This season, Miguel Cabrera has accomplished what few hitters have ever done: the Triple Crown. No one since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 had pulled off the Triple Crown requiring a hitter to lead the league in home runs, batting average and runs batted in.
With a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to achieve the Triple Crown, leading the American League in all three categories. Save for a two-homer game from ex-teammate Curtis Granderson to climb within one home run, it was essentially a victory lap.
Though some analysts like to discount those traditional stats, I feel the Triple Crown is an amazing achievement. The question is, does Cabrera’s season even reach the standard of the top 10 offensive seasons ever?
Without trying to put them into any kind of order, here is my take on the top 10 offensive seasons in MLB history.
Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees, 1927
The Iron Horse was an awesome hitter. In 1927, he hit some mind-boggling levels: 218 hits, 52 doubles, 47 home runs, 175 runs batted in, and a batting average of .373. His OPS that year was 1.240. Lou Gehrig led the AL with 447 total bases.
Babe Ruth, New York Yankees, 1921
It’s not easy to pick the Babe’s best season. In 1921, Babe Ruth missed the Triple Crown by 11 points in batting average. He dominated just about every other stat. Ruth led the AL in runs (177), home runs (59), RBIs (171), walks (145), OBP (.512), and slugging (.846). His OPS that year, 1.359, is still third all-time.
Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants, 2004
I am no fan of Barry Bonds. I think he cheated like crazy. There is, however, no doubting his talent. In 2004 he won the seventh MVP Award of his career.
Bonds hit 45 home runs and knocked in 101, but those numbers are pedestrian compared to his 232 walks (most ever), .609 on-base percentage (best ever), and 1.422 OPS (best ever). Bonds won the batting title with a .362 average.
Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1941
Ted Williams is in the top five list of players I wish I could have seen play. Williams’ 1941 season remains the last time a player hit .400.
At the age of 22, Williams led the league with an average of .406, 135 runs scored, 37 home runs, 147 walks, an OBP of .553, and an OPS of 1.287.
Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals, 1948
I wasn’t going to leave Stan off this list.
In 1948, Stan Musial won his third NL MVP and missed the Triple Crown by a single home run. “Stan the Man” led the National League in more than 10 offensive categories, including 135 runs scored, 230 hits, 46 doubles, and 18 triples.
His 429 total bases is still sixth best all-time. Stan took one of his seven batting titles with an average of .376.
Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals, 1922
“The Rajah” won the Triple Crown twice. In 1922, Rogers Hornsby led the National League with 42 home runs, 152 RBIs, and an average of .401. He also led the league in more than 10 offensive areas. His mark of 450 total bases is the second most of any season.
Hack Wilson, Chicago Cubs, 1930
Hack Wilson’s 1930 mark of 191 runs batted in still stands as tops for a single season. Wilson also led the NL with 56 home runs, the best in the National League until Mark McGwire broke the record in 1998. Wilson also led in walks, slugging percentage, and OPS –and he batted .356.
Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees, 1956
“The Commerce Comet” won the AL Triple Crown in 1956 with a line of .353/52/130. Mickey Mantle also won the AL MVP and topped the league in runs scored (132), slugging (.705), total bases (376), and OPS (1.169).
Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1911
Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown in 1909, but I think his 1911 season was better. He hit .420 with 248 hits, and he knocked in 127 runs. He also led the AL with 24 triples and 83 stolen bases.
“The Georgia Peach” wouldn’t have won any popularity contests, but the man could hit.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, 2012
My list is heavy on the old-timers, so I have to include Cabrera. In this era of Internet scrutiny, Cabrera’s Triple Crown (.330/44/139) is a great accomplishment. This was Cabrera’s second consecutive batting title, and he also led the league in slugging, total bases and OPS.
Conclusion: Is Cabrera an MVP?
Hopefully Miguel Cabrera can continue his dominant play in the postseason and also for years to come. The question still remains whether or not his great season is worthy of the MVP crown.
Many baseball fans say that Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout deserves the award. Only time will tell who actually wins it. Either way, both are deserving candidates.
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