Friday, 19 July 2013

Triple Crowns

Since this is the Base Ball Web Log, when I say Triple Crown, I mean the baseball triple crown. And I'm going to keep it to hitters - for now. The Triple CCrown is when a hitter leads his league in HR, RBI and AVG. I think it's because that's all anyone cared about in the 1930s. You may have a different theory.

Anyways, the Triple Crown has been won 17 times, most recently last year by Miguel Cabrera. The pitching Triple Crown is less rare, and has been achieved 38 times.

Last year, during the Jocks Vs Nerds Great MVP Debate, Tom Verducci wrote that Mike Trout was actually on his way to a rarer triple crown: leading the league in runs, stolen bases and WAR. That has been done 14 times by only 8 players.

The traditional Triple Crown is tough to do because it's hard to hit for power and average. Those skills don't necessarily or usually go hand-in-hand. Defence aside, you can get a job as a .250 power hitter, and you can also get a job as a .350 slap hitter. You cannot generally get a job as a .250 slap hitter. You can definitely get a job as a .350 power hitter.

But really, it is a two-faceted triple crown. It is actually not that rare to lead in home runs and RBI, because the two stats are related. RBI is not a great stat. When you hit a lot of home runs, you drive in more batters because A) you drive in yourself more, and B) other players are on base sometimes when you hit home runs.

There is the "slash" triple crown, or SABR triple crown, which is when a batter leads the league in AVG/OBP/SLG. These things are also related - a high average + walks fuels a high OBP, and a high avg + power fuels a high SLG. It's obviously impossible to win the slash triple crown with a low average. I could write a whole post about slash triple crowns*, so I will leave those alone for now.

*And I would like to

So the questions I have are like this. What is the weirdest triple crown that someone has actually pulled off? What are some other interesting triple crowns? What are some of the most predictable triple crowns?

Well, I will start with one that has never actually happened, but I would love to see someone pull this one off: lead the league in 2B, 3B and HR. A player would have to be fast, powerful, and get an absurd number of extra base hits. It is not uncommon for young players to hit more doubles early in their career, with HR increasing and 2B decreasing as they reach their prime. 2B are liners into the gap, but also near-HR. Batters can only produce so many of those style of hits before things get crazy.

Anyways*, this is not something I know how to directly search for, so I will approach it in a roundabout way. There are 106 seasons where players have at least 30 2B, 30 HR and at least 7 3B. I would expect it to be impossible to lead a league with less than any of those numbers, right? (Well, since 1920)

*I type that a lot in this blog... don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.

Of those 106 seasons:
Players led the league in 2B and 3B 2 times
Players led the league in 2B and HR 3 times
Players led the league in 3B and HR 1 time

Okay, so those are pretty sparse, that's only 6 seasons. What happened to the third leg of MY triple crown (2B/3B/HR)? league leaders are in bold, and this is listed in reverse chronological order. None of these seasons have occurred since 1950.

1. In 1949, 28 year old Stan Musial went 41/13/36. He finished second in HR to Ralph Kiner, who had 54.

2. In 1948, 27 year old Stan Musial went 46/18/39. He finished third in HR, behind Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize, who tied for the lead with 40. It's so sad. This is definitely the closest anyone has* come to this triple crown. Musial also led the league in runs, hits, RBI, AVG, OBP, and SLG. This is one of the finest all-around seasons ever.

*will ever?

3. In 1940, 29 year old Hank Greenberg went 50/8/41. His teammate Barney McCosky led the league with 19 triples.

4. In his ("real") Triple Crown season of 1934, 25 year old Joe "Ducky" Medwick went 56/10/31. He tied for 6th in triples, behind Arky Vaughan who had 17.

5. In 1928, 28 year old Jim Bottomley went 42/20/31. He finished tied for 3rd in doubles, behind Paul Waner, who had 50.

6. In 1922, in one of the most ridiculous offensive seasons ever, 26 year old Rogers Hornsby went 46/14/42. He also led the league in runs (141), hits (250), RBI (152), AVG (.401), OBP (.459), SLG (.722) and TB (450). Alas, he finished 5th in triples, behind Jake Daubert, who had 22.

There is no Babe Ruth on this list. He never led the league in 2B or 3B. He was too busy hitting home runs, walking, and striking out*.

*Brilliant segue

The next triple crown I want to find is the so-called three-outcome player. This player hits home runs, walks, and strikes out. He apparently tries to avoid hitting the ball to the defence?

Who has pulled off this triple crown - how rare is it to be the best at all of these things? (Hint: Adam Dunn has never led the league in all three things, mostly because he has never led the league in HR)

And the winners (in reverse chronological order) are (BB/SO/HR):

1. Dale Murphy (1985) went 90/141/37
2. Mike Schmidt (1983) went 128/148/40
3. Mickey Mantle (1958) went 129/120/42
4. Hack Wilson (1930) went 105/84/56
5. Babe Ruth (1928) went 137/87/54
6. Babe Ruth (1927) went 137/89/607. Babe Ruth (1924) went 142/81/46
8. Babe Ruth (1923) went 170/93/41

1. Dale Murphy finished 7th in MVP voting
2. Mike Schmidt finished 3rd in MVP voting
3. Mickey Mantle finished 5th in MVP voting
4. Hack Wilson finished... was there no MVP voting in 1930? Well, with 191 RBIs, he would have finished 1st.
5-7. Babe Ruth was disqualified from MVP voting due to the rule that you could only win once
8. Ruth won his first (and only) MVP

All of these triple crown seasons were still quite valuable - despite the strikeouts. Drawing walks and hitting home runs are pretty good ways to help your team win.

