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Albert Pujols and Joey Votto must go through Omar Infante to win the Triple Crown

Aug 24, 2010, 1:49 PM EDT

Believe it or not, Omar Infante may determine whether Albert Pujols or Joey Votto can win the Triple Crown.
Pujols leads the NL in homers and RBIs while ranking third in batting average. Votto leads the league in batting average while ranking second in RBIs and third in homers. There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, but the two best hitters in the league are set up to go hit-for-hit down the stretch in search of the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
That is, unless Infante gets enough playing time to qualify for the batting title.
Despite (controversially) making the All-Star team Infante spent the first half as merely a part-time player for the Braves, so right now he has just 338 plate appearances and his .350 batting average doesn’t appear on the official leaderboard. However, now that he’s playing every day Infante is rapidly closing in on the 502 plate appearances needed to qualify.
Plus, if he finishes a small number of plate appearances short there’s a rule in place that will give him hitless at-bats until he reaches 502. In other words, if he hits .350 in 490 plate appearances Infante will then be given an 0-for-12 for the purposes of determining the batting title.
Infante has averaged 4.5 plate appearances per start this season, so assuming he’s in the lineup for, say, 35 of the final 37 games he’d end up with around 495 plate appearances. It may prove to be a moot point if Infante slumps over the final six weeks, but right now he has a 27-point edge over Votto and is definitely a factor in the Triple Crown picture.

  1. nps6724 - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    They also have to deal with Prado, who is right below Votto. Prado and Infante should have a fun battle down the stretch.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    Infante, like the Bravos, will fade down the stretch. They will probably get the Wild Card, because the rest of the NL is so bad. But the Phillies will be 5 up by mid-September ;)

  3. nps6724 - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Care to make an actual wager on that?

  4. Tim's Neighbor - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    I think I’ve heard these comments since June…

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    An “actual” wager? Or an “imaginary” one? I’ll debate with you, but the unfortunate thing about the internets is that nobody would ever pay up anyway. Do you disagree that the Braves are DUE for a slump? They started 8-14 and have been playing .630 ball since. They haven’t lost more than 3 games in a row since that point, and they did it only once. They have been playing waaaaaaaaaay over their heads and are bound to come back to earth. The Phillies started hot(24-13) and have been hot the last 30 games(22-8), but in between, with all the injuries and sucky performances from their 3,4, and 5 pitchers, along with scoring about a run a game, they went 24-33. They are all back, pretty much healthy, and there’s no reason to think they can’t blow past Atlanta once the Braves cool down. Granted, Atlanta has a MUCH easier schedule the rest of the way, but I just think they will come down to earth because they simply have to. They aren’t a .580 team.

  6. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    And by the way, you should show Ryan Howard a little respect as somebody who has a chance to get in the way too. He was leading the league in RBI before he missed 17 games, and he’s still only 10 behind. So he has a chance to be a fly in the ointment as well.

  7. birdmancometh - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Come on Chris, you’re going with the “they’re due” argument? Do you have any real facts to back up your beliefs about the Braves? This blog is usually pretty friendly to intelligent baseball conversations. What is the Braves run differential? Are they winning a lot of the 1 run games they are playing? Anything but “they’re due!”

  8. birdmancometh - Aug 24, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    But thats not surprising or funny. It IS surprising AND funny that Omar Infante may make an impact. You have your sensitive shoes on today Chris? Nobody here is disrespecting the Phils.

  9. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    They are playing .630 the last 103 games, after starting the season 8-14. I don’t need stats to tell me that the Braves are not a .600 team, let alone .630. They are at best a .550 team, which puts them at around 90 wins. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit to see them play .500 ball the rest of the season. Whereas the Phillies, who are the 2-time defending NL Champs, are more than capable of keeping up the pace of their last 30 games, especially with the best 1-2-3 in baseball, and flying past the Braves on their way up.
    If the Braves continue to defy the odds and play .630 ball, then the Phillies will have to take the Wild Card and hope to see the Braves in the NLCS. Then we’ll get to see how good Jurrjens and Hanson are when the money is on the line.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Oh, I’m sorry. Was this post supposed to be “surprising” or “funny”? I thought it was a legitimate post, saying that Infante, the career .275 hitter, was the player whom the triple crown must go through? My bad.

