Triple Crown Updates

Baseball hasn’t seen a hitting Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 and the National League has been dry since Joe Medwick in 1937. While never common, there were 13 seasons between 1901 and 1967 that saw a Triple Crown winner, a little under 10% of the time.

The traditional Triple Crown is no longer as impressive as it once was given what we know about measuring individual offensive performance and the contextual nature of RBIs. Still, it remains a milestone that is appreciated and known among nearly all fans and it is hard to win the Crown without putting together a legitimately fantastic season. While it remains unlikely that anyone accomplishes it this season, there are several interesting candidates.

The two most likely winners are both in the National League. Albert Pujols: the expected, and Joey Votto: the surprise. Votto came into play today currently atop the league in batting average with Pujols in third, seven points back. Seven points is a lot to make up in just over a month, but it is certainly doable if Votto’s runs into a string of bad luck. Meanwhile Pujols enjoys the league lead in both home runs and RBIs each by two over Votto. The edge has to go to Votto for the moment.

Finishing with the least likely of the three, Miguel Cabrera is having a fantastic season for the Tigers. Currently the AL leader in RBIs by seven over Alex Rodriguez, Cabrera should be able to relatively coast to the AL title there with A-Rod now on the disabled list. The other two legs look more difficult for Cabrera. He’s sitting 14 points behind Josh Hamilton for the batting title but even more daunting is the nine home runs by which he trails Jose Bautista. Cabrera is almost certainly not going to be able to catch Bautista, but his season at the plate remains worthy of highlighting.

Not nearly as impressive, but related to the topic at hand is the pitching version of the Triple Crown: ERA, strikeouts, and wins in which both Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright have a shot at in the NL. Halladay has 15 more strikeouts than Wainwright but Wainwright leads in both wins and ERA. Halladay, however, is right behind him in both, trailing by a single win and just four ERA points.

In a season that’s already pushing the boundaries on the historic, the first Triple Crown winner in 40 years could cement 2010 as one to remember.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


28 Responses to “Triple Crown Updates”

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  1. intricatenick says:

    5 points now for Pujols in BA. It was within 1 point a day ago.

    Without doing at least a 30 days standard deviation analysis in home runs, rbis, and BA over a month how can one say the edge goes to Votto?

    I would guess that you are right, but more rigor would be nice. Monte Carlo ZIPS ROS is probably the best way to analyze. I expect, at least, coolstandings.com playoff eligibility type odds for a post such as this.

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  2. Matt Defalco says:

    7 Point in BA really isn’t that much. A couple 4-4 games or a few games at above average will sink that for Pujols.

    Either way, I hope Votto wins it.

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  3. Nick Steiner says:

    What?

    Meanwhile Pujols enjoys the league lead in both home runs and RBIs each by two over Votto. The edge has to go to Votto for the moment.

    That doesn’t make sense. 7 points in batting average is nothing, especially because both players walk so much. And Pujols projects much better going forward than Votto.

    Dan Szymborski had Pujols at 16.7% odds to win the triple crown vs. Votto at 0.8%

    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/newsstand/discussion/espn_szymborski_albert_pujols_triple_crown_shot_insider_req/#3623431

    This was just a couple of days ago, so nothing much has changed.

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    • The Duder says:

      Yea, my thought exactly. I know mistakes in posts like this tend to get lambasted quickly, so I’ll make it short and sweet:

      What is easier to attain, 3 home runs or 8 points of AVG? The former is what it would take for Votto to overtake Pujols, and the latter, the opposite.

      Not to mention Pujols’ true AVG talent, which is top 3 in baseball unquestionably… it’s hardly a stretch to imagine a few points of AVG falling in his direction.

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  4. ymt says:

    NL Triple Crown is likely to be disrupted by Omar Infante, who will probably get enough ABs to qualify for batting crown by end of season. Hitting .347 as of this writing, 20 points above others.

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  5. Justin says:

    This is not related to this topic, but if someone could explain this to me I would appreciate it. So Fangraphs and B-R both have WAR, but FG uses UZR while B-R uses TZR. So the only part of the WAR equation that should be diff. is the D metric. Can someone explain to me how Josh Hamilton drops 1.7 WAR if his defense is only a fewer runs lower on TZR than UZ?. Why such a big discrepency. I am sure I am overlooking something, but I would appreciate the insight. Thanks.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      FG and B-R calculate other parts of the formula differently, too.

