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Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown: the best ever?

Oct 4, 2012, 8:23 AM EDT

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Getty Images

If you just look at the raw numbers for Miguel Cabrera — a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI — you wouldn’t immediately say “best triple crown ever!”  After all, Mickey Mantle hit 52 home runs to secure his. Lou Gehrig hit .363 in his triple crown year. Jimmie Foxx hit 163 RBI the year he did it.  I’m not even sure that adjusting for era make Cabrera’s raw numbers one of the best triple crown years.

But there is something else besides those numbers that has convinced me that it is, Joe Sheehan’s argument about it in his latest newsletter:

Cabrera achieved the greatest Triple Crown ever. Forget the raw numbers or any single-number evaluation of his season, and consider that he beat out the largest fields of any winner. No one had won the Triple Crown since 1967, and that’s not a coincidence; it has nothing to do with specialization, the idea that there are more hitters for power and more for average. There are simply more hitters. It’s a math problem.

Expansion in 1969, 1977, 1993 and 1998, Joe notes, dramatically increased the number of players in the game and thus the number of guys in the hunt in triple crown categories each year.  To climb to the top of any one of those lists, let alone all three, you have to beat out a lot more dudes.*  Joe breaks down the specifics of that math, and it puts the significance of Cabrera’s accomplishment into perspective.

By the way: Joe does this kind of thing almost every day, plus much, much more. Just today, in addition to the Cabrera stuff, he talks about why the Rangers are not dead and, in fact, can be considered favorites to make the ALCS right now. Then he imagines Clayton Kershaw‘s free agent negotiations in a couple of years.  Good stuff.  If you are interested in it, I highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter.

*Note, this “there are a lot more teams and a lot more players out there” is also one of the things explaining why there are a lot more no hitters and perfect games these days too.  In 1955 you had 16 teams playing a total of 1,232 major league games each year. In 2012 you have 30 teams playing 2,430. When you increase the number of players you make leading those players in any category harder, but at the same time, as you increase the number of games being played, you increase the chances of a given phenomenon happening. People tend to ignore this and instead look for explanations involving steroids, magic pitches and the decline of some traditional value they hold near and dear or whatever.  It really doesn’t have to be that difficult.   

  1. mudhead123 - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    No

    • dondada10 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      Agreed. If there are more players, that means there are more pitchers. And if there are more pitchers, that means that pitchers who wouldn’t have been talented enough to get one of the 150 spots in the bigs are now good enough to grab one of the 300 pitching spots in the majors.

      Expansion waters down pitching.

      • mkd - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:39 PM

        Yeah, especially because the increase in the number of available major league pitching spots has in no way been matched by an increase in the size of the available talent pool…oh wait.

  2. urdoingitwrongreds - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    Only 1 or 2 guys per team are given the chance to potentially win the triple crown. Not to take anything away from Cabrera but he’s one of the few with enough opportunities to actually win the award.

    That said, even though only a few guys actually get a chance to win it, he ultimately did win it.

    • ptfu - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      If 2 guys per team have a chance, and there are more teams, then more guys have a chance. Same thing if only 1 guy per team has a chance. So yes, Miggy had to beat out more players than Yaz, the Mick, the Iron Horse, Double X, and the rest.

    • howdydoodyisalive - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      No offense, but you entirely missed the math issue. It’s not whether there are only 1 or 2 guys per team that can win the Triple Crown. It’s how many players per team could lead in JUST ONE of the three categories to stop it from happening. A perfect case in point is Granderson of the Yankees. He probably has zero chance of ever winning the Triple Crown, but he came pretty close to stopping it this year.

  3. darthicarus - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    To me it doesn’t matter if it was the best ever or not, I’m just impressed that he accomplished the feat. Kudos to you Miggy.

  4. kkolchak - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Definitely, if only because Cabrera isn’t a Yankee. :D

    • southofheaven81 - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:50 AM

      Or a Red…Sock? Sox? How does one make Red Sox singular?

      • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:57 AM

        Red Sox already is singular.

