Putting Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown in Historical Context

For the first time in 45 years, Major League Baseball has a Triple Crown winner. In 2012 Miguel Cabrera did what no player since Carl Yastrzemski had done during Boston’s Impossible Dream year in 1967.

Cabrera finished the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. In 1967, Yaz batted .326, smacked 44 home runs (tied with Harmon Killebrew) and knocked in 121. So if we scratch below the surface of the three vital statistics and try to put it in context, a near impossible feat given the way the game has changed over the years, who had the better year?

Both Miggy and Yaz were durable. They did their thing while taking only one day off, both players appearing in 161 games. Cabrera gets a slight edge in that he batted four points higher in 17 more plate appearances, a number that also accounts for his 18 more RBI. Yaz scored three more runs (112/109) but Cabrera had 16 more hits and nine more doubles. Yastrezemski had more speed, accounting for his four triples and 10 stolen bases to no triples and four swipes for Cabrera.

Perhaps one of the more telling stats and one that may account for Cabrera’s higher hit total was Yastrzemski’s pitch selection. In 1967 Yaz walked 91 times in contrast to Cabrera’s 66. Yaz also made contact more, striking out only 69 times to Cabrera’s 98. Yaz’s lower at bats (579) to Cabrera’s at bats (622), gets Yastrzemski the nod in on base percentage (.418 vs. 393), slugging percentage (.622 vs. .393) and on base plus slugging percentage (1.04 to .999).

Although Yastrzemski has a slight statistical and clear contextual edge, the comparison isn’t quite fair since Cabrera’s story isn’t finished. Yaz not only won the Triple Crown in 1967 but was an All-Star, AL MVP and won a gold glove. Cabrera, an All Star with both MVP and gold glove voting yet to go, can’t be fully measured. As magical as 1967 was for Yastrzemski and the Red Sox, if the Tigers win it all, Miggy is a beast and picks up the same hardware as did Yaz, the achievement when framed by history might surpass Captain Carl’s best year.

When, however, framed in the memory of a then nine year old boy growing up in Maine after heretofore watching some pretty miserable Red Sox baseball, there will never be as great a year as Carl Yastrzemski‘s 1967 classic. This is a Red Sox site, right?

The state of Maine is going quite insane
And in Vermont it’s only Yaz they want
From every state, they come to wait
To see Yastrzemski at home plate
– The Carl Yastrzemski Song

Major League Baseball Triple Crown Winners

Year Lg Player Team/(BA, HR, RBI)
2012 AL Miguel Cabrera DET .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI
1967 AL Carl Yastrzemski BOS .326, 44 HR, 121 RBI
1966 AL Frank Robinson BAL .316, 49 HR, 122 RBI
1956 AL Mickey Mantle NYY .353, 52 HR, 130 RBI
1947 AL Ted Williams BOS .343, 32 HR, 114 RBI
1942 AL Ted Williams BOS .356, 36 HR, 137 RBI
1937 NL Joe Medwick STL .374, 31 HR, 154 RBI
1934 AL Lou Gehrig NYY .363, 49 HR, 165 RBI
1933 AL Jimmie Foxx PHA .356, 48 HR, 163 RBI
1933 NL Chuck Klein PHI .368, 28 HR, 120 RBI
1925 NL Rogers Hornsby STL .403, 39 HR, 143 RBI
1922 NL Rogers Hornsby STL .401, 42 HR, 152 RBI
1909 AL Ty Cobb DET .377, 9 HR, 107 RBI
1901 AL Nap Lajoie PHA .426, 14 HR, 125 RBI
1887 AA Tip O’Neill STL .435, 14 HR, 123 RBI
1878 NL Paul Hines PRO .358, 4 HR, 50 RBI


Tags: Boston Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski Miguel Cabrera

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