Ranking Miguel Cabrera's Season Among Past Triple Crown Winners

Robert Wood@@bleachRWreachrCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2012

Ranking Miguel Cabrera's Season Among Past Triple Crown Winners

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    Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers finished the 2012 MLB season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI, earning himself the elusive Triple Crown. 

    Cabrera completed the first Triple Crown since 1967, and only the 12th since 1920, when RBI became an official statistic. 

    Where does Miguel Cabrera rank among the other 11 winners of the Triple Crown? The achievements of each Triple Crown winner can be quantified and compared using the Triple Crown Score (TCS), a formula I created just for this occasion. Here's how it is calculated:

    TCS = [ (BA x 1000 - 300) + HR + RBI ] / 3

    The first adjustment to batting average is to make it a whole number and the second adjustment is because no Triple Crown winner batted below .300 for the season. As a result of these two adjustments, the TCS is on a scale of approximately 0-100, as a Triple Crown winner could conceivably earn a TCS of greater than 100. 

    So now let's take a look at the 12 Triple Crown seasons, using this new statistic to quantify and rank the winners, in ascending order from lowest to highest TCS. That should give us a good idea of who had the best Triple Crown season of baseball's modern era, and where Miguel Cabrera ranks among them.

12. Frank Robinson, 1966, Baltimore Orioles (AL)

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    BA = .316

    HR = 49

    RBI = 122

    TCS = 62.3

    Frank Robinson had the second highest home run total of all Triple Crown winners, but that was offset by the lowest batting average of the group. 

    The 1966 season was Robinson's first in Baltimore, and he won the AL MVP while leading the Orioles to the franchise's first AL pennant and first World Series title. 

    Robinson arrived in Baltimore after a lopsided trade from the Cincinnati Reds, made famous by Reds GM Bill DeWitt saying Robinson was "an old 30."

    The Judge would lead the Orioles to four World Series appearances in his six seasons in Charm City. 

11. Ted Williams, 1947, Boston Red Sox (AL)

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    BA = .343

    HR = 32

    RBI = 114

    TCS = 63.0

    This was the second of two Triple Crowns for Ted Williams, but definitely the weaker of the two. Williams' RBI total from 1947 is the lowest of any Triple Crown winner, and his home run total is the third lowest. 

    He still won the Crown, but was not rewarded with the AL MVP. 

    More on that in a second. 

10. Carl Yastzremski, 1967, Boston Red Sox (AL)

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    BA = .326

    HR = 44

    RBI = 121

    TCS = 63.7

    Carl Yastzremski is on the lower end of the spectrum for both batting average and RBI, bringing down his total TCS. His home run total is tied for fifth-best, however. 

    Yaz won the AL MVP for his efforts and, like Robinson the year before, also led his team to the AL pennant. The Red Sox, however, did not win the World Series. 

    This marked the second straight year with a Triple Crown in baseball. Little did anyone know that it would be the last one for 45 years. 

9. Miguel Cabrera, 2012, Detroit Tigers (AL)

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    BA = .330

    HR = 44

    RBI = 139

    TCS = 71.0

    Miguel Cabrera compiled the fifth best home run total of any Triple Crown winner. Not bad for the new kid on the block. 

    Although he ranks ninth on this list, a closer look at his Triple Crown Score reveals that Cabrera actually did better than it first appears. 

    From Yaz at No. 10 to Miggy at No. 9, there was an increase in TCS of 7.3. That is the second largest increase between any two consecutive entries on this list. So, in essence, Miguel Cabrera marks the beginning of the second tier of entries. 

    First, the bottom three. Now, the middle four. 

8. Chuck Klein, 1933, Philadelphia Phillies (NL)

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    BA = .368

    HR = 28

    RBI = 120

    TCS = 72.0

    Chuck Klein has the lowest home run total of any Triple Crown winner, but that was counteracted by the fourth highest batting average. 

    The 17-year veteran and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame won the NL MVP—for his efforts in the previous season, not in 1933. 

    Klein's Triple Crown came the same year as another entry further up this list, marking the only time both leagues had a Triple Crown winner in the same year. Interestingly enough, the 1933 AL winner also played in Philadelphia

7. Ted Williams, 1942, Boston Red Sox (AL)

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    BA = .356

    HR = 36

    RBI = 137

    TCS = 76.3

    The first Triple Crown for Ted Williams is his stronger entry. His RBI total was significantly higher than his 1947 Triple Crown, and his batting average was tied for the second best among AL winners. 

    Most impressive about this entry was that it followed the 1941 season, when Williams hit .406 to become the last man to finish a season batting over .400. 

    Yet somehow, Williams—who won two AL MVPs in his career—was not given the award for either of his two Triple Crowns or for batting over .400. 

6. Mickey Mantle, 1956, New York Yankees (AL)

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    BA = .353

    HR = 52

    RBI = 130

    TCS = 78.3

    Mickey Mantle is the only Triple Crown winner to hit more than 50 home runs while accomplishing the trifecta. He also checks in with the fourth best batting average among AL winners. 

    Mantle won the AL MVP for his efforts, as well, in what was easily his best season. It marked the only time he won the batting title or led the league in RBI. 

    The Mick is the last member of the middle four Triple Crown winners. 

5. Joe Medwick, 1937, St. Louis Cardinals (NL)

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    BA = .374

    HR = 31

    RBI = 154

    TCS = 86.3

    Joe Medwick has the third highest batting average among all Triple Crown winners, the top two also coming from a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Medwick's RBI total is also third highest among this list, and the best among NL winners.  

    With an increase in the Triple Crown Score of 8.0 from Mickey Mantle at No. 6, Medwick clearly begins the top five of this list. 

    As you can see from Medwick's historic numbers, these five truly are the upper echelon of Triple Crown winners. Oddly enough, they all occurred before World War II. 

    Ducky still owns the last Crown in National League history. 

4. Jimmie Foxx, 1933, Philadelphia Athletics (AL)

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    BA = .356

    HR = 48

    RBI = 163

    TCS = 89.0

    Jimmie Foxx completed the other half of Philadelphia's Triple Crown double in 1933 with the fourth best home run total and second best RBI total of all winners. 

    Known as Beast, Jimmie Foxx will forever be overshadowed by Babe Ruth, one of his contemporaries.  Foxx could not reach 500 home runs before Babe Ruth, and he never matched Ruth's career home run totals. Jimmie had an impressive career batting average of .325, but even that was inferior to the Babe at .342. 

    Beast did complete the Triple Crown, though, which is one milestone the Sultan of Swat never reached. 

3. Lou Gehrig, 1934, New York Yankees (AL)

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    BA = .363

    HR = 49

    RBI = 165

    TCS = 92.3

    Lou Gehrig had the best Triple Crown in American League history. His batting average and RBI are the best by all AL winners, and his home runs are tied for second best among the Junior Circuit. 

    Like a disturbing number of Triple Crown winners, the Iron Horse did not win league MVP for his accomplishments. All past Triple Crown winners were eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, however. These are two facts Miguel Cabrera should definitely keep in mind as his career progresses. 

    In another oddity for Gehrig, 1934 was his only batting title, despite batting .340 over his 17-year career. 

    Gerhirg's 1934 Triple Crown coupled with Foxx's in 1933 marked the first of two periods in baseball history when the Triple Crown was accomplished at least once in two consecutive seasons. 

2. Rogers Hornsby, 1925, St. Louis Cardinals (NL)

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    BA = .403

    HR = 39

    RBI = 143

    TCS = 95.0

    That is not a typo. 

    Rogers Hornsby won the Triple Crown in 1925 while batting over .400. 

    His home run total also happens to be the second best among NL winners. Hornsby won the NL MVP in 1925, then known as the League Award. 

1. Rogers Hornsby, 1922, St. Louis Cardinals (NL)

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    BA = .401

    HR = 42

    RBI = 152

    TCS = 98.3

    The first Triple Crown of the modern era was also the best of all time. His second Triple Crown entry again sees Hornsby batting over .400, and he tallies the best home run total and second best RBI total of any NL winners.  

    Rogers Hornsby is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so he has received his due recognition. But as an avid student of baseball history, I feel obligated to reiterate an obvious fact for the edification of a younger generation of fans who are perhaps unaware of the true greatness of the man known as Rajah.

    Rogers Hornsby was a truly special baseball player. He completed the Triple Crown twice, becoming the first of only two men to accomplish that feat. 

    Both of Hornsby's Triple Crowns were done in .400 seasons, a milestone he reached three times in his career. After 23 years, 2,259 games and 8,173 at-bats in the major leagues, he finished with 2,930 hits and a .358 career batting average. That is the second highest career batting average of any player in MLB history. 

    Not bad for a player many baseball fans know very little about. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Jimmie Foxx, 1932, Philadelphia Athletics (AL)

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    BA = .364

    HR = 58

    RBI = 169

    TCS = 97.0

    This particular entry from Jimmie Foxx gets honorable mention because he was not actually awarded the Triple Crown for his efforts that season. During the 1932 season, Foxx was beaten out for the batting title by a mere three points by Dale Alexander, who compiled that .367 average in only 454 at-bats over 124 games. 

    At the time, the minimum number needed to qualify for the batting title was 100 games. 

    Since 1957, however, the minimum number to qualify has been 502 at-bats, attained by using a calculation of 3.1 at-bats per team games played, based on a 162-game schedule. With the current requirements, Alexander would not have qualified. Therefore, Foxx would have won the batting title and thus, the first of what would have been two Triple Crowns. 

    ESPN actually lists Jimmie Foxx as a Triple Crown winner for the season in question. 

    It's a shame Foxx's 1932 entry did not qualify for this list. If it did, he would have compiled the highest home run and RBI totals of any Triple Crown winner, as well as the highest batting average of any American League winner. As a result, it would have been the second highest Triple Crown Score on this list. 

    A beastly performance indeed.