Every so often I like to go off on baseball, in particular Barry Bonds. Seeing classes are now over, I thought I’d finish a post I wrote over the 4th of July.
The triple crown in baseball is having the highest batting average, most home runs and most RBI’s in a single season. It hasn’t been done since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967. Its has only done 13 times in the 20th century. Its a rare thing because home run hitters usually aren’t the guys with high batting averages. Even if you can do both (like Barry Bonds) you get walked enough that the RBI’s are had to come by.
Also, both RBI and BA have fallen out of favor in recent years as stats for good reason. RBI are very dependent on your team. If they guys ahead of you aren’t getting on base, then you can’t drive them in. Likewise, having a high batting average doesn’t mean much if all your doing is slapping out singles and getting out the rest of your plate appearances. A .250 home run hitter who walks can be much more valuable than a .350 singles hitter. That being said, I think batting average can have some value as a stat when it is viewed in conjunction with on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
All this leads me to the subject at hand. In 2002, Barry Bonds lead the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. I have yet to hear any baseball writer notice this fact. He’s doing it again this year, too. I actually think is a more significant feat than winning the traditional triple crown. It means that in every plate appearance, you are getting the fewest outs, in every at-bat your are gettin the most bases, and you are also getting the most hits.
This got me wondering…..how many times has the average triple crown (OBP, SLG, BA) been won? It turns out its more frequent than the traditional triple crown, but still pretty rare, and the only reason why its more frequent is because a few hall of famers did it multiple times.
I went through baseballreference.com and came up with the following list of %TC winners:
National League ================= Barry Bonds - 2002 Todd Helton - 2000 Larry Walker - 1999 Stan Musial - 1948 Stan Musial - 1943 Arky Vaughan - 1935 Chuck Klein - 1933 Rogers Hornsby - 1928 Rogers Hornsby - 1925 Rogers Hornsby - 1924 Rogers Hornsby - 1923 Rogers Hornsby - 1922 Rogers Hornsby - 1921 Rogers Hornsby - 1920 Honus Wagner - 1909 Honus Wagner - 1908 Honus Wagner - 1907 Honus Wagner - 1904 American League ================= Carl Yazstramski - 1967 Frank Robinson - 1966 Ted Williams - 1957 Ted Williams - 1948 Ted Williams - 1947 Ted Williams - 1942 Ted Williams - 1941 Jimmie Foxx - 1938 Lou Gehrig - 1934 Babe Ruth - 1924 Ty Cobb - 1917 Ty Cobb - 1914 Ty Cobb - 1909 George Stone - 1906 Nap Lajoie - 1904 Nap Lajoie - 1901
Things of note:
- Every non-active player on the list is in the hall of fame, except for George Stone who won it in 1906.
- Babe Ruth only won it once.
- Winning the traditional triple crown doesn’t necessairly mean you’ll with the average triple crown. Mickey Mantle won the triple crown in 1956, but was second in on-base percentage (to Ted Williams).
- The greatest season ever for OPS+BA was Babe Ruths 1920 season. He had a 1.755: OBP=.532, BA=.376, SLG=.847. He didn’t win the %TC because he was fourth in batting average. Barry Bonds came close in 2002. OPS+BA=1.751: BA = .370, SLG = .799, OBP= .582. As of this morning he’s sitting at OPS+BA=.353+1.373=1.726.