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

In baseball, a player earns the Triple Crown when he leads a league in three specific statistical categories in the same season. The term "Triple Crown" generally refers to the batting achievement of leading a league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI) over the same season.[1][2] The term "Pitching Triple Crown" refers to the pitching achievement of leading a league in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average (ERA).

The term "Triple Crown" is typically used when a player leads one league, such as the American League (AL) or the National League (NL), in the specified categories. A tie for a lead in any category, such as home runs, is sufficient to be considered the leader in that category. A "Major League Triple Crown" may be said to occur when a player leads all of Major League Baseball in all three categories.

Batting Triple Crown

The term "Triple Crown" generally refers to the batting achievement. A batter who completes a season leading a league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI) may be said to have won the "Triple Crown".[1] As the term, unless modified, connotes the batting achievement, it may not be necessary to refer to this as the "batting" Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown reflects the ability of a batter to excel in three important ways: to hit safely a high percentage of the time (batting average); to hit the ball long distances (home runs); and to produce when runners are on base, driving them home to score (RBI). It is an uncommon feat to lead all batters in each of these categories. It has been accomplished 17 times in a major league, most recently in 2012, by Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera's was the first since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat in back-to-back years with Frank Robinson, the only time this has occurred in baseball history. As such, this helps create enormous offense for a team throughout the season, to the point where the last four times a player won the Triple Crown, his team went to the World Series.

In the major leagues, 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 both major leagues in 1925 en route to his second Triple Crown, both with the St. Louis Cardinals.[3][4]Ted Williams later matched this mark in the AL, winning in 1942 and 1947 with the Boston Red Sox.[5][6] 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,[7] and Joe Medwick added the Cardinals' fourth in 1937.[8] Eleven of the thirteen eligible[9] players who have batting Triple Crowns have been elected to the Hall of Fame.[10][11] 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.[12]

Batting Quadruple Crown

Even more rare than the Triple Crown is the Quadruple Crown in which a batter leads the league in hits as well as the Triple Crown categories of batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI) over the same season. Not officially recognized by the MLB, Carl Yazstremski achieved this feat during the 1967 season, hitting 189 hits, 44 home runs, and 121 RBI, with a batting average of .326. This was also accomplished by Taiwanese player Wang Po-Jung when he led the Chinese Professional Baseball League or CPBL with a batting average of .407, 31 home runs, 101 RBIs, and 178 hits.[13]

Pitching Triple Crown

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.

A pitcher who leads the league in wins, strikeouts, and lowest earned run average (ERA) is said to have won the "Pitching Triple Crown".[14] The term was previously defined as leading the league in wins, ERA, and winning percentage. It was used in that older sense to describe the (ultimately unsuccessful) pursuit of that goal by Johnny Antonelli of the New York Giants in 1954[15] and also by Sandy Koufax in 1963.[16] Koufax was first described as having won the Pitching Triple Crown in the current sense after his 1965 season[17] though the older sense continued to be used.[18]

In contrast to the respective batting statistics, the Pitching Triple Crown statistics are more or less complementary (for example, a pitcher who is especially proficient at striking out batters is likely to give up fewer earned runs, and consequently more likely to win games), therefore, the accomplishment is not as rare as the batting crown.

In the major leagues, the Pitching Triple Crown has been accomplished 38 times. The most 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 pitcher to win a Pitching Triple Crown with more than one major league team.[19][20][21]Walter Johnson won his three Triple Crowns with the original Washington Senators, leading the league in all three categories in 1913, 1918, and 1924.[22][23][24]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 crowns led both major leagues, the most for any player.[25][26][27]

Other major league pitchers who have won multiple Pitching 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 and 1998 Toronto Blue Jays).[28]

One pitcher, Guy Hecker, won a Triple Crown in a defunct 19th century major league; he led the American Association in wins, strikeouts, and ERA in 1884 while pitching for the Louisville Colonels.[29]

Eighteen of twenty-four major league pitchers who have won a Triple Crown and are eligible for the Hall of Fame have been elected to the Hall of Fame.[30] The Triple Crown winners who most recently became eligible for the Hall are Pedro Martínez and Randy Johnson. Both were elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015, each in their first year of eligibility.[31]

The most recent major league pitchers to achieve the feat 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).[32]

Major League Records

The first major league pitcher to achieve the pitching Triple Crown was Tommy Bond, in the NL in 1877. The following year, Paul Hines became the first major leaguer to lead the NL in the three batting categories; he and Miguel Cabrera are the only two players to be AL or NL Triple Crown winners and not reach the Hall of Fame, although Cabrera as of 2019 is still playing so ineligible.[10][28] The highest home run total reached by a Crown winner was Mickey Mantle, with 52 in 1956. The highest RBI total belongs to Lou Gehrig, with 165 in 1934. Rogers Hornsby has the highest home run total by a NL winner, 42, from his 1922 campaign. The NL high for RBI is 154, made by Joe Medwick in 1937. Hugh Duffy's .440 average in 1894 is the highest batting average by any player in NL history. Nap Lajoie, in 1901, set the all-time AL single-season high in batting average with .426. Among the major leaguers who earned the pitching Triple Crown, the lowest ERAs belong to Walter Johnson (1.14 in 1913 AL) and Grover Alexander (1.22 in 1915 NL). The highest win total belongs to Charles Radbourn, amassed in 1884, who in that year set a major league single-season record with at least 59 wins.[33][34] Radbourn struck out 441 batters that season, the highest total for a Triple Crown winner. Walter Johnson holds the highest win total by an AL pitching Triple Crown winner, with 36, attained in 1913. Among AL pitching Triple Crown winners, Pedro Martínez registered the highest season strikeout total, with 313 in 1999. Since 1901, the major league pitcher with the highest season strikeout total in the course of a Triple Crown season is Sandy Koufax, striking out 382 in 1965.

