Thursday, July 15, 2010

Could This Be a Triple Crown Year?

John Schlegel at wrote a story about three players-Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto-who he feels are candidates to win the triple crown. It'd be the first TC winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and despite the fact that it's only July 15, we'll take a look at the trio and their chances of winning.

First-half stats: Tied with Adam Dunn for lead in HR (22), tied for seventh with 60 RBIs and is seventh in average (.314).

We'll start with the long shot on Schlegel's list. Votto is having a tremendous season, leading the NL in OBP and OPS at the break, but I'm going to be completely honest: if Joey Votto wins the 2010 triple crown, I'll watch five minutes of a NASCAR race. That's how confident I am in Votto not winning. Still, the argument can be made for the Reds' first baseman: he gets on base, hits for power and drives in runs. Or as Joe Morgan would say, he's very consistent.

First-half stats: Tied with Cabrera for league-leading average (.346) and second-most HR (22). Fourth in RBIs (64).

Hamilton had a slash line of .281/.335/.500 at the end of May, but you know what they say: anyone who gets worked up over May numbers is probably John Kruk. Since June 1, the Texas center fielder has been outstanding, pushing his slash up to .346/.390/.625. The triple crown is in reach for Hamilton for several reasons, not the least of which is the ballpark he plays in and the offense he mashes in the middle of. The HR and RBI totals should stay within the league leaders all summer, but I'm not sure he can sustain that .340+ average (career high is .304 in 2008), and hold off guys like Cabrera, Justin Morneau and Robinson Cano.

First-half stats: No. 1 in average (.346) RBIs (77), while trailing Toronto's Jose Bautista in home runs, 24-22.

Cabrera's current slash numbers (.346/.423/.651) and an OPS+ of 182 would shatter his career totals if kept up. There's good reason to think he'll sustain the HR and RBI numbers-top 6 in HR each of the last three seasons including the '08 title and 112 or more RBIs in five of the last six seasons-it's just a question of whether, like Hamilton, he can hold off Morneau, Cano and others for the batting title. At the break, eight AL players were hitting at least .326.

Obligatory mention of Albert Pujols

Let's not forget Albert. He's second in HR (21), one back of Votto and Adam Dunn, and one RBI behind leaders Corey Hart, Ryan Howard and David Wright (65 to 64). And though he's hitting just .308, 10th-best in the NL, you want to bet against him passing these guys for the batting title? I don't.

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