best batters in their eras. Nobody fluked their way into a Triple Crown, never to be heard from again. You hit for average. (That still is a good thing, right?) You hit for power. (That is definitely a good thing.) You hit when there are runners on base, and somebody needs to get them home.
I know the arguments sabermetric writers are going to put up here -- I was one for seven years, after all.
Batting average isn't a very good stat by itself because it only reflects one thing that a hitter can do at the plate.
It doesn't give you context. Completely true, and why when someone tells you, "He's a .285 hitter" you can't tell if they're talking about Josh Hamilton or Denard Span. Wait, sabermetric writers do remember to tell you "by itself" right?
Hitting the ball routinely actually does still account for a rather large portion of the game, doesn't it? Or have I been missing something all these years?
And luck? Sure, there's a component of luck. Imagine what Miguel Cabrera's average would be if his BABIP this year matched his career average ... which is 14 points higher. Cabrera is actually experiencing the second-lowest BABIP of any year he played a full season.
If you want to put together a true picture of what a hitter does, average has to be part of it.
RBI tell you more about a player's teammates than it tells you about the player.
Again, a half truth floated with hopes you'll throw an entire statistic out to replace it with ... well, I'm not even sure. A player is going to struggle to collect RBI if there's nobody on base, completely true. However, runners on base alone will not make an RBI champion. You've got to do something with those ducks on the pond. Cabrera did. For batters with at least 200 opportunities, Cabrera's average with runners on trailed just Joe Mauer (.348 to .340).
Cabrera got runners home from second base at a higher percentage than Josh Hamilton (23.3 percent to 23.0 percent) and from third base at a higher percentage than Josh Hamilton (45.3 percent to 40.5 percent). And if you want to talk about teammates having an impact, the Angels lead the MLB in Fangraphs' baserunning statistic, and the Rangers are fifth. The Tigers are fifth from last.
So, excuse me if I'm having a hard time agreeing with your assertion that Cabrera's RBI-lead doesn't mean anything.
Home runs ... Well, OK, I'm pretty sure that everybody agrees those are a good thing.
I still look at average and RBI as part of my evaluation of a player. Clearly, if I have not been kicked out of the party, the revocation of my saber license is in the mail.
The Triple Crown mattered to your great-grandparents. It mattered to your grandparents. It matters to your parents. They were smart enough to realize a player that hits for average, hits for power, and drives in runs was a pretty darn valuable part of his team. And they saw how infrequently a player managed to do all those things at the same time.
If I'm supposed to throw all that out to be a sabermetric writer, you know what, I don't want to be one. I'd rather use my brain and think for myself.
At least this way I won't miss greatness when I see it.