  11. nps6724 - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    You’re comparing 22 games to 103. So no, I wouldn’t say they’re due to regress because that 8-14 record is 17.6% of the season thus far. They’ve been playing at a high level for 82.4% of the season. After 54 games, you know the kind of team you have. The Braves are for real.

    What is funny is you use the Braves first 22 games as evidence they aren’t that good while ignoring the remaining 103 games, but you’re content to cite the 67 games in which Philly has been hot while ignoring when they weren’t. “If you only count when Philly was hot and when the Braves weren’t, Philly is OBVIOUSLY better, amirite???”

    I know as a Philly fan you can’t dare admit another team is actually good, especially a rival, but the Braves are good. Very good. They’ve been in 1st since May and has had the #1 or #2 record in the NL in that time. You don’t luck into that.

    Over the past 28 games, Philly has played .750 baseball. Now THAT is due for regression since Seattle’s 2001 team won the most games ever (116) and had a winning % of .704. Meanwhile, over that same time the Braves have played at a .580 level. Which is their current season winning % (.584 to be exact).

    But I guess none of that matters because Philly has been good for 2 years now and that obviously means no other team match their awesomeness. We should all just hand the NL’s World Series spot to them now and save ourselves some hearthache, right? But it’s more fun if they have to EARN it so I’ll be waiting for Philly to do so.

  12. nps6724 - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Wow, talk about a homer. No longer is Homer Simpson in the dictionary as an example. Congrats.

    Anyone who knows anything about numbers would tell you the sample of 100 is 4 times greater than the sample of 25.

  13. nps6724 - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    Considering he could pretty easily keep either Pujols or Votto from getting the Triple Crown, I’d say yeah. It doesn’t matter what his career numbers are in this instance. Players every year go well beyond or fall well below their career numbers, if only for 1 season. Infante has a 20-point lead on Votto; Howard is 10 RBI behind. That’s why the article is about a career .275 hitter and not Howard.

  14. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    Let’s look at the Phillies vs. the Braves. The Phillies win every position except for Catcher. I’m sure you will say Prado is having a better year than Utley, but really…who would you rather have from this point forward this season?
    I’ll take Halladay over Hudson any day. And I’ll Oswalt over Hanson. Hamels is better and healthier than Jurrjens. Lowe’s experience beats the Phillies 4th or 5th starter, but the good part about Halladay is that he can pitch the 4th and 7th games, whereas I doubt the Braves will take the chance to pitch Hudson on short rest. so the Phillies may not even have to use a scrub like Blanton.
    Braves win the bullpen no question about it. I’ll take the Phillies bench over the Braves pathetic bats off the bench.
    So the Phillies win 7 of 8 positions, the bench and 1-2-3 of the the starting staff. The Braves win #4 starter, which may not matter in a short series, and the bullpen.

  15. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    It’s a stupid article, especially considering Prado, Gonzalez and even Polanco were leading the league at some point over the last 2 weeks. This entire post is just more reason we really need Craig back ASAFP.

  16. Spudchukar - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    Phillie fan. Can you say Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton and a tough schedule. Couldn’t you argue that Cole Hamel will come back down to earth, Ruiz will return to his usual form and of course there is trusty ol’ Brad Lidge to count on down the stretch. Perhaps you should do a little self-examination of your team and spend a little less time disparaging the Braves, who by all accounts have developed a handful of young talent that you cannot seem to appreciate. In a case you were wondering I am a Cards fan. I hope you both lose every game from here on in (tough seeing how you play each other a number of times in the last six weeks). I don’t know if we will win our division or make the playoffs through the wild card. We are good but like all the National League teams, we have weaknesses too. Hope is what we all do. I just hope your Phillies play with the same over-confindence that you display, then I am reasonably sure come October you will be on the outside looking in

  17. cliff - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Actually, the “lucky” team based on run differential is the Phillies. They are 2.5 games back, but “should be” 4.5 back based on “pythag”.

  18. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    We shall see boys…we shall see. The Phillies are finally all together and healthy, and they have Oswalt as well. They aren’t 22-8 in their last 30 by accident. Except for when they have to throw Blanton and Kendrick out there, they have been pretty much unbeatable. You Cardinals and Braves fans can crow all you want, but to be the champion you have to BEAT the champion. And as far as I can tell, the Phillies are still the 2-time defending champions. Come back to me on October 3rd when both the Braves and Cardinals may be out of the playoffs if the Phillies stay hot and the Giants squeak out the Wild Card. Or better yet, keep posting “pythag”, and keep tellling me about Infante’s .350 BA being the fly in the Triple Crown ointment LOOOOL!!!

  19. CJ - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    Prado got moved to third so I’d give them that one too over Polanco. just sayin’. In fairness though, Ruiz has been a beast this year, so the gap between him and McCann isn’t near what an Phillies outsider might think.
    Other than that, you’d absoltuely correct though, position by position, starter by starter. You’re right to give the Braves a huge edge on the bullpen too, but I think you undervalue their bench. Granted they don’t look like much, and have very little name recognition, but that bench has been beastly in the clutch, Hinske and Conrad particularly. And isn’t that what you want from a bench? Don’t forget, when Glaus gets back either he or Infante will be on the bench, which is another reason why I’d take theirs over ours.
    All in all, you make some great points though. The Phillies are position by position certainly stronger than any other team in the NL IMO.

  20. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    I’ll give Prado vs Polanco a push then…I stand corrected there. I forgot they moved him to third when old man river went down for the year.

  21. nps6724 - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    Position-by-position is unimportant. No one wins because their 1B was better than yours. Prado, Heyward, McCann, Chipper, and Infante are the only Atlanta hitters with a WAR at or above 2 and combined have a 16.1 WAR. Werth, Polanco, Utley, Ruiz, and Rollins are the only Phillies with a WAR at or above 2 and combined have a 15.1 WAR. The Braves’ 5 best hitters have topped the Phillies’ this year. Atlanta has 8 pitchers with a WAR at or above 1 (combined 14.8) while Philly only has 3 (combined 10.5).

    The braves bench is probably the best in baseball. Omar Infante, Matt Diaz, Brooks Conrad, David Ross, Eric Hinske, and Dioruy Hernandez have a combined WAR of 6.1. Ben Francisco, Brian Schneider, Wilson Valdez, Ross Gload, Mike Sweeney, and Domonic Brown have a combined WAR of 0.8. I have no idea why you think Philly’s bench is good. Conrad and Ross ALONE trump Philly’s entire bench according to the numbers.

  22. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Actually, I meant to say “I’ll give Prado the NOD over Polanco at third.” Don’t know what I was trying to type actually, but what I mean is that Prado is better than Polanco. So that is 2 of 8 positions to the Braves.

  23. nps6724 - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    No, they’re 22-8 in their last 30 because it’s a STREAK. No team in the HISTORY of baseball has played at a .750 clip for a long period of time. If you’re banking on Philly doing that, you will need some anti-depressants soon.

    You don’t have to beat the champ to be the champ. This isn’t wrasslin’.

  24. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    Has anyone ever told you that you use WAR WAAAAAAY too much? War is an OK stat, but it is not the be-all end-all of everything. WAR doesn’t take into account time missed. It doesn’t take into account number of plate appearances. You keep relying on WAR and I’ll rely on my eyes. They tell me that the Braves have severly overachieved this year while the Phillies have been injured. The next 6 weeks are going to be so much fun. I love busting the balls of Braves fans, especially since they had so much fun busting mine when they had Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, all those years. Good luck, and may the best team(Phillies) win ;)

  25. CJ - Aug 24, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    so in summary 2 of 8 starting spots go to the braves plus the bullpen and bench, but no playoff starting pitchers. Though Hudson’s numbers aren’t far off from Halladay’s I’d still take Roy.
    I still think the Braves might win the division, but head to head jsut don’t match up against the Phillies. I think the Phillies only best chance to overtake them is to keep it close until they play in the two head-to-head series that remain.
    Though today, I’d pick the Braves to win the division (admittedly not an easy call though, esp for a phils fan), I’d pick the Phillies in 5 in a head to head playoff series easily.

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