MLB 2010 Triple Crown Threats: Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols

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MLB 2010 Triple Crown Threats: Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols
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The Triple Crown.

It's been missing in horse racing since 1978. 

But it's been missing in baseball even longer.

In 1967, Carl Yastrzemski, a person whose name most current ballplayers can't even spell, was the last player to win the baseball Triple Crown in either league. 

For those unfamiliar, the Triple Crown is when a hitter leads their league in average, home runs, and runs batted in.

Yaz hit .326, with 44 homers and 121 RBIs that year.

Since then, many have taken their best crack at it, including many in recent history. Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Barry Bonds, and Ryan Howard are just a few. 

This year, two other players who have constantly been in position in years past, get another crack at it.

Their names: Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.

Both have attempted to join this very exclusive club at various points in their career. They also used to compete in the same league categories. But this year, both have the best chance in their respective leagues to be the record breaker.

 

Albert Pujols

First up, Pujols. He is the longer shot to get the Triple Crown this year, but still has the best chance in the NL nonetheless.

Each season, Pujols finds himself coming up short despite finishing in the top five in all three categories on numerous occasions. The first place to look is at RBIs. Pujols has never led the category in his whole career.

He has only led in batting average and home runs one time each during his career, in 2003 and 2009, respectively.

So why does he still have a shot?

Pujols currently stands:

Tied for second in home runs (14; Corey Hart leads with 16).

Tied for third in runs batted in (44, behind Troy Glaus and Casey McGehee who each have 45).

Tied for eighth in batting average (.306; Marlon Byrd leads with .329).

At this point in the season, all the categories are still fair game. In his career, Pujols has not hit below .327 since 2002. So with his power remaining strong early on, expect another hot burst at the midway point to get that average back above .320.

It seems this would be the easiest year in the NL to get that record. Byrd will not keep his current average.

One other player, Andre Ethier, is also up there in batting average. He holds a .364 batting average, well above any other career marks. He was hurt for a few weeks in May and is on the border of "qualified at bats" for average to count. Look for him to slide down closer to the .300 range as the amount of at bats picks up. But if he stays healthy, definitely a name to watch.

And if the highest average can stick in that .320 range, it'd be a big change from the past few years—Hanley Ramirez hit .342 in 2009, Chipper Jones, .364 in 2008, and Matt Holliday, .340 in 2007.

With the possibility that it would only take a .320-.330 average, Pujols has the chance to win the batting crown.

As for the power game, Pujols will get his HRs. He should be able to manage above 40 again and stay close with the rest of the competition.

Corey Hart is currently at an astonishing pace. For a player who hit a career high 24 in 2007, the 48 HR pace he is on would be an incredible jump. 

Of the rest of the players in the current top five, Adrian Gonzalez (13) and Mark Reynolds (14) should keep pace. Reynolds is purely a power hitter, while Gonzalez offers a more well-rounded approach to the plate.

And then comes the daunted RBI category. The one he has never led. And this one has the perhaps the most competition.

Players like Troy Glaus, Scott Rolen, Ryan Howard, and Adrian Gonzalez are only the beginning. Youngsters Casey McGehee and Jason Heyward are also proving to be in the race.

Pujols needs final numbers reflecting a season with a .325 avg, 45 HRs, and 130 RBIs.

In the end, it may be prove too difficult for Pujols. But with 100 games to go and the others more likely to fall off than he is, the chance remains.

 

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera may have the best shot anyone has had in years. After a rough end to last season for both him and his team, he has come back more determined than ever.

Throughout his career, he has only finished first in the HR category in 2007. In the RBI category, he has finished third twice (2007 and 2008), and in batting average, second in 2006.

So why does he have a shot?

Currently, Cabrera's stats look like this:

Tied for first in home runs with Jose Bautista18 HRs apiece.

Solo owner of first place in runs batted in with 53 RBIs. Vladimir Guerrero is in second, with 51 RBIs.

Fourth place in batting average at .339. Robinson Cano leads with a .376 average.

First, the two categories in which he has the best shot:

Home runs are an extremely obtainable category in which Cabrera can lead the league this year.

Jose Bautista has already surpassed his career high of only 16 HRs as he attempts to keep pace. Paul Konerko, in second with 17, may no longer have the firepower to keep pace the whole season. The third place Vernon Wells has 15 HRs, but he generally caps out in the low 30s.

Possibly the most viable threat in other categories, Vlad Guerrero, currently has 13 HRs. Vlad has not hit above 30 HRs since 2006, though. He has a better shot in keeping pace in RBIs.

If Guerrero can stay healthy, he is a lock to surpass the 100 RBI mark. With his .336 average as well, don't look for Vlad to be too far behind Cabrera the rest of the season, if he stays healthy.

Other RBI competitors include Bautista with 45. Unfortunately, his .239 career batting average often makes him all-or-nothing at the plate.

Evan Longoria (47 RBIs) and Robinson Cano (46 RBIs) are not too far behind, either. Both of them, with their high averages, should easily surpass 100 RBIs and give Cabrera a challenge all year.

Finally, the most difficult and longest shot of all the categories—batting average. If Cabrera still remained in the National League, this may have been the year for him. Unfortunately, the AL contains many high average hitters.

Cano, hitting .376, has proven in the past that he can hit at least above .340 in a season (2006). His current .376 average will drop off at some point, but how much is a legitimate question.

In second, Justin Morneau is hitting .362. Of the top five, he is most likely not to win the batting title at the end of the year. He can, however, maintain a .320 average and be in the bottom of the top five.

Third place is held by perhaps the best hitter in baseball history, Ichiro Suzuki, with a .346 average. Ichiro will most likely hit anywhere from .310 to .350. He will also remain a thorn in Cabrera's side.

For the Triple Crown to be possible, Cabrera is going to need a better batting average than Pujols would in the NL

If he can finish with a .350 average, 40 HRs, and 130 RBIs, he will win his first MVP award.

He would also join the exclusive list that hasn't been updated since 1967.

With no good horses lately, it would be nice if baseball could bring back its own version...

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