      • ptfu - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:35 AM

        A Red Suck. Sorry, it had to be said :-)

        (ducks and hides)

  5. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    I’m not even sure that adjusting for era make Cabrera’s raw numbers one of the best triple crown years.

    It really shouldn’t be. Yes it’s a great accomplishment that he managed to lead in all three categories, but that’s what a lot of the focus is on, not the actual numbers themselves. Think about this.

    Cabrera hit .330 with 44 HR and 139 RBI
    Pujols, from 01 to 10 AVERAGED .331 with 41 HR and 123 RBI

    Again, Congrats to Cabrera, but his numbers weren’t exactly extraordinary outside of leading MLB in each category.

    • mortymcfearson - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:09 PM

      The only context that matters is the year in which it happens. Should the triple crown be awarded only when someone bats .440, with 74 HR, and 192 RBI? What was going on in baseball the last 10-20 years, anyway? You like a da juice?

  6. southofheaven81 - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    This may cause a huge stink around here, but does anyone else think that for future Triple Crowns the RBI stat should be scrapped in favor of OPS? Batting average is totally legit, as are home runs (and let’s face it, home runs rule) but RBIs are totally dependent upon other guys getting on base before you do, so I don’t think it’s a fair judge of individual achievement (to quote de Niro in The Untouchables).

    • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:54 AM

      If you are going to “scap” it for something, you should scrap it for something better. OPS isn’t the most useful metric and it’s components are better on their own than when combined because 1) OBP is more important than SLG, and 2) they are on different scales (0-1 vs 0-4), giving the less important component more weight.

    • witeman10 - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      see this is where i start getting angry. RBIs are somewhat dependent on your team, but not TOTALLY dependent as you suggest. the fact of the matter is, as a percentage, Cabrera was also the best at getting RBIs. so it’s not just because he had more opportunities. if you held that equal, and everyone got the same amount of RBI opportunities, cabrera still leads the league in RBIs….

      • Jeremy T - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:38 AM

        It is still dependent on the speed and starting base of the runners, so a pure percentage still isn’t enough to take the context out of RBIs

      • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:57 AM

        The RBI leader board is just a list of the guys that are good or better hitters that hit with the most men on base.

        Giving a guy credit for something because a run scored on his ground out is rather silly….especially when it give equal value to driving in a run with a triple.

        RBI is team and context based, not individual performance based.

        Get angry if you want, you’ll still be wrong.

      • witeman10 - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:03 AM

        ummm no. im saying if u hold the speed of the baserunners constant, as well as the amount of RBI opportunities, cabrera STILL leads the league in RBIs. all the numbers prove this. why? because he’s the best hitter in baseball! he’s going to get more hits, and more extra base hits, and more home runs, to plate those runners than anyone else.

        and for the record, baseball is a team game. so everyone needs help from their teammates to have individual success.

      • witeman10 - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:07 AM

        if u wanna say there are better measurements of individual talent than solely RBIs, then fine. I’m not really disagreeing with that watsoever, i totall agree actually. But just because there are other ways to measure an individuals contributions doesn’t suddenly mean RBIs are “totally” meaningless. that’s taking things to extremes.

      • stevejg61stevejg61 - Oct 4, 2012 at 6:47 PM

        then explain Lou Gehrig in 1927 – he came up probably at least 10% of the time with the bases empty because he was batting behing Ruth – who had 60 homers

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      Batting average is totally legit

      In what way? I can’t endorse a stat that thinks all hits are the same, or one that thinks Barry Bonds (0.298) is only 0.001 better than Juan Pierre (0.297) over his career.

      • protectthishouse54 - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:10 AM

        Is that really what you take away from the BA statistic? Get real dude.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:22 AM

        Is that really what you take away from the BA statistic? Get real dude.

        Tell me where I’m wrong. It’s a stat that treats a single the same as HR which is absurd. It’s one where people think a .300 hitter is great, and a .275 hitter isn’t, where over the course of the season it’s 2 more dribblers through the whole each month.

        There are far better ways to measure a hitter’s worth than BA. Please show me where I’m wrong.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        “I can’t endorse a stat that thinks all hits are the same”

        OBP thinks all non-outs are the same. Nobody ever complains about that stat. HR doesn’t tell me ANYthing about plate discipline.

        Each stat measures what it measures. Don’t hate the stat because it is not a different stat. That is why we should look at lots of stats to get the whole picture, not any individual stat in a vacuum.

      • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:58 AM

        Except that batting average still doesn’t tell you what you want to know because it arbitrarily treats some outs like they didn’t happen.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:02 AM

        OBP thinks all non-outs are the same. Nobody ever complains about that stat

        Actually, people do. Many would prefer to talk about BB% rather than OBP, because with the latter a guy can have a high BA and low walk rate and still have a higher OBP than someone with a greater walk rate and lower BA.

        HR doesn’t tell me ANYthing about plate discipline.

        And some people say cucumbers taste better pickled (Dave Chappelle). What does this have to do with the value/lack thereof of BA?

      • buddaley - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:02 AM

        I understand the history/tradition behind focusing on the triple crown of BA/HR/RBI, but isn’t the point that focusing on it so much does not help us understand how good a player’s performance has been? As noted, any stat ignores something, and choosing 3 that are so limited misleads. That is not to say Cabrera did not have a marvelous season, but suppose I claim the true triple crown is some combination of SB/OBP/RS/GIDP/OPS+/WAR/wRC+/wOBA. While I don’t know that Trout, for example, would win a triple crown based on some combination of those stats, he does outdo Cabrera in each one, in some cases by quite a bit.

        After all, why are RBI more important than Runs Scored? Aren’t both dependent on other players? And why BA instead of OBP? Neither RS or OBP is a “new-fangled” stat or difficult to compute or understand. Were they used instead, Cabrera would still look terrific, but he would be nowhere near a triple crown winner.

      • protectthishouse54 - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM

        No one stat will tell you everything. To me, on a basic level, a high BA means this guy gets a lot of hits, which is valuable. Support that statistic with others like HR, OPS, OBP, or whatever your heart desires, and you’ll get a better impression. But no one really believes that Juan Pierre is as good as Barry Bonds, so we aren’t using BA to figure that out. We’re using it as a supplement to other stats (i.e. Not only does Bonds hit for awesome power, he maintains a good average as well).

  7. paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    Cabrera’s season isn’t even one of the best offensive seasons the last decade. So…it may be “one of the best triple crowns”, but that’s a fairly silly thing to say when it ignores many better offensive seasons, rendering the judgement trivial rather than impressive. In fact, Pujols has had 2 seasons (2006 & 2009) that would have won the AL triple crown this year with far higher OBPs.

    It was a great offensive season for Cabrera, but the triple crown is far more indicative of a statistical quirk than of a truly great season….heck, Cabrera himself had a much better year last year, and was also better in 2010…even for Cabrera, this wasn’t a particularly good year….just his normal level of greatness.

    • Bill - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      It’s not even the best offensive season of the past three years by Miguel Cabrera. I’d argue it’s the third-best of those.

      I still think it’s a really impressive, really cool thing. But yeah, there’s necessarily a lot of fluky stuff about it.

      • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:08 AM

        I agree still cool (just like a no hitter of perfect game), but still a statistical fluke.

        Funny how people that generally shit all over modern statistics cling to the old ones and are more impressed by statistical flukes.

    • witeman10 - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      but that’s exactly what makes him so special. just because he puts up numbers like this every year shouldnt diminish his accomplishment. the fact of the matter is he’s a triple crown threat every season, which is just plain ridiculous. really it was only a matter of time before he got it.

      the fact that he puts up numbers like this every season should make us praise his greatness even more than try to diminish it…

      • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:55 AM

        If that doesn’t demonstrate to you that the “triple crown” is a statistical fluke, nothing will.

      • witeman10 - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:49 AM

        first of all it shouldnt matter if it’s a statistical fluke. 2nd of all, this fluke is only made possible by the fact that Cabrera puts himself in a position for a triple crown fluke every season. he’s always in the hunt for a triple crown. if he wins another, is it fluke? maybe, but HU CARES?! its still ridiculous! a fluke that hasnt happened in 45 years!

        stop trying to act like its meaningless. if u wanna say its overrated fine, but its certainly not meaningless. give the man his dues. one of the greatest hitters of our generation.

