Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera is oh so close to being Major League Baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967. He enters the final day of the regular season leading the American League in home runs (44), RBI (139) and batting average (.331).
So while we anxiously await to see what the Tigers do with Cabrera in Game 162—we don't actually know if he will play tonight against Kansas City, though it would be a surprise if he didn't get at least two at-bats—it is not impossible for him to lose the Triple Crown.
What Category Is Cabrera Most Likely To Lose?
Obviously, a lot of things will have to go right—or wrong, depending on your perspective—for Cabrera not to get the Triple Crown, but there are a few scenarios in which he could finish second in at least one of the three categories.
Given that Cabrera is 11 RBI ahead of Josh Hamilton heading into Wednesday's games, we are not going to include that category in this list. Unless Hamilton plays one of the greatest single games in the history of Major League Baseball—not an impossible feat given his talent, but unlikely—it is not worth discussing anymore than we just did.
For the purposes of this discussion, we are only going to talk about nine-inning games, since you can't predict games going into extra innings and players getting more at-bats.
How Cabrera Can Lose BA Title
Cabrera Batting Average: .331, 205-for-620
Mike Trout Batting Average: .324, 180-for-556
It only makes sense that one of the Triple Crown categories comes down to the great MVP debate of 2012.
If you assume that a player is going to get four at-bats in a nine-inning game, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports calculates that Trout would have to go 4-for-4 and Cabrera would have to go 0-for-4 in order for Cabrera to lose the title by the slimmest of margins.
if cabrera goes 0-4 & trout 4-4, trout wins, .32857 to .32852. tho MC likely wont bat 4 times unless hamilton hits 2 hrs— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 3, 2012
Will It Happen?
Highly unlikely. As we saw last night, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is not likely to let Cabrera play the whole game to get four at-bats. There is no reason to risk a fluke injury to your best hitter with a playoff berth already locked up.
If Cabrera doesn't play the whole game but goes 0-for-1 in his lone plate appearance, Trout would have to go 7-for-7 in order to pass him.
How Cabrera Can Lose HR Title
Cabrera's Home Run Total: 44
Josh Hamilton's Home Run Total: 43
Edwin Encarnacion's Home Run Total: 42
If you are looking for the category that Cabrera is in "danger" of losing, this would be it. Not that it seems likely to happen, but it is possible that Hamilton or even Encarnacion could go off in their respective games.
Using the Jon Heyman of CBS Sports calculator again, Hamilton has hit at least two home runs in three games this season. That gives him roughly a two percent chance to get his total to 45 homers, if you believe in patterns and not some random variation.
for cabrera to lose share of HR title, hamilton must hit 2. josh has 3 multi-HR games in 147. so chances are 1 out of 49— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 3, 2012
Will It Happen?
Unlikely. I won't go highly unlikely because I don't expect Cabrera to play the whole game, thereby limiting the number of chances he has to add to his home run total.
The Rangers have an obvious incentive to let Hamilton play the whole game. They have to defeat Oakland to win the American League West and avoid the wild-card playoff game. He is going to get four at-bats.
Unfortunately, Hamilton has to play the game in one of the worst parks to hit home runs in baseball. The Oakland Coliseum is an abyss where fly balls go to die, though Hamilton's raw power makes Thor jealous.
Is the Triple Crown Cabrera's?
After all this, it is not going out on a limb to say yes. There are too many variables at play for Cabrera not to win this. He has enough of a lead in average and home runs that if he doesn't get it, it would feel like a huge upset.