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      • Toffer Peak says:

        Not sure where you are getting “TZR” but B-R has Hamilton as a -7 fielder this year and FG has him as a +5.8.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hamiljo03.shtml#batting_value
        http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1875&position=OF#value

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      • Justin says:

        When I said TZR, I meant Total Zone Runs. I dont know if that is the correct abbreviation or not. And I was only looking at his CF numbers before. I see the difference now.

        What other parts of the formula are different? Are you sure? Would it even be called WAR if other parts were different?

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      • Kincaid says:

        WAR is just measuring offensive and defensive production relative to average, including a position adjustment, and adding in replacement level. The actual measures you use for each component can be anything reasonable that fits the criteria. For example, you can use park-adjusted linear weights for offense because it measures production above or below average, but you could also use WPA/LI if you wanted, or RE24, or use one for batting and then add in a separate measure for baserunning events. For defense, you could use TZ, UZR, Dewan’s DRS, Dial’s DRS, etc. As long as the metrics you choose are good metrics and can be expressed as production above or below average, they can be used in WAR.

        All WAR is is the way to combine the metics you’ve chosen into a single figure that will tell how valuable that combination of metrics is. For example, if you have two players:

        A:+2 runs on offense, -5 runs on defense at shortstop, compared to the average shortstop, 100 games
        B:+5 runs on offense, +2 runs on defense at first, compared to the average first baseman, 75 games

        You can compare them easily by combining all that information into WAR. It’s tough to compare those directly, but you can convert them to WAR and get, say, 1.5 WAR for player A and 1.1 WAR for player B. But that is just the WAR you would get using those metrics. You might have another metric that says player A is +7 on offense and 0 on defense, or 0 on offense and -10 on defense, or whatever. Or, you might add in a measure for non-SB baserunning (things like taking the extra base or outs made on the bases, avoiding double plays, etc), and rate him as +2 in that area, and then add that into his offensive value. You might use the different park factors for your metrics, or add in an adjustment for league difficulty (i.e. account for the AL being a tougher league than the NL right now). When you do those things, you can still construct a WAR figure, but it might be different from what you got using different metrics. It will still be WAR because it still utilizes the same framework for combining metrics into a single figure that quantifies the value of that combination of metrics, but it can still say something different about the player than another form of WAR.

        rWAR (the one as B-R) uses a different form of linear weights for offense and includes separate measures for non-SB baserunning, avoiding double plays, and reaching on error. It also probably uses different park factors from fWAR (FanGraphs WAR). They use different values for replacment level. rWAR includes an adjustment for league difficulty that fWAR doesn’t use. They may be other differences as well, but those are some of the major ones. Those can all cause differences in the resulting WAR value in addition to the differences between UZR and TZ.

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      • Justin says:

        Thanks!

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  6. Drew says:

    Infante needs 4.4 plate appearances per game from here out. I guess that’s possible considering he’s hitting leadoff now.

    By the way, since his infamous ASG selection, Infante is hitting .395/.424/.561 in 41 games (mostly starts). His BABIP was .520 in July!

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    • kbertling353 says:

      Around the ATL, he’s known as “auto-single”

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Infante actually only needs to get to 490 AB, at which point hitless “ghost” at bats can be added to get him to 502 for the purposes of the batting title.

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      • Kincaid says:

        There is no minimum PA threshold for that rule. If Infante has 485 PAs and adding 17 hitless ABs to his average still gives him the highest average, he would win the batting title. He doesn’t have to get to 490 (or any other set number) as long as his average is enough better than everyone else’s. It is just that the further short of 502 he falls, the bigger his lead has to be to to still win.

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    • MajorDanby says:

      Too bad Buster Posey will be about 50 PA short. Could have been the first NL Rookie to win a Batting title if he keeps hitting

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  7. Jason461 says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t necessarily believe that the .275 career hitter with a BABIP much higher than his career norm will charge to a batting title over two of the best hitters in the league with little to no problem?

    Sure, Infante could win it, but he could just as easily not.

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    • Voxx says:

      Sometimes, luck happens. Even over a full season, abnormally high BABIP’s can be sustained, entirely within the norm of deviation. Is Pujols, and even Votto a much better hitter than Infante? Of course. But it’s entirely possible Infante holds on, despite a stratospheric Balls in Play rate.