      • buddaley - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:13 AM

        But that is the point. I don’t read anyone diminishing the greatness of his season or his hitting prowess. It is the exaggeration of the specific importance of this bit of trivia-his triple crown-that people are questioning. I consider Cabrera a great hitter, perhaps the best currently playing, but not because he happened to lead the league in 3 dubiously important categories.

        Even if you think the traditional triple crown categories are meaningful, ask this question. Suppose next year he hits .350/46/148 but Mauer hits .355, Dunn hits 47 home runs and Pujols drives in 150 runs. Would that mean his 2012 was a better year because he won the triple crown? What if Hamilton had hit 2 home runs yesterday, denying Cabrera the triple crown? Would that diminish what he Miguel did?

      • witeman10 - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        can’t we just celebrate a historic accomplishment, that yes requires some luck from what other players did relative to cabrera, without worrying about putting an exact figure on just how “meaningful” it was? i’ve never seen a triple crown winner in my lifetime, and i may never again. so I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life. because only truly great all around hitters can even flirt with accomplishing this rare milestone. Cabrera is a once in a generation player. sit back and enjoy his greatness.

      • loungefly74 - Oct 4, 2012 at 2:46 PM

        @witeman, you are so right, man!

        lets get this clear…the Triple Crown is a f*cking hard thing to do! last time its been done? 1967? holy shizzle! i’m just stunned people are trying to discredit an accomplishment where a guy:

        1) was able to hit safely onto base at a better percentage than any body else in the league. he had the best chance in the league to not hit into an out. lets not over analyze this…that is difficult considering you got guys like Ichiro and such…

        2) hit more homeruns than any body else in the league. chicks digged miggy the most this season. the homerun, personally, is the hardest thing to do in sports, it’s the “perfect at-bat”.
        and don’t give me any crap about how a triple is harder to do…do you think that batter is thinking, “oh…please let me get a triple and not a homerun!” yeah, right…

        3) had the most RBI’s…okay…enough of this bullsh*t where i hear someone whine, “ooohh thats team accomplishment, etc…”…yeah, okay…still doesn’t take away the fact he is scoring runs for his team. lets not complicate this folks, you want to score more runs than the other team to win the game…and when your hit teammates in…its a good thing, folks. i’m sorry, but sabermetric folks need to get over the fact that players are not created equal…there is a reason certain players bat 1st…or 3rd….or 4th….or 9th…it depends on how good you are at what you do. do you think (football example) Nate Burleson gets mad at Calvin Johnson for catching all the footballs and getting more touchdowns? well, if he does, he is a fool because we all know Calvin Johnson is a better player than Nate Burleson. do you think (basketball example) Kendrick Perkins gets upset at Kevin Durant for taking the most shots? again, if he does…not wise because Kevin is a mighty fine shooter. my point is…miggy, because of his exceptional play, earns the right for the lion’s share of opportunity for success. too bad for the guy batting 8th…sorry…you want MVP consideration and more opportunities to hit players in? Be a better freakin’ hitter! sheesh…

        the guy lead the league in 3 very important stats IN THE SAME YEAR! that is where the accomplishment is made. he was better than everybody else THAT year! someone else said, what if hamilton had hit 2 more HR’s…would that diminish miggy’s accomplishment? Yeah. Yes, it would. but would he still be considered for the MVP? absolutley!

        i’m just sad the “sabermetric” people are missing the point of this great accomplishment…and yeah, i read ‘Moneyball’ and even watched the very average movie…so i understand that perspective as well.

  8. Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    A counter point is with more players the quality of the pitching declines making it easier.

    • Bill - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:59 AM

      Not when the rest of the league’s hitters are facing more or less the same pitching…

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:04 AM

        But see, that precisely waters down the “more hitters” view. The are more hitters, facing more pitching. One should tend to cancel out the other. BTW Miggy Rulez. My counterpoint was merely to discuss the nice article.

