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Friday, November 28, 2014

Can Albert Pujols Win the Triple Crown?

About a month ago, I was asked if I thought Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera win the Triple Crown. I placed his chances at 50/50 thinking he had RBIs in hand, a strong grasp on the batting title, and a decent shot at catching up to Jose Bautista in home runs. Well, Bautista has gorilla stomped his way to 40 home runs while Miggy is tied for second with 31, and it’s turned out that another slugger has an even better chance at winning the Triple Crown: Albert Pujols.

A recent surge in power and overall production this month (nine home runs and 20 RBIs in August) has propelled our number one franchise player in MLB to the top of most offensive categories in the National League. Entering Tuesday’s play, Pujols was leading the NL in home runs by two over Adam Dunn, RBIs by six over Joey Votto, and he was third in batting average, a mere four points behind Votto again.

You would think that Joey Votto might have a shot at winning the Triple Crown too, but he’s four home runs back and that’s difficult to make up. Because of the edge in home runs and RBIs, and how close he is in batting average, Albert Pujols has one of the best chances at winning the Triple Crown that we’ve seen in several years.

The last slugger to capture the elusive feat was Carl Yastrzemski for the Red Sox in 1967. With all the offensive records that have been broken in baseball recently, it’s hard to believe that nobody has taken the trio of jewels since The Yaz did it 43 years ago.

The reality is, as my dad was hammering home the last few days, that winning the Triple Crown is so difficult of an achievement because so many fantastic players who may specialize in one given category stand in your way. Guys like Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder may hit 50 home runs, Ryan Howard could drive in 150, and in the AL, someone like Ichiro can blast the competition by hitting .370.

Winning the Triple Crown is as much about what you do as a hitter as it is about what the rest of the best hitters are doing.

Albert Pujols is not doing anything differently this year from any others; he’s always been the best slugger in the game. But some of the other best hitters in the NL — Hanley Ramirez, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard — have all been either struggling through down years or injured. It’s that reality, more than anything else, that has created one of the best opportunities for a hitter to win the first Triple Crown since 1967.

Here’s hoping Pujols gets it done and gives us something we haven’t seen since the days when gas cost 33 cents per gallon.



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