      For what it’s worth, here are the Zips End of Season projections, taking current stats, and taking on the RoS update:

      Pujols: .322 / 43 / 123
      Votto: .321/ 37 / 111

      If Infante tails off, as well as needs substantial 0-for PA’s tacked onto the tail end of his season to reach the 502 marker, it looks like the odds do favor Pujols going forwards, although it’s still pretty slim. Probably in the 20% range that he wins it.

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      • Jason461 says:

        I’m not arguing about whether or not it’s possible, I’m just pointing out that several people who seem to think Infante will win this going away should look at the numbers.

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      • batpig says:

        well, a lot of Infante’s .275 career AVG is dragged down by his early career with the Tigers, and he was pushed to the majors at age 20.

        since joining Atlanta, he’s hit .293 in 2008 at age 26, .305 last year at age 27, and of course there’s this season….. overall, from 2007-2010 he’s hit .309 over 1000+ AB’s. I think it’s much more likely at this point he is a “true talent” .290-.300 hitter unless you want to keep dinging him for hitting .222 as a 21 or 23 year old.

        that being said, he really does have to keep hitting .320+ to win the batting title. If he accumulates another 150AB in the final 35 games, if he hits .300 over that span (45-for-150) he will finish with a .332 AVG in 476 AB. Adding in the “oh fer” AB’s to get him to 502 and he will have a .315 AVG for purposes of the batting title, which somebody is likely to beat.

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      • Voxx says:

        I’m also curious, as I don’t, and haven’t ever, really followed the Braves – how does Bobby Cox treat things like this? Will have give Infante some days off, or try to get him as many atbats as possible to pursue the batting title?

        Or have the Braves simply not been in such situations? I’d assume they want to keep the pedal down to hold off the ever-dangerous Phillies, though, which would cause me to lean towards Infante getting substantial playing time, if not every day.

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      • Jason461 says:

        batpig – That’s a legit point. He’s better than I’m giving him credit for. I think being a Reds fan biased my assessment a little bit. Still, he is going to need to be at least a little lucky to win the batting title.

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  8. Mike says:

    Ted Williams won 2 triple crowns but did not win the MVP in EITHER of those seasons. Also, in 1949 he missed his THIRD triple crown by losing the batting title to George Kell by .000156 of a point while playing 21 more games. They both finished at .343 and Williams was a career .344 hitter who had a .318 BABIP that season. Kell was a .306 career hitter who had a .348 BABIP that season.

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  9. bstar says:

    The plate appearance thing for Infante is a very interesting issue. Can you imagine the controversy if Votto/Pujols actually finish ahead in the Triple Crown categories but Infante inches one of them out based on ghost at-bats?

    From a Braves fan perspective, Bobby Cox is not thinking about whether or not Infante will win the batting title but rather how well he’s continued to hit ever since he started playing every day at second and batting leadoff. Bobby will usually sit even his best players at least every second Sunday, especially a day game after a Saturday night game. I would expect to Infante to start max. 32 of the Braves’ final 34 games. Braves leadoff hitters have gotten about 4.7 plate appearances per game throughout the year. Multiply this 4.7 by 32 starts, and that gives Infante 498 plate appearances. 30 starts? 489 plate appearances, so he’s gonna be right there.

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    • NYS says:

      Sitting guys on Sunday day games after Saturday night games may be Bobby’s M.O., but he can get swept up in excitement and bend the rules.

      I think for Bobby it’s more about “do I like this player / is he a veteran / does he ‘play the right way?’”

      If the answers are “yes / yes / yes,” (which, by all accounts, they would be for Infante) Bobby tends to let the players dictate their own playing time. See: Jones, Chipper. (Yes, I know the answers for him would be “HELL YES / HELL YES / HELL YES / AND I [Bobby] FREAKING LOVE THIS GUY,” so he gets right of refusal for just about anything, but I think Bobby has a little mancrush for Infante too, if a bit smaller)

      Not to mention, the “rest em on day games after night games” is really only a hard and fast rule for McCann.

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  10. bstar says:

    Let’s hope the mancrush continues, for the sake of the Braves offense. Really, it took Chipper going down to get Infante in the lineup every single day. The progression of Infante from utility guy to probable everyday player is eerily reminiscent of how Martin Prado broke into the Braves lineup. It took way too long for the Braves to accept the idea that they just might be a better team with Prado at second base instead of Kelly Johnson.

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  11. Low and In says:

    Why is Carlos Gonzalez who is in the top 5 of all three categories and has been as hot if not hotter than the others not mentioned in the article?

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