Red Sox legend and Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski is the last MLB player to win the Triple Crown. Yaz won it for Boston in 1967, hitting .326 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs to lead the American League in all three categories.
Today, those numbers are still considered fantastic — and MVP-worthy. But they’re probably not enough to win a Triple Crown.
The 44 homers could potentially lead the American League, as Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena and New York’s Mark Teixeira led the AL with 39 each last year. However, in the NL, the yearly leader hasn’t had less than 44 since Colorado’s Dante Bichette hit 40 in 1995.
Posting 121 RBIs is certainly an impressive amount, but the leader in the AL (other than the strike year in 1994) has surpassed that total each year since Texas’ Ruben Sierra had 119 in 1989. The NL leader has topped the 121-RBI mark every year since Philadelphia’s Darren Daulton had 109 in 1992.
And a .326 batting average? Other than when Boston’s Bill Mueller led the AL with a .326 clip in 2003, no American Leaguer has hit less than .326 since Minnesota’s Rod Carew hit .318 in 1972. And in the NL, only four batting champions have hit below the .326 line since 1961.
The fact of the matter is that winning the Triple Crown in either league is nearly impossible nowadays.
Take Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, for example. Since he entered the league in 2001, Pujols has dominated baseball like no other player of his era. He’s made nine (soon to be 10) All-Star teams, won three NL MVP Awards and finished in the top five in MVP voting eight times. Pujols has led the NL in hitting (.359 in 2003) once, and led the NL in home runs last year with 47. He’s also averaged a little over 123 RBIs a year heading into 2010, with his career high being 137 in 2006.
This year, Pujols is by no means having a bad season, but it’s shaping up to be one of the worst of his illustrious career. He’s hitting .317 (16 points below his lifetime .333 average) with just 14 homers and 44 RBIs. Through 57 of his team’s games, that projects to just 39.7 home runs and 125 RBIs.
Strangely enough, 2010 might be Pujols’ best shot to win the Triple Crown. He’s tied with Cincinnati’s Scott Rolen and Milwaukee’s Corey Hart for the NL lead in homers, and is tied with Atlanta’s Troy Glaus for the lead in RBIs. Meanwhile, Pujols is just 11 points behind Atlanta’s Martin Prado (.328) for the NL lead in batting average.
If Pujols’ numbers project perfectly to the end of the season, he will fall behind Yastrzemski’s marks in 1967 for average and homers, while just slightly surpassing Yaz in RBIs.
But in a new, steroid-free era, those numbers might just be enough for Prince Albert to take home some new hardware — a Triple Crown.