Miguel Cabrera is the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. How good was his season?Miguel Cabrera has accomplished something that hasn’t been done in baseball for 45 years -- led his league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Carl Yastrzemski was the last Triple Crown winner, when he did it for the Boston Red Sox in 1967.
Cabrera is the 10th player to win the Triple Crown since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920. It’s the 12th Triple Crown season since 1920 -- Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby each did it twice.
The previous six Triple Crown winners were outfielders, making Cabrera the first infielder to win it since Lou Gehrig in 1934.
Since 2009, his second season in Detroit, Cabrera leads the American League in all three Triple Crown categories, with a .331 batting average, 146 HRs and 473 RBIs.
HOW DOES IT STACK UP?
Won Triple Crown and Didn't Win MVP
Using Adjusted OPS (or OPS+) -- which is a player’s OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) compared to league average and adjusted for differences in eras and parks -- we can attempt to compare the 12 Triple Crown seasons.
Like the three categories, OPS accounts for a player’s ability to both hit for average and hit for power, while excluding fielding and baserunning ability. Then, by adjusting for the player’s park and league, we can compare players from different eras, judging them by the same set of rules.
Cabrera entered the final day of the season with an OPS+ of 167, which was second in the American League.
The best Triple Crown season ever put up, according to OPS+, was Ted Williams’ 1942 season, when he posted the 23rd-best mark in major league history with a 216 as a 23-year-old. It’s one of the seven Triple Crown seasons with an OPS+ over 200.
Cabrera’s will rank last of the 12 Crown seasons, behind Chuck Klein’s 1933 season for the Philadelphia Phillies, when he posted an OPS+ of 176.
Cabrera is the fourth straight Triple Crown winner to lead his team to the postseason after each of the first eight were done after the regular season.
MVP NOT GUARANTEED
Cabrera is in the middle of one of the hottest MVP debates we’ve ever had and the Triple Crown doesn’t guarantee anything. Only six of the 11 Triple Crown winners also won the MVP award that season.
Williams was victimized in both of his Triple Crown seasons by Yankees, losing the MVP trophy to Joe Gordon in 1942 and Joe DiMaggio in 1947.
Although the MVP award isn’t a given by winning the Triple Crown, Cabrera might expect inclusion in a more exclusive club -- all nine previous Crown winners are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.