Perhaps the hardest achievement in all of American sports is Baseball’s batting Triple Crown. A player has to lead the league in home runs, runs batted in (RBIs), and batting average to win the Triple Crown. Nobody has done it since 1937 in the National League (73 years) and since 1967 in the American League (43 years). In the last 100 years, only nine players have done it. They are, in the National League: Rogers Hornsby (1922 and 1925), Chuck Klein (1933), and Joe Medwick (1937), and in the American League: Jimmie Foxx (1933), Lou Gehrig (1934), Ted Williams (1942 and 1947), Mickey Mantle (1956), Frank Robinson (1966), and Carl Yastrzemski (1967).
Basically, the reason why Triple Crowns are so rare is because they require three different talents at hitting. Home-Runs require hitting the ball with great force, RBIs requires hitting the ball well with men on base, which requires good hitting under pressure, and batting average, which requires getting lots of hit all the time. While being tops in two of these things is often done, getting first place in all three in the same year is fantastically hard and requires a great deal of luck.. For example, Albert Pujols, easily the greatest hitter of the past ten years, led the National League in homers and RBIs last year, but his career low .312 average was only good enough for sixth place, 24 points behind the leader Carlos Gonzales (.336). Ryan Howard finished first in home runs and RBIs in 2008, but his .251 average wasn’t even in the top 50. In 2006, his 58 home runs and 149 RBIs beat out second place Albert Pujols (with 49 and 137), but his .313 average only placed him 8th, while Pujols .331 was third best. Andruw Jones won the HR-RBI double crown in 2005, but batted only a fair .263. In the 2000 season, Todd Helton led in batting average, .372, and RBIs, 147, but his 42 home runs only made seventh place.
In the American League, in 2007, Alex Rodriguez easily led with 54 home runs and 156 RBIs (8 home runs and 17 RBIs ahead of the second place hitters), but his .314 average was only good enough for 14th place. Five years before, in 2002, Rodriquez also led with 57 HRs and 142 RBIs, but his batting average of .300 placed him only19th behind Manny Ramirez by 49 points.
Does anybody have a chance for a Triple Crown in batting this year? Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard have each come close twice in the last decade. Could this be the year? Who else is having a great season that might make them the 10th player in 100 years to win the Triple Crown?
In the American League, there are five players in or near the top 10 in all three categories: Boston’s Adrián González is number one in RBIs (60) and Batting Average (.347) and eight in home runs (13). His teammate David Ortiz is fourth in homers (17), fifth in batting average (.321), and eight in RBIs (43). Toronto’s José Bautista is tied for first in home runs (21), second in batting average .338, but tied for tenth in RBIs (42). Chicago’s Paul Konerko is second in RBI’s (52), fourth in batting average (.322), and sixth in homers (16). Miguel Cabrera is seventh in RBIs (46), eight in batting average (.316), and eight in homers (13).
In the National League, there are also five contenders. Los Angeles’ Matt Kemp is number one in homers (20), number two in RBIs (56) and number two in batting average (.332). His main competition is Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder, who is in first place in RBIs (59), second place in Home Runs (19), but in sixteenth place in batting average (.300). His teammate, Ryan Braun, is fifth in RBIs (49), seventh in homers (14), and twelfth in batting average at .306. St. Louis’ Lance Berkman is third in homers (17), fifth in batting average (.318), and sixth in RBIs (48). His teammate, Albert Pujols is having a terrible season for Albert Pujols, but a great season for anybody else. He is sixth in home runs (15), tenth in RBIs (42), but only at number 38 in batting average (.275). Still we should remember that he has a .329 lifetime average and he has never batted lower than .312. I would be very surprised, if he is not a lot closer to the top in all three categories by the end of the season.
Only about 42% of the season is over, so we have a long ways to go. At the moment these are the ten players who seem to have a chance to reach the golden fleece of the Batting Triple Crown.
American League National League
Adrián González Matt Kemp
David Ortiz Prince Fielder
José Bautista Ryan Braun
Paul Konerko Lance Berkman
Miguel Cabrera Albert Pujols.