Overall, in the last dozen or so years, pitching has grown more dominant due to steroid testing removing most (but not all) juiced-up sluggers from the league. Case in point: in 2000, the league E.R.A. was at a rather high 4.77, and the A.L.'s was even higher, at 4.91. Last year, the MLB E.R.A. was significantly lower, at 4.01, which was raised by the A.L's mark of 4.08. Yet, despite 10-strikeout games becoming more common for aces and no hitters being pitched with greater frequency than we have seen in decades, the highlight of this summer is a batting chase.
I am assuming that, being Red Sox fans, most of you know about Carl Yastrzemski's historic 1967 triple crown campaign, when he led the league with a .326 average and 121 RBI, and tied Harmon Killebrew for the league lead with 44 home runs. Because Yaz had a stake for first in all 3 categories (you can tie for a league lead and still be considered the "leader"), he won the triple crown. Despite the fact that it had also been won the previous year (by Frank Robinson), the next 44 years went by without a winner. Then, last year, Miguel Cabrera outran rookie Mike Trout for the batting title and slugger Josh Hamilton for the homer and RBI titles to win the triple crown (the first Tiger to win one since Ty Cobb). This was enough to give the slow footed, somewhat erratic Cabrera MVP honors despite Trout's five-toolness.
Now, usually, a triple crown requires two things: a career year, and luck. Babe Ruth, the best hitter of all time, never even won a triple crown: his sole batting title came in a year when someone else lead the league in RBI. Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams, two of the most dominant hitters of all time, are the only two people to ever win multiple triple crowns. Hornsby won them in 1922 and 1925 (and came within two homers of one in 1921, when he led the league in average and RBI but his 21 home runs were second to the league lead of 23.) Hornsby won the MVP in 1925, and again in 1929, but there was no NL MVP in 1922, or else it would have certainly gone to Hornsby. Ted William's 2 came in 1942 and 1947, but he likely would have won one or two more had he not gone to war (hey! I rhymed!), and came close in 1941. His .406 average (obviously) and his 37 home runs (not as obviously) led the league, but his 120 RBI fell short of Dimaggio's total of 125. Amazingly, Williams' 2 triple crowns, .400 season, and 2 MVP seasons were 5 seperate seasons! Williams lost 2 MVPs to Dimaggio despite Williams doing better both times, and somehow lost an MVP to Joe Gordon. The sportswriters, