Posted May 20, 2013

Is Miguel Cabrera headed for the best Triple Crown encore season ever?

Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Miguel Cabrera is looking to become the first person ever to win the Triple Crown in consecutive seasons. (AP)

Miguel Cabrera went 4-for-4 with three home runs and five RBIs in the Tigers’ 11-8 loss to the Rangers on Sunday night. With that performance he pulled within one home run of the American League leaders (Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds, Edwin Encarnacion and Robinson Cano each have 12), and took a commanding lead in RBIs (47 to Davis’s 40) and batting average (.387 to James Loney’s .356). Thus, a year after winning the first Triple Crown in 45 years, Cabrera is essentially back at it.

Actually, he’s doing even better than that. Sunday night’s loss was Detroit’s 42nd game of the year. Last year, Cabrera’s line after the Tigers’ 42nd game was .304/.362/.488 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs and he wasn’t close to the lead in any of the Triple Crown categories. This year, after 42 games, he’s hitting .387/.457/.659 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs and is only one home run away from sitting atop all three categories. Cabrera leads the majors in batting average and RBIs as well as in OPS, OPS+, total bases and hits and also leads the AL in runs scored.

No player in major league history has ever won the Triple Crown in consecutive seasons, but Cabrera’s hot start begs the questions, who came closest, and which past Triple Crown winner had the best follow-up season?

None of the 16 Triple Crown winners has led his league in even two categories the next season and none has ever led the league in home runs the next year, either. Ted Williams (after his first of two Crown wins in 1942) didn’t even play the following season because of military service and Nap Lajoie played just 87 games the year after winning the Crown in 1901 because he was ensnared in a legal dispute with the owner of his former team. Cardinals outfielder Joe Medwick, the last National League player to wear the Crown, was the only one to lead his league in RBIs the next season (with 122 in 1938).

Though no Triple Crown winner came particularly close to repeating his rare feat right away (Williams and Rogers Hornsby both won the crown twice), that doesn’t mean that none of them had great encore seasons. The best was likely Mickey Mantle’s 1957 in which he hit .365/.512/.665 with 34 home runs 94 RBIs, 121 runs scored, 315 total bases, 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts and 146 walks against just 75 strikeouts. Mantle won his second consecutive MVP that season, but he only led the league (and the majors) in walks and runs (and Wins Above Replacement!) because Ted Williams hit .388/.526/.731 that season and Senators leftfielder Roy Sievers hit 42 home runs and drove in 114.

Here are the other 16 follow-up seasons by Triple Crown winners ranked by Baseball-References WAR (bold indicates league leader, bold italics indicates major league leader):

Player Year AVG HR RBI OPS+ bWAR
Mickey Mantle 1957 .365 34 94 221 11.3
Ty Cobb 1910 .383 8 91 206 10.5
Carl Yastrzemski 1968 .301 23 74 171 10.4
Jimmie Foxx 1934 .334 44 130 186 9.0
Lou Gehrig 1935 .329 30 119 176 8.7
Ted Williams 1948 .369 25 127 189 8.5
Rogers Hornsby 1923 .384 17 83 187 6.7
Frank Robinson 1967 .311 30 94 187 5.4
Nap Lajoie 1902 .378 7 65 176 5.1
Joe Medwick 1938 .322 21 122 141 4.8
Rogers Hornsby 1926 .317 11 93 124 4.5
Paul Hines 1879 .357 2 52 177 4.4
Hugh Duffy 1895 .353 9 100 129 4.2
Tip O’Neill 1888 .335 5 98 158 4.2
Chuck Klein 1934 .301 20 80 136 3.3
Ted Williams 1943 - - - - -

Cabrera likely won’t be able to compete with the top three seasons above because of the additional contributions Mantle, Cobb and Yastrzemski made with their legs and their gloves. Still, his current pace would leave him with 42 home runs and an astonishing 181 RBIs. His projected bWAR of 8.9 would be even better if not for the -2.3 he is on pace for defensively. His 194 OPS+ would rank third on the list above and he is also on pace for 258 hits and 131 runs scored. All of which means that even without leading the league in all three categories, this may yet prove to be by far the closest thing we’ve ever had to a repeat Triple Crown winner.

14 comments
Petzuk
Petzuk

Yep, it's May...... Time for the seasonal awards to be handed out :-(

Tell ya what....... Cabrera doesn't touch the top of ANY hitting category. He's not in a contract year.

Adam_I_Mind
Adam_I_Mind

What was his line in the World Series?  All I remember is "strike three called" right before a big pile-up on the mound.

j7apple
j7apple

Good Grief, its May.....Talk to us about the triple crown come Aug/Sept

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

I know this is not an original observation, but it's too bad Cabrera doesn't play in a larger media market, and get more national exposure.

And by the way, wasn't it Corcoran who blasted Cabrera last year, saying in effect that his Triple Crown was a hollow achievement?

themekons
themekons

I'm sure nobody here gives a crap, and obviously our semi-literate writer doesn't, but the point is that he IS a professional writer and he should know how to use the phrase "begs the question" properly.  Unfortunately, he doesn't.  It doesn't mean to "raise the question." When one "begs the question," the original assumption of a statement (e.g., in the sentence 'he's a great shortstop because he fields his position well') is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.  It's a logical fallacy.  In the example given, the writer is "begging the question" as to whether the shortstop is great by simply stating that's he's great BECAUSE he fields his position well. That's all there is to it.  It has nothing to do with "raising the question." 

Sneeral
Sneeral

@themekons Thank you!!! That's one of my pet peeves. More and more people are saying "begs the question" when they mean "raises the question." The irony is that they think it makes them sound smart. It doesn't. 

John NoLastName
John NoLastName

@timmottly1 @themekons themekons is exactly right, and no he's NOT spending too much time on that. Words are the writers' tools of the trade, and they should use them correctly.

This is no different than if a carpenter were to use a wrench to drive nails. Use the correct tool for the job.

timmottly1
timmottly1

@John NoLastName @timmottly1 @themekons Disagree John....If a carpenter uses too many nails, or adds and extra beam that isn't necessary - he is doing a poor job and wasting materials.....This "writer" wasted a lot of effort and words on something trivial..... 

Michael10
Michael10

@John NoLastName@timmottly1@themekons

There's a reason the "writer" part comes second in the term "sportswriter." Most journalists are only semi-competent writers, and most sportswriters are only semi-competent journalists...