    • natslady - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:12 AM

      I’m not sure the quality of pitchers has declined. Of all areas, I think this is the most improved, because of pitch-counts, innings-limits, more (and better) use of bullpens and maybe some other factors. Nowadays we expect (hope) the starter will go 6 or 7 and then a fresh, strong and talented arm is brought in–an arm that only needs a 95+ FB and a slider. Look, teams are not moving the fences OUT, are they?

      Cabrera never had to hit against the best closer in the AL, nor the best reliever in the NL–that might have helped, too. :)

      • nbjays - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Nor did he have to hit against Verlander, Scherzer or Valverde. :-)

  9. klbader - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    I don’t know that I agree with this argument. It seems to me that the players who have a legitimate shot at winning a triple crown would be in the league regardless of expansion. Only a great player has a shot at winning the triple crown, and the great players will be in the game even if there were 12 fewer teams.

    Also, because of expansion, the average major league player is probably less talented, since there are now more spots available on rosters. Therefore, a hitter is likely to face less talented pitchers more often, or hit balls into the field of play patrolled by less talented defensive players.

    I haven’t really thought about this issue in great detail, but it strikes me as off the mark. If my employer hires a bunch of people to do the same job as me, assuming I do skilled work and only a finite number of people can do my job, then each new hire is likely to be less qualified. That makes it easier for me to appear outstanding at my job, not harder.

    • PierzynskiAteMyKitten - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      I don’t think I agree with your argument. 1) Sure, maybe only a great player has a chance to actually win the triple crown, and perhaps the number of great players in the game doesn’t change by era, but it does NOT take a great hitter to ruin the triple crown for someone else. Consider that Freddy Sanchez has won the batting crown and that Dunn, Encarnacion, and Granderson were all very close to taking the HR crown from Cabrera. Considering how much luck is involved in having a good BA, I think Sheehan has a point. More players = more chance of ruining someone’s chance at a Triple Crown.

      2) Your argument about pitchers doesn’t make much sense to me. Assuming that pitchers are worse (I kind of doubt it given the improvements in training programs and scouting and the like), every hitter in the league will face them. Since the Triple Crown is a “you versus everyone else” achievement, it doesn’t matter if you are facing worse pitching (or a worse defense), because so is every other hitter.

      • klbader - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:25 AM

        Interesting points. I agree about the flukey nature of batting average and RBIs and such. I think a marginal player in more likely to lead the league in BA than in HRs or RBIs, so I can see your point there. I do think that great home run hitters are likely to be in the majors even if the league had fewer teams, so it is less likely that a marginal player will lead the league in HRs. Also, RBI leaders tend to bat in the middle of the lineup, and that’s not usually a place where marginal players hit. Still, I see your point.

        I don’t agree with your second point though, and it might be that I didn’t make my initial point clearly enough. While it is true that everyone benefits from pitching being thinner (if it is, which as you point out, may or may not be true), a great hitter will benefit from that more than a marginal hitter would, because he is great. Great hitters will capitalize on the mistakes made by marginal pitchers more than a marginal hitter would. That’s what makes them great.

      • e5again - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:33 AM

        But to klbadder’s point, all the players you listed would still be in the league if there were 50% fewer teams. They may not be great players, but they are in the top half.

  10. sophiethegreatdane - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    More players does not mean “more players competing for the Triple Crown”, does it? Its not like the number of truly elite players capable of such a feat has doubled. Am I wrong here? Isn’t it generally assumed that league expansion adds more mediocre players, diluting the talent pool?

    • PierzynskiAteMyKitten - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      They don’t have to be competing for the Triple Crown. In order to make the Triple Crown harder to achieve, all they have to do is be competitive in one of the three categories.

