Major League Baseball Triple Crown

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Rogers Hornsby (left) and Ted Williams (right) are the only batters to have earned the Triple Crown twice. Hornsby achieved this in 1922 and 1925, while Williams accomplished this in 1942 and 1947.

In Major League Baseball, a player earns the Triple Crown when he leads a league in three specific statistical categories. When used without a modifier, the Triple Crown generally refers to a batter who leads either the National or American leagues in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI) over a full regular season.[1] The Triple Crown epitomizes three separate attributes of a good hitter: hitting for average, hitting for power, and producing runs. It has been accomplished 17 times, most recently in 2012 with Miguel Cabrera producing the first such achievement in 45 years, after Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

The pitching Triple Crown is accomplished by a pitcher who leads the league in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average (ERA).[2] The pitching Triple Crown has been accomplished 38 times, including 8 since 1997.

Generally, the Triple Crown refers to leading a specific league such as the National League (NL) or the American League (AL) in these categories.[3] However, if a player leads all of Major League Baseball in all three categories, he might be said to have captured a "Major League Triple Crown". Furthermore, it is not a requirement for a player to be the sole leader in each category; only a tie of first place in each category is needed in order to be eligible. Yastrzemski tied with Harmon Killebrew for the American League lead in home runs (44) when he won the Triple Crown in 1967.[4]

Batting Triple Crown[edit]

The most batting Triple Crowns won by a player is two. Rogers Hornsby was the first to accomplish it, winning his first in 1922 and then leading all major leagues in 1925 en route to his second Triple Crown, both with the St. Louis Cardinals.[5][6] Ted Williams later matched this mark in the AL, winning in 1942 and 1947 with the Boston Red Sox.[7][8] The Cardinals have won the most batting Triple Crowns as a franchise with four. Along with Hornsby's two, Tip O'Neill won in the now-defunct American Association in 1887 while the team was known as the St. Louis Browns,[9] and Joe Medwick added the Cardinals' fourth in 1937.[10] Eleven of the thirteen eligible players who have offensive Triple Crowns have been elected to the Hall of Fame.[11] Players are eligible for the Hall of Fame if they have "been retired five seasons" or deceased for at least six months,[12] which means currently active Miguel Cabrera, whose 2012 Triple Crown is the most recent, isn't yet eligible.[13] Baseball writer and ESPN contributor Tim Kurkjian believes the Triple Crown has become more difficult to win with the advent of more hitters who choose to specialize in either hitting for batting average or power.[14]

Pitching Triple Crown[edit]

Clayton Kershaw (left) and Justin Verlander (right) won the National and American League pitching triple crowns, respectively, in 2011. It was the first time since 1924 that both leagues had pitching triple crown winners.

The most pitching Triple Crowns captured by one player is three, accomplished by three players. Grover Cleveland Alexander captured his first two in consecutive seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1915–1916), and won a third in 1920 with the Chicago Cubs. Alexander is the only pitching Triple Crown winner to win his titles with more than one team.[15][16][17] Walter Johnson won his three Triple Crowns with the first Washington Senators, leading the league in all three categories in 1913, 1918, and 1924.[18][19][20] Sandy Koufax was the most recent to capture three Triple Crowns, winning his three within four seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1963, 1965–1966); all of Koufax's wins were Major League crowns, the most for any player.[21][22][23]

Other pitchers who have won multiple Triple Crowns include Christy Mathewson (1905 and 1908 New York Giants), Lefty Grove (1930 and 1931 Philadelphia Athletics), Lefty Gomez (1934 and 1937 New York Yankees), and Roger Clemens (1997–1998 Toronto Blue Jays).[24]

One pitcher, Guy Hecker, won a Triple Crown in a major league that is currently defunct; he led the American Association in wins, strikeouts, and ERA in 1884 while pitching for the Louisville Colonels.[25]

Seventeen of twenty-three eligible pitchers who have won a Triple Crown have been elected to the Hall of Fame.[26] Under the aforementioned eligibility rules for the Hall of Fame, six living pitchers who have been active since 2007 are ineligible for election. The Triple Crown winner who most recently became eligible for the Hall is Clemens. Clemens failed to be elected in his first appearance on the ballot into the Hall of Fame.[27]

The most recent Triple Crown winners for pitching are Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, who won for the NL and AL respectively in 2011 (the first season since 1924 to see Triple Crown winners in both leagues).[28]

Records[edit]