On to the next.
What about a triple crown of... singles, steals and... what else makes an awesome leadoff hitter? OBP?
Nope, nobody has managed to pull that one off. The closest seems to be... Richie Ashburn, in 1958. He led the league with a .440 OBP and 176 singles. And finished second with 30 steals to Willie Mays, who had 31. CLOSE. 

Okay. What about... HBP, GIDP and SF. That would be a strange one. Also... no. Only two players have led the league at any two of those things.

1. In 1986, Gary Carter led the league with 21 GIDP and 15 Sac Flies. He tied for 6th with 6 HBP, behind Tim Wallach, who had 10.
2. In 2004, Miguel Tejada led the league with 24 GIDP and 14 Sac Flies. He finished with 10 HBP, well behind a two way tie at 17.

What is actually the best triple crown to win? I guess it depends what you value. What about a double-crown of value? Did anyone lead their league in offensive WAR and defensive WAR? I guess the "triple" would be adding the leader in overall WAR.

Three players have pulled off the WAR double crown (oWAR/dWAR):
1a. 30 year old Cal Ripken (9.2/3.4) in 1991
1b. 23 year old Cal Ripken (7.5/3.6) in 1984
2. 24 year old Willie Mays (8.6/2.0) in 1955
3. 26 year old Snuffy Stirnweiss (6.6/2.8) in the war year 1945 (pun sort of intended)

Okay, I'll do one more. How about total bases, walks and... batting average. I would also assume that these players would be from the subset of slash triple crown winners. Leading a league in batting average and walks is a deadly combo. Or, batting average and total bases is a power-packed average. I think that these, or contenders for this triple crown, would be some of the best seasons we have seen.

There are five winners, and a handful of contenders. First the winners (TB/BB/AVG):
1. 28 year old Ted Williams in 1947 (335/162/.343)
2. 23 year old Ted Williams in 1942 (338/145/.356)
3. 30 year old Jimmie Foxx in 1938* (398/119/.349)
4. 28 year old Rogers Hornsby in 1924 (373/89/.424)
5. 29 year old Babe Ruth, also in 1924 (391/142/.378)

*I always forget that Jimmie Foxx played for the Red Sox. But he played for them for 6.5 years starting in his age 28 1936 season.

Now about some of the contenders for this triple crown, and by that I mean these winners of at least two legs:
In 2005, 29 year old Derrek Lee went 393/85/.335
In 2004, 39 year old Barry Bonds went 303/232/.362
In 2002, 37 year old Barry Bonds went 322/198/.370
In 2000, 26 year old Todd Helton went 405/103/.372
In 1967, 27 year old Carl Yastrzemski went 360/91/.326 in one of the all time great (and real (and slash) Triple Crown) seasons
In 1966, 30 year old Frank Robinson went 367/87/.316 (real and slash Triple Crown)
In 1958, 26 year old Mickey Mantle went 307/129/.304
In 1956, 24 year old Mickey Mantle went 376/112/.353 (real Triple Crown)
In 1955, 20 year old Al Kaline went 321/82/.340
In 1952, 31 year old Stan Musial went 311/96/.336
In 1951, 30 year old Stan Musial went 355/98/.355
In 1949, 30 year old Ted Williams went 368/162/.343*
In 1948, 29 year old Ted Williams went 313/126/.369
In 1946, 27 year old Ted Williams went 343/156/.342
In 1941, 22 year old Ted Williams went 335/147/.406
In 1939, 26 year old Johnny Mize went 353/92/.349
In 1935, 23 year old Arky Vaughan went 303/97/.385 (slash Triple Crown .385/.491/.607 from a SS)
In 1934, 31 year old Lou Gehrig went 409/109/.363 (real and slash Triple Crown)
In 1933, 25 year old Jimmie Foxx went 403/96/.356 (real Triple Crown)
In 1928, 33 year old Babe Ruth went 380/137/.323
In 1928, 32 year old Rogers Hornsby went 307/107/.387
In 1926, 31 year old Babe Ruth went 365/144/.372
In 1925, 29 year old Rogers Hornsby went 381/83/.403 (real and slash Triple Crown)
In 1923, 28 year old Babe Ruth went 399/170/.393 (14.0 WAR all time record)
In 1921, 26 year old Babe Ruth went 457/145/.378

*This has to be the closest triple crown miss EVER. In addition to missing this TB/BB/AVG triple crown, missing this batting title cost Ted Williams what would have been his third real Triple Crown (his 43 HR and 159 RBI led the league) and his sixth slash triple crown (his .490 OBP and .650 SLG led the league). I might have to do a separate post about this. The reason I appear to be getting so worked up about this is because Ted Williams missed this batting title by a very very small amount. He lost .34291 to .34276 to George Kell. 

Okay, last one for real. Has anyone ever managed to lead the league in HR, SB and hits? Power and speed tend to be opposite, which is why we go nuts over players who can do both well.

Yes! Two players.
27 year old Chuck Klein hit 38 HR, stole 20 bases (yes, 20 led the league) and collected 226 hits in 1932.
22 year old Tyrus Cobb hit 9 HR, stole 76 bases and collected 216 hits during his real and slash Triple Crown 1909 season. Can you imagine a modern player winning the Triple Crown of HR/RBI/AVG and also stealing 76 bases to lead the league?

Me neither.

One last point. I wrote the ages for the good triple crowns for a reason. Players don't put up huge seasons after they are 31 or 32. It just doesn't happen. Unless...

1 comment:

  1. Just came across this today. It's pitching, but whatever. In 1910, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown led the league in complete games (27), shutouts (6) and SAVES (7). He also led in WHIP (1.08).

    I don't imagine that CG/SHO/SV will happen again.