Thursday, August 12, 2010

Triple Crown Part III

Guess what? It's time to read more about my fascination with baseball's Triple Crown. Today, the focus will be on something completely different from what we've looked at before. The first thing we looked at was the margins by which people won the actual Triple Crown. And last time, we looked at alternate Triple Crowns. Well, now I have something completely different. We're going to look at what's been called the Modern Triple Crown (for the record, I hate using the word "Modern" in the name-- what if someone comes up with a different one in 20 years? Then what? So, I'm going to use a different name). It got a lot of press in 2009 because it was won by Joe Mauer. It means leading the league in all three slash stats. For those unfamiliar with sabermetrics, that would be batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, which are usually presented as such: .365/.444/.587 (that, by the way, is Mauer's 2009 line). Well, here I present to you the all-time Slash Stats Triple Crown winners:

Nap Lajoie, 1901 PHA AL: .426/.463/.643
Nap Lajoie, 1904 CLE AL: .376/.413/.546
George Stone, 1906 SLB AL: .358/.417/.501
Honus Wagner, 1907 PIT NL: .339/.408/.513
Honus Wagner, 1908 PIT NL: .350/.415/.542
Honus Wagner, 1909 PIT NL: .354/.420/.489
Ty Cobb, 1909 DET AL: .377/.431/.517
Sherry Magee, 1910 PHI NL: .331/.445/.507
Ty Cobb, 1914 DET AL: .368/.466/.513
Tris Speaker, 1916 CLE AL: .386/.470/.502
Ty Cobb, 1917 DET AL: .383/.444/.570
Rogers Hornsby, 1920 STL NL: .370/.431/.559
Rogers Hornsby, 1921 STL NL: .397/.458/.639
Rogers Hornsby, 1922 STL NL: .401/.459/.722
Rogers Hornsby, 1923 STL NL: .384/.459/.627
Rogers Hornsby, 1924 STL NL: .424/.507/.696
Babe Ruth, 1924 NYY AL: .378/.513/.739
Rogers Hornsby, 1925 STL NL: .403/.489/.756
Rogers Hornsby, 1928 BSN NL: .387/.498/.632
Chuck Klein, 1933 PHI NL: .368/.422/.602
Lou Gehrig, 1934 NYY AL: .363/.465/.706
Arky Vaughan, 1935 PIT NL: .385/.491/.607
Jimmie Foxx, 1938 BOS AL: .349/.462/.704
Ted Williams, 1941 BOS AL: .406/.553/.735
Ted Williams, 1942 BOS AL: .356/.499/.648
Stan Musial, 1943 STL NL: .357/.425/.562
Ted Williams, 1947 BOS AL: .343/.499/.634
Stan Musial, 1948 STL NL: .376/.450/.702
Ted Williams, 1948 BOS AL: .369/.497/.615
Ted Williams, 1957 BOS AL: .388/.526/.731
Frank Robinson, 1966 BAL AL: .316/.410/.637
Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 BOS AL: .326/.418/.622
Fred Lynn, 1979 BOS AL: .333/.423/.637
George Brett, 1980 KCR AL: .390/.454/.664
Larry Walker, 1999 COL NL: .379/.458/.710
Todd Helton, 2000 COL NL: .372/.463/.698
Barry Bonds, 2002 SFG NL: .370/.582/.799
Barry Bonds, 2004 SFG NL: .362/.609/.812
Joe Mauer, 2009 MIN AL: .365/.444/.587

Well, there are clearly a lot of pretty good players on this list. That shouldn't be a shock. It also shouldn't be a shock how many of these are widely considered to be among the greatest seasons ever played. Also, as you can see, the list is absolutely dominated by the first half of the twentieth century-- 29/39 seasons occured by 1948, and there have only been a scattered few since then. One in the 50s, two in the 60s, one in the 70s, one in the 80s, one in the 90s-- but four in the oughts. So that's interesting (even if one was aided by Coors Field and two of them by steroids). It's especially odd, since in 1909 (Wagner and Cobb), 1924 (Hornsby and Ruth), and 1948 (Musial and Williams) it was done in both leagues in the same year. The American League just had it's longest Slash Stats Triple Crown drought come to an end last year with Mauer after a 29-year hiatus. The National League, though had a much longer drought-- 51 years, from Musial in 1948 to Walker in 1999. That's quite a wait.

Overall, it's been done 39 times, by 21 guys. How about their credentials? Well, George Stone, Sherry Magee, and Fred Lynn are not in the Hall. The other 14 eligible players are.

So, Wagner set the early pace, by winning three, and doing it consecutively. But how about Hornsby's run of dominance in the 1920s? Is it even possible to overstate how much that guy owned the NL? He made the Babe look like a one-trick pony. He won the Slash Stats Triple Crown 7 times in 9 years, including 6 in a row. Wow.

Here are the seven me who won the SSTC twice or more:

Nap Lajoie (1901, 1904)
Honus Wagner (1907-09)
Ty Cobb (1909, 1914, 1917)
Rogers Hornsby (1920-25, 1928)
Ted Williams (1941-42, 1947-48, 1957)
Stan Musial (1943, 1948)
Barry Bonds (2002, 2004)

Talk about a who's who! This is perhaps the most important list in all of baseball-- not in any real respect, except that there isn't a player on this list who isn't considered among the very, very best of all time. I would say all are HoFers, but we'll see what the voters say about Barry...

Anyway, Cobb won his first in 1909, and his last 8 years later. Hornsby did the same thing. But they're both dwarfed by Williams, who won his first in 1941, and his last a whopping 16 years later. I think he was juicing.

A couple of real surprises on here. First, the Ruth being on only once shouldn't be a surprise, since he didn't really win batting titles. But it's still weird to make a list and not see his name dominate it. Anyway, there were some others. For example, if I had been asked to pick which Jimmie Foxx season was his best, 1938 would have been my third choice (behind 1932 and 1933). Interesting.

Also, of the 13 official Triple Crown seasons, only 10 of them are listed here. Conspicuously absent are Foxx's aforementioned 1933 season, Joe Medwick's 1937, and Mickey Mantle in 1956, which really, really surprised me. Apparently, Ted Williams just got on base far too much for Mick to win this particular crown.

Other than that, I don't really have much else to say. Hope you enjoyed!

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