      Also, this point about diluting the talent pool: I don’t buy it. If you assume that the number of good players is a roughly constant percentage of the overall population, then the number of available good players will increase in proportion to the population. In that case, there ARE more good players today than there were 50 years ago because there are more people. Once you factor in improvements in scouting, training, and the fact that baseball is a much more lucrative industry for players than it used to be, I think it’s very likely that the talent pool is not as diluted as you claim it is.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:28 AM

        I don’t think the original point of the post was the the world population doubled; only that the number of teams and thus roster spots doubled. I’m not sure where the world population is relative to 1967, but I am guessing it has not doubled. Now, perhaps the population of places where MLB looks for talent has doubled since 1967. Scouting and development in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia have certainly expanded. Perhaps that has left us talent-neutral despite team expansion.

        Any way you look at it, the triple crown is traditionally based on AVG, HR and RBI, and baseball is a sport steeped in tradition, so it is nice to see someone pull off the trick.

    • pdowdy83 - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      One doesn’t have to be “competiting for the Triple Crown” to snake a batting title. Hell Curtis Granderson ended up only 1 homer behind Cabrera but he hit around .230. That is the point being made in the article. A guy like Bill Meuller or Freddy Sanchez, who are both average players to above average players, can all of the sudden hit a huge hot streak for a season and both win batting titles.

  11. hisgirlgotburrelled - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    I don’t agree with that at all. If you remove players to make 20 teams Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, and Joe Mauer are still in the majors. Expansion adds more average to below average players. If you want to go with that argument about expansion then don’t leave out the increase of below average pitchers he got to face.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      But as pointed out elsewhere, all it takes is a Melky Cabrera with a high avg or an Adam Dunn with one more HR to break up the triple crown. A non-elite player can still disrupt the accomplishment.

  12. sdelmonte - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    I think that I don’t want to think about it too much. I would rather just savor the accomplishment, and wish him and the Tigers well in the playoffs.

    And I will let history judge where this stands.

  13. paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    The expansion argument is a red herring. There has also been expansion in the player pool: more people in the world, more people growing up playing baseball, and more serious training starting at a young age. The pool of players has grown much more quickly than the demand for them at the MLB level.

    • paperlions - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:27 AM

      This isn’t even up for debate. Take a look at league normalized statistics through time. The gap between the best MLB players and the worst MLB players is smaller now than it used to be…and it isn’t because the great players aren’t as great, but because the “MLB average” player is better than MLB average players of the past.

      • thefalcon123 - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:54 AM

        I agree (and I think this goes with *every* sport). In one sense, yes, Miguel Cabrera is probably a better baseball player than all the previous triple crown winners. This has just been the nature of sports. The winner of the 100 meters in 1930 wouldn’t even qualify nowdays.

        BUT, we should measure players on how they did against their competition. Simply put, Cabrera didn’t dominate the league to anywhere near the degree that Williams, Yaz and Mantle did in their triple crown seasons.

    • natslady - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      Agree, and I was about to post the same. Also more focused recruiting/drafting, better coaching in the minors, and year-round training for athletes, especially ML athletes–who are expected, with those salaries, to take a month or so fishing break and get back to the weights. Guys on the margin are routinely “advised” to play winter ball.

    • ptfu - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:50 AM

      Today, if you’re the cream of the crop, you’re much more likely to get a chance at the majors regardless of your birthplace or background. MLB has a ton of players from all over the world, and that was less true decades ago. Heck, MLB has a wider cross section of players from America than it once did. Thanks again to Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, and the rest.

  14. uyf1950 - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Mantle’s numbers in 1956 when he won the AL Triple Crown I believe he had the highest numbers in the Major Leagues in all 3 categories not just the AL.:
    HR’s: 52
    RBI’s: 130
    BA: .353

    I do not think there is any comparison to Mantle’s numbers. This is just my opinion, and I’m not sure but wouldn’t you be also diluting the number of “really” good players by increasing the number of players and the increase in the teams, etc…

  15. deepstblu - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    The 1961-62 expansion increased the number of players in the bigs by 25%–a bigger percentage than any subsequent expansion–and yet there were Triple Crown winners in 1966 and 1967.

  16. phillyphannn83 - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Craig, this post is completely “un-calcaterra” of you. Did you even write it? I didn’t even click the link to Joe’s newsletter and I’m inclined to simply assume you copy and pasted with just adding in a comma and “Joe notes”.

  17. thefalcon123 - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    This author’s argument claims that more players makes it less likely to win the triple crown. I say bull. Adding 100 new big leaguers doesn’t create 100 more .300 hitters, it creates 100 more replacement level players and pitchers.

    A quick and dirty way to compare triple crown winners is via OPS+, which compares a players OPS to the rest of the league. Here are the triple crown winners by OPS+ (because should’t you be ranking players compard to what he did against his competition?):

    1901: Nap Lajoie: 198
    1909: Ty Cobb: 193
    1922: Rogers Hornsby: 207
    1925: Rogers Hornsby: 210
    1933: Jimmie Foxx: 201
    1933: Chuck Klein: 176
    1934: Lou Gehrig: 206
    1937: Joe Medwick: 182
    1942: Ted Williams: 216
    1947: Ted Williams: 205
    1956: MIckey Mantle: 210
    1966: Frank Robinson: 198
    1967: Carl Yastrzemski: 193
    2012: Miguel Cabrera: 166

    Cabrera, by far, had the lowest OPS as compared to his league. It’s still amazing and great, but he did not dominate the league nearly to the degree as the others did. Furthermore, Cabrera was a better hitter the last two seasons!

    I will say that Cabrera’s triple crown is a more impressive feat than the Hornsby’s and Foxx’s of the 20s and 30s. When a small group of players so thoroughly dominates the game to that degree, then baseball clearly isn’t at the same competitive level it would be during another year. But I think Williams, Robinson, Yaz and Mantle have him beat pretty clearly as far as great triple crown years ago.

    In summary, Cabrera’s feat will have to be relegated to “merely extremely wonderfully awesome”.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:20 AM

      This author’s argument claims that more players makes it less likely to win the triple crown. I say bull. Adding 100 new big leaguers doesn’t create 100 more .300 hitters, it creates 100 more replacement level players and pitchers.

      Not necessarily. For one, the more teams that are available, the more roster spots are available. While it’s not common, you can have situations like Thome/Howard where the great hitting prospect is blocked because of a future HoF playing at the same position. More teams = more chances for that player to get moved. Now that’s not a frequent occurrence but it does happen (Edgar Martinez is another one, Mike Trout, etc).

      However, I think y’all are missing what should have been Craig’s main point. The more people that are in MLB equates to more chances for statistical flukes/oddities thus preventing a triple crown winner. If you increase the teams by 10, you won’t find 10 more Cabreras, but maybe you’ll find a guy like Ichiro who hits .372 in one year. In ’04, Manny had a shot at the TC b/c he lead the league in HR and was 9 behind Ortiz in RBI (and Ortiz had a shot as well), but Ichiro lapped the field in BA. In ’96, Brady Anderson was second in HR with the 50 we all know about.

      More people = more chances for someone to steal one of the components thus making it harder to win all three categories.

      • thefalcon123 - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:16 AM

        But, baseball in the last 2 decades has seen a huge upsurge in high average, big power hitters.

        From 1993 to 2012, a player has hit 40+ home runs and hit .320 or above a whopping 32 times. The last two decades have been rife with triple crown potential, we just had a lot of players falling a little short. This is mostly a reflection of dumb luck. I’d argue that the potential for a triple crown winner in the past twenty years is the best it’s been in the expansion era, and this argument would never have been made if Gary Sheffield hadn’t missed about 2 weeks in 1992.

        I also accept the fact that while arguing against you in that last paragraph, I completely and utterly proved your point and that I am wrong. So… argument withdrawn.

  18. ericellers - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Wow he wis this years MVP following last years performance of Justin V Combined MVP and cy young, now all you have to do is bring the rest of the to the table maybe win the WS?

    • manifunk - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:06 AM

      lol he doesn’t deserve the MVP

  19. tmohr - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    I’m more interested in where Cabrera ranks on the Triple Crown Miserable Person Index.

    Cobb is far ahead, of course, probably followed by Hornsby, but after that, Miggy ranks right up there with Williams. Lajoie, Medwick, Mantle, Robinson, and Yaz weren’t exactly lovable, either.