The first Triple Crown winner was Tommy Bond, who won the NL pitching crown in 1877. The following year, Paul Hines won the first batting Triple Crown in the NL; he and Miguel Cabrera are the only two batting Triple Crown winners from the NL or the AL who are not in the Hall of Fame, although Cabrera is not yet eligible to be elected in.[11][24] The highest home run and RBI totals by a batting winner were achieved by Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig, respectively; Mantle hit 52 home runs in 1956, and Gehrig batted in 165 runs in 1934, their only Triple Crown seasons. In the National League, Hornsby is the leader in home runs, with 42, and Medwick's 154 RBI lead as well. Hugh Duffy's .440 average in 1894 is the highest ever during a winning season, and the AL leader is Nap Lajoie (.426). Among the pitching triple crown winners, the lowest ERAs belong to Johnson (1.14 in the 1913 AL) and Alexander (1.22 in the 1915 NL). Johnson is also the AL leader in wins (36), but Charles Radbourn's NL total is over 20 wins higher; his 59 wins in 1884 are a Major League Baseball single-season record.[29] Radbourn also struck out 441 batters that season, the highest total for a Triple Crown winner; Pedro Martínez struck out 313 in the 1999 season to notch the highest strikeout total for an AL winner. The highest strikeout total for a Triple Crown winner in both the modern era (post-1900) and the live-ball era (post-1920) is Koufax's 382 in 1965, which was also a modern-era record at that time.

Triple Crown winners[edit]

Key
Year Links to the article about the corresponding Major League Baseball season
dagger Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
double-dagger Player is active
* Denotes "Major League" Triple Crown
§ Player also won the MVP Award in the same year
HR Home runs
RBI Runs batted in
AVG Batting average
W Wins
K Strikeouts
ERA Earned run average
NL National League
AL American League
AA American Association

Batting[edit]

Miguel Cabrera is the most recent Triple Crown winner, achieving it in 2012; the first since 1967.
Year Player Position Team League HR RBI AVG Ref(s)
1878 Hines, PaulPaul Hines Center fielder Providence Grays NL 4 50 .358 [30]
1887 O'Neill, TipTip O'Neill Left fielder St. Louis Browns AA 14 123 .435 [9]
1894 Duffy, HughHugh DuffyMember of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Outfielder Boston Beaneaters NL 18 145 .440 [31]
1901 Lajoie, NapNap Lajoiedagger Second baseman Philadelphia Athletics AL 14 125 .426 [32]
1909 Cobb, TyTy Cobbdagger Right fielder Detroit Tigers AL 9* 107* .377* [33][34]
1922 Hornsby, RogersRogers Hornsbydagger Second baseman St. Louis Cardinals NL 42 152 .401 [5]
1925 Hornsby, RogersRogers Hornsbydagger Second baseman St. Louis Cardinals NL 39* 143* .403* [6][35]
1933 Foxx, JimmieJimmie Foxxdagger§ First baseman Philadelphia Athletics AL 48 163 .356 [36]
1933 Klein, ChuckChuck Kleindagger Right fielder Philadelphia Phillies NL 28 120 .368 [37]
1934 Gehrig, LouLou Gehrigdagger First baseman New York Yankees AL 49* 165* .363* [38][39]
1937 Medwick, JoeJoe Medwickdagger§ Left fielder St. Louis Cardinals NL 31 154 .374 [40]
1942 Williams, TedTed Williamsdagger Left fielder Boston Red Sox AL 36* 137* .356* [7][41]
1947 Williams, TedTed Williamsdagger Left fielder Boston Red Sox AL 32 114 .343 [8]
1956 Mantle, MickeyMickey Mantledagger§ Center fielder New York Yankees AL 52* 130* .353* [42][43]
1966 Robinson, FrankFrank Robinsondagger§ Right fielder Baltimore Orioles AL 49 122 .316 [44]
1967 Yastrzemski, CarlCarl Yastrzemskidagger§ Left fielder Boston Red Sox AL 44 121 .326 [4]
2012 Cabrera, MiguelMiguel Cabreradouble-dagger§ Third baseman Detroit Tigers AL 44 139 .330 [45]

Pitching[edit]

