While Matt Kemp came up short in his bid for the Triple Crown this season, two pitchers completed the pitching Triple Crown. Both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw led their leagues in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
However, like the hitting Triple Crown, the pitching Triple Crown has a stat that does a poor job at measuring pitching performance: the win.
One need only look at Felix Hernandez’s 2010 season or Russ Ortiz’s 2003 season. Since wins are such a poor measure of pitching performance (not to say ERA and Ks are perfect, but at least they are far more dependent on the pitcher), let’s replace wins with WHIP.
Then the question becomes whether Verlander and Kershaw achieved this version of the pitching Triple Crown and who has claimed that title in the past. Looking at the AL/NL era, let’s see what the numbers say:
|1908||Christy Mathewson (2)||NYG||1.43||0.827||259|
|1913||Walter Johnson (2)||WSH||1.14||0.780||243|
|1916||Pete Alexander (2)||PHI||1.55||0.959||167|
|1918||Walter Johnson (3)||WSH||1.27||0.954||162|
|1919||Walter Johnson (4)||WSH||1.49||0.985||147|
|1924||Walter Johnson (5)||WSH||2.72||1.116||158|
|1928||Dazzy Vance (2)||BRO||2.09||1.063||200|
|1931||Lefty Grove (2)||PHA||2.06||1.077||175|
|1965||Sandy Koufax (2)||LAD||2.04||0.855||382|
|1973||Tom Seaver (2)||NYM||2.08||0.976||251|
|2000||Pedro Martinez (2)||BOS||1.74||0.737||284|
|2001||Randy Johnson (2)||ARI||2.49||1.009||372|
|2002||Pedro Martinez (3)||BOS||2.26||0.923||239|
|2006||Johan Santana (2)||MIN||2.77||0.997||245|
*Bold for numbers that led all Major League Baseball
Not only did Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw pitch fantastically this pas season, they have done something rather rare. Only two other times has a season seen a pitcher win a Triple Crown, and (prepare Tim Kurkjian voice) the last time that happened was in 1924.
It is also the first time that baseball had two Triple Crown pitchers but did not have one achieve the Major League Triple Crown.
Both Verlander and Kershaw gave dominant pitching performances this season. They put themselves in a class with Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez and other pitching legends.
Many called 2011 "The Year of the Pitcher," and these two epitomized why this past season deserves that title.