Triple Crown winners

Key
Year Links to the article about the corresponding Professional Baseball season
dagger Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum or Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame
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
CL Central League
PL Pacific League

Major League Baseball

Batting

Research in 2015 restored the Chicago Cubs' Heinie Zimmerman of 1912 to the list.[35] There is doubt over whether Hugh Duffy's 1894 RBI totals were the highest.[36]

Miguel Cabrera is the most recent batting Triple Crown winner, achieving it in 2012; the first since 1967.

Pitching

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 Tommy Bond Boston Red Caps NL 2.11 40 170 [55]
1884 Guy Hecker Louisville Colonels AA 1.80 52 385 [29]
1884 Charles Radbourndagger Providence Grays NL 1.38 59 441 [56]
1888 Tim Keefedagger New York Giants NL 1.74 35 335 [57]
1889 John Clarksondagger Boston Beaneaters NL 2.73 49 284 [58]
1894 Amos Rusiedagger New York Giants NL 2.78 36 195 [59]
1901 Cy Youngdagger Boston Americans AL 1.62 33 158 [60]
1905 Christy Mathewsondagger New York Giants NL 1.27 31 206 [61]
1905 Rube Waddelldagger Philadelphia Athletics AL 1.48 27 287 [62]
1908 Christy Mathewsondagger New York Giants NL 1.43 37 259 [63]
1913 Walter Johnsondagger Washington Senators AL 1.14* 36* 243* [22][64]
1915 Grover Cleveland Alexanderdagger Philadelphia Phillies NL 1.22* 31* 241* [19][65]
1916 Grover Cleveland Alexanderdagger Philadelphia Phillies NL 1.55 33 167 [20]
1918 Walter Johnsondagger Washington Senators AL 1.27* 23* 162* [23][66]
1918 Hippo Vaughn Chicago Cubs NL 1.74 22 148 [67]
1920 Grover Cleveland Alexanderdagger Chicago Cubs NL 1.91 27 173 [21]
1924 Walter Johnsondagger Washington Senators AL 2.72 23 158 [24]
1924 Dazzy Vancedagger Brooklyn Robins NL 2.16* 28* 262* [68][69]
1930 Lefty Grovedagger Philadelphia Athletics AL 2.54* 28* 209* [70][71]
1931 Lefty Grovedagger§ Philadelphia Athletics AL 2.06* 31* 175* [72][73]
1934 Lefty Gomezdagger New York Yankees AL 2.33 26 158 [74]
1937 Lefty Gomezdagger New York Yankees AL 2.33 21 194 [75]
1939 Bucky Walters§ Cincinnati Reds NL 2.29 27 137 [76]
1940 Bob Fellerdagger Cleveland Indians AL 2.61 27 261 [77]
1945 Hal Newhouserdagger§ Detroit Tigers AL 1.81* 25* 212* [78][79]
1963 Sandy Koufaxdagger§ Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1.88* 25* 306* [25][80]
1965 Sandy Koufaxdagger Los Angeles Dodgers NL 2.04* 26* 382* [26][81]
1966 Sandy Koufaxdagger Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1.73* 27* 317* [27][82]
1972 Steve Carltondagger Philadelphia Phillies NL 1.97 27 310 [83]
1985 Dwight Gooden New York Mets NL 1.53* 24* 268* [84][85]
1997 Roger Clemens Toronto Blue Jays AL 2.05 21 292 [86]
1998 Roger Clemens Toronto Blue Jays AL 2.65 20 271 [87]
1999 Pedro Martínezdagger Boston Red Sox AL 2.07 23 313 [88]
2002 Randy Johnsondagger Arizona Diamondbacks NL 2.32 24 334 [89]
2006 Johan Santana Minnesota Twins AL 2.77* 19* 245* [90][91]
2007 Jake Peavy San Diego Padres NL 2.54 19 240 [92]
2011 Clayton Kershawdouble-dagger Los Angeles Dodgers NL 2.28 21 248 [93]
2011 Justin Verlanderdouble-dagger§ Detroit Tigers AL 2.40 24 250 [94]

Nippon Professional Baseball

Batting

NPB Hall of Famer Hiromitsu Ochiai is the only player to have won three batting Triple Crowns in any league.

Pitching

Tomoyuki Sugano is the most recent pitching Triple Crown winner, achieving it in 2018.

See also

References

General
  • "MLB Triple Crown Winners". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 2010.
  • "MLB Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 2010.
  • Gammons, Peter; Gillette, Gary; Palmer, Pete. The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition (ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia). Sterling. ISBN 978-1-4027-4771-7.
Inline citations
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  11. ^ Nightengale, Bob (September 28, 2012). "Tigers' Miguel Cabrera closes in on rare Triple Crown". USA Today. Retrieved 2012.
  12. ^ Kurkjian, Tim (July 20, 2009). "Pujols pushing for Triple Crown history". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2010.
  13. ^ Rob (13 October 2017). "2017 CPBL Batting Quadruple Crown Winner Wang Po-Jung". CPBL STATS.
  14. ^ Connolly, Dan (July 9, 2007). "Cheers and jeers as Major League season hits midway point". The Post and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. Retrieved 2010.
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