Grover Cleveland Alexander won three National League pitching Triple Crowns (1915–1916, 1920) with two different teams.
Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax won three National League pitching Triple Crowns, two consecutively and all three within four seasons.
Walter Johnson won three American League pitching Triple Crowns with the Washington Senators.
Year Player Team League ERA W K Ref(s)
1877 Bond, TommyTommy Bond Boston Red Caps NL 2.11 40 170 [46]
1884 Hecker, GuyGuy Hecker Louisville Colonels AA 1.80 52 385 [25]
1884 Radbourn, CharlesCharles Radbourndagger Providence Grays NL 1.38 59 441 [47]
1888 Keefe, TimTim Keefedagger New York Giants NL 1.74 35 335 [48]
1889 Clarkson, JohnJohn Clarksondagger Boston Beaneaters NL 2.73 49 284 [49]
1894 Rusie, AmosAmos Rusiedagger New York Giants NL 2.78 36 195 [50]
1901 Young, CyCy Youngdagger Boston Americans AL 1.62 33 158 [51]
1905 Mathewson, ChristyChristy Mathewsondagger New York Giants NL 1.27 31 206 [52]
1905 Waddell, RubeRube Waddelldagger Philadelphia Athletics AL 1.48 27 287 [53]
1908 Mathewson, ChristyChristy Mathewsondagger New York Giants NL 1.43 37 259 [54]
1913 Johnson, WalterWalter Johnsondagger Washington Senators AL 1.14* 36* 243* [18][55]
1915 Alexander, Grover ClevelandGrover Cleveland Alexanderdagger Philadelphia Phillies NL 1.22* 31* 241* [15][56]
1916 Alexander, Grover ClevelandGrover Cleveland Alexanderdagger Philadelphia Phillies NL 1.55 33 167 [16]
1918 Johnson, WalterWalter Johnsondagger Washington Senators AL 1.27* 23* 162* [19][57]
1918 Vaughn, HippoHippo Vaughn Chicago Cubs NL 1.74 22 148 [58]
1920 Alexander, Grover ClevelandGrover Cleveland Alexanderdagger Chicago Cubs NL 1.91 27 173 [17]
1924 Johnson, WalterWalter Johnsondagger Washington Senators AL 2.72 23 158 [20]
1924 Vance, DazzyDazzy Vancedagger Brooklyn Robins NL 2.16* 28* 262* [59][60]
1930 Grove, LeftyLefty Grovedagger Philadelphia Athletics AL 2.54* 28* 209* [61][62]
1931 Grove, LeftyLefty Grovedagger§ Philadelphia Athletics AL 2.06* 31* 175* [63][64]
1934 Gomez, LeftyLefty Gomezdagger New York Yankees AL 2.33 26 158 [65]
1937 Gomez, LeftyLefty Gomezdagger New York Yankees AL 2.33 21 194 [66]
1939 Walters, BuckyBucky Walters§ Cincinnati Reds NL 2.29 27 137 [67]
1940 Feller, BobBob Fellerdagger Cleveland Indians AL 2.61 27 261 [68]
1945 Newhouser, HalHal Newhouserdagger§ Detroit Tigers AL 1.81* 25* 212* [69][70]
1963 Koufax, SandySandy Koufaxdagger§ Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1.88* 25* 306* [21][71]
1965 Koufax, SandySandy Koufaxdagger Los Angeles Dodgers NL 2.04* 26* 382* [22][72]
1966 Koufax, SandySandy Koufaxdagger Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1.73* 27* 317* [23][73]
1972 Carlton, SteveSteve Carltondagger Philadelphia Phillies NL 1.97 27 310 [74]
1985 Gooden, DwightDwight Gooden New York Mets NL 1.53* 24* 268* [75][76]
1997 Clemens, RogerRoger Clemens Toronto Blue Jays AL 2.05 21 292 [77]
1998 Clemens, RogerRoger Clemens Toronto Blue Jays AL 2.65 20 271 [78]
1999 Martínez, PedroPedro Martínez Boston Red Sox AL 2.07 23 313 [79]
2002 Johnson, RandyRandy Johnson Arizona Diamondbacks NL 2.32 24 334 [80]
2006 Santana, JohanJohan Santanadouble-dagger Minnesota Twins AL 2.77* 19* 245* [81][82]
2007 Peavy, JakeJake Peavydouble-dagger San Diego Padres NL 2.54 19 240 [83]
2011 Kershaw, ClaytonClayton Kershawdouble-dagger Los Angeles Dodgers NL 2.28 21 248 [84]
2011 Verlander, JustinJustin Verlanderdouble-dagger§ Detroit Tigers AL 2.40 24 250 [85]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

General
Inline citations
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