Monday, May 31, 2010

Cabrera Close to Triple Crown Numbers

After a three-homer game on Friday night and a four-hit performance yesterday, Miguel Cabrera is among the leaders in all three traditional triple crown categories.  He is third in the American League in batting average, second in home runs and first in Runs Batted In.  Batting average might be the most difficult of the three categories for a slugger like Cabrera to win, especially with Ichiro Suzuki looking over his shoulder:

Morneau Min .368
Cano NY .362
Cabrera Det .352
Butler KC .348
Suzuki Sea .342

With Jose Bautista unlikely to maintain his current home run pace for much longer, this is a very winnable category for Miguel:

Bautista Tor 16
Cabrera Det 14
Konerko Chi 14
Wells Tor 13
Wigginton Bal 13

RBI is another category which the Tigers first baseman is very capable of winning, especially with Austin Jackson, Johnny Damon and Miguel Ordonez getting on base ahead of him.  The leaders follow:

Cabrera Det 48
Guerrero Tex 44
Longoria TB 42
Bautista Tor 41
Morales LA 39

Winning the traditional triple crown would be a noteworthy achievement for anyone but most readers of this blog are aware of the limitations of BA/HR/RBI.  First, batting average ignores walks.  Then home runs leaves out doubles and triples.  Finally, a player's RBI total is too dependent on his teammates.  So, we'll look at some other possible triple crowns.

The favorite statistical line of the internet community is BA/OBP/SLG.  This trio provides a good summary of offensive production combining the ability to hit for average, to get on base and to hit for power.  Cabrera is third in OBP but further from the top in that statistic than he is in batting average:

Morneau Min .488
Youkilis Bos .445
Cabrera Det .427
Ordonez Det .411
Butler KC .405

Cabrera would have a more difficult time leading in this measure as his ability to walk is not as strong as his ability to get hits.

Miguel is leading the league in slugging average:

Cabrera Det .670
Morneau Det .667
Cano .607
Wells Tor .602
Bautista Tor .600

One criticism of BA/OBP/SLG is that it does not take durability into account.  For example, a batter with a .330/.420/.600 line in 160 games would be more valuable than a batter with the same line in 130 games.  So, it would be nice if one item took playing time into account.  One simple statistic which does this is Total Bases.  In order to maintain three categories, we can use the following line: BA/OBP/TB. Cabrera leads the league in total bases:

Cabrera Det 122
Cano NY 119
Wells 118
Morneau 114
Longoria TB 112

Cabrera is having a great season and has a chance to win any of the above triple crowns.  However, the traditional triple crown would probably be the easiest for him to win since it doesn't include walks.  Anyway you look at it, he is having a remarkable season.


  1. Nice post, Lee. While you make a good case for the inadequacy of the triple crown to provide insight into true offensive measure, we also need to remember that the whole Triple Crown idea is an invention of a media looking for good, easy stories, And few stories are easier to understand and clearer to a reader than the winning of the Triple Crown.

    Now--that said, there is a really high correlation between winning the Triple Crown and generating the highest WAR in the league. It has happened every time, except one: in 1933, Chuck Klein won the NL Triple Crown, yet was edged out in WAR by Wally Berger. I guess when you play in a stadium with a 117 park factor, that helps your Triple Crown chances more than when you play someplace with a 97.

  2. Chuck,

    I'm not surprised that the typical triple crown winner would also lead in the sabermetric stats. It takes an extraordinary effort to win the triple crown, so if a batter wins it he'll probably excel at more advanced stats as well.

    The problem I have with the triple crown is that it sets the standard for the typical batting line used in the media. Thus, I was trying to come up with a simple line that was a truer measure of a player's offense. I think that stats like OBP, SLG and TB are an improvement over the traditional stats but also simple enough to be accessible to anyone.


  3. AnonymousJune 01, 2010

    On the slugging pct. part you have Morneau playing for Det. Wow would that ever be a dream come true. Throw Cabrera back to third and move Inge to SS. Haha! I know it was a typo but I can dream can't I?

  4. That would be a nice heart of the order. :-)




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