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What a Second Triple Crown Would Mean for Miguel Cabrera

After hitting three home runs in Yankee Stadium over the weekend (including two off of Mariano Rivera, the best closer of all time), Detroit Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera upped his home run total for 2013 to 36. As of the morning of August 12, Cabrera sits six long balls behind the Orioles’ Chris Davis for the American League lead. With a commanding lead in batting average (.365–Mike Trout is next at .330), and the slimmest of leads in RBI (110 to Davis’ 109), Cabrera has a legitimate chance to capture his second consecutive Triple Crown–a first in Major League Baseball.

Let’s put this in a bit of perspective. According to Baseball-Reference.com, 89,929 batters have played Major League ball since 1871. Of those nearly 90,000, only 14 players have led their respective league in batting average, home runs, and RBI in the same season. Of those 14, two have accomplished the feat twice (Rogers Hornsby in 1922, 1925 and Ted Williams in 1942, 1947). With a second Triple Crown win this season, Cabrera would become the first do ever do so in consecutive seasons, capping off two of the best offensive seasons in baseball history. And as it turns out, this season’s Triple Crown would be one of the best ever.

ESPN projects that based on Cabrera’s current stats and averages, the Tigers’ third baseman would complete the season with a .365 batting average, 50 home runs, and 154 RBI. If Cabrera were to overtake Davis for the home run lead, and claim his second consecutive Triple Crown, here is where those numbers would rank among all Triple Crown-winning seasons:

.365 BA: 8th of 17. While the number appears to be middle-of-the-road, keep in mind that four Triple Crowns were won with a batting average above .400, and Cabrera’s 2013 mark would be the highest AL Triple Crown-winning batting average since Ty Cobb’s mark of .377 in 1909.

50 HR: 2nd of 17. Only three players have hit more than 44 HR in a TC-winning season, and only Mickey Mantle of the 1956 Yankees topped 50, swatting 52 in his Triple Crown campaign. Cabrera would sit in second place, one ahead of Lou Gehrig in 1934, two ahead of Jimmie Foxx in 1933, and six ahead of his own mark in 2012.

154 RBI: T-3rd of 17. Only four Triple Crown seasons have hit 150 RBI as the high-water mark, and none have done so since Joe Medwick for the 1937 St. Louis Cardinals had 154 to lead the National League. Cabrera’s pace would put him in a tie with Medwick for 3rd place, 11 RBI behind Lou Gehrig’s 165 in 1934 for best all time.

Even though Cabrera is on pace for one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history, it is worth noting that Triple Crowns don’t always translate into World Series rings. In the 13 seasons in which a player won a Triple Crown in the World Series era, only Mickey Mantle with the 1956 Yankees and Frank Robinson with the 1966 Baltimore Orioles have gone on to win it all. That said, it never hurts to have the Triple Crown winner in the middle of the lineup.

Miguel Cabrera is already the best hitter on the planet right now. Winning a second consecutive Triple Crown would cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time.

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