  20. arpee - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    In looking over Yastrzemski’s 1967 stats, a few things stand out. In addition to the triple crown categories, he also led the league in runs scored, as well as OBP, SLG, OPS.

    Perhaps most notable was that in nearly 600 AB, he grounded into just 5 double plays.

  21. kevinbnyc - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    If more teams equals more competition for the Triple Crown, isn’t that saying that there are more elite players in the league? And wouldn’t that just be an argument that the era we’re in is better than the past?

    I tend to disagree with this anyway. James Loney hit cleanup for the Dodgers for far too long to argue there are more elite players in the league today than 30 years ago.

  22. buddaley - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    We have just witnessed one of the most amazing seasons of all time. Mike Trout has won the sextuple crown, not just for the AL, but for all of baseball! He led the majors in WAR (10.7), Offensive WAR (8.6), Runs Scored (129), SB (49), Offensive Win % (.786) and Power/Speed # (37.2).

    I have gone back to 2000, and this specific combination of categories led has not been accomplished in this century. I am guessing it hasn’t been done a long time before that if ever.

    Imagine that. A sextuple crown-that is double a triple crown of course-and in all of baseball, not just the AL. I wonder if that is the greatest sextuple crown of all time.

    • loungefly74 - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      that is reaching. and quite frankly, comes off just being lame. “hey guys! lets analyze these specific stats to make Trout look even better!” your flaw is that the Triple Crown is a long time badge of honor. if you think batting average, RBI’s, and HR’s are outdated, you have been a victim of overanalysis.

    • kevinbnyc - Oct 4, 2012 at 5:46 PM

      Clearly Trout is the MVP then. I’m positive this is what the voters will look at.

  23. hsven1887 - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Ummm…. There are more hitters now in the 14-team AL, than there were pre-69 in MLB? Mantle, Williams, Gehrig, Hornsby, Cobb all won MLB triple crowns.

    Besides, Cabrera’s number’s don’t compare at all. It;s a fluke, nothing else.

  24. bh0673 - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    There is no question Cabrera has been a very good ball player and has been consistently above average with his bat the only issue I have with all the records today is that with the uneven schedule put a great player in a weak division and it can skew the numbers up unfairly just as a great player in a tougher division can hurt their numbers. I look at a player like Pujols as an example great player in the National League Central the weakest division of all 6 in baseball and the guy is a consistant .300 plus hitter he moves to a tougher division in the AL West where he plays more games against Texas and Oakland and only one sub .500 team and his number fall back to normalcy, the argument that it is a new league new teams new ballparks will weigh out in the coming years but it is still the same argument would Cabrera have the same numbers if he faced every team in the American League equally instead of playing most of his games against 3 sub .500 teams. when you go back and look at Yastrzemski, Robinson, Mantle, Williams & Medwick they all had to face the same teams the same number of times just like every other player of their time and still accomplished what they accomplished and you can use the argument that Cabrera had to face more specialty relievers the fact still remains he played in a weaker division and played 33% of his games against weak teams.

    • deanmoriarity - Oct 4, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      In the time it took you to type the first sentence of this purely subjective hypothesis, I looked up the facts that show that this argument is utterly, completely and totally wrong. Sorry, dude.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=cabremi01&year=&t=b#oppon

    • nbjays - Oct 4, 2012 at 6:59 PM

      Check again dean…

      In 33% of his games (34% of his AB), Cabrera got 43% of his HR (19), 44% of his RBI (61) and 38% of his hits (77).

      Did he benefit from his weaker division? Damn straight!

      • nbjays - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:09 PM

        Oops… missed the Royals (the above numbers were against the Twins, White Sox and Indians. Adding KC to the mix makes it 46% of HR, 49% of RBI and 48% of hits in 44% of his games… still fairly skewed in RBI and hits.

  25. loungefly74 - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    do you know awesome the Triple Crown is? there was a list compiled of the greatest fictional athletes…on that list wasa character from the 1989 movie “Major League”; New York Yankees’ 1st baseman Clu Haywood. why? he won the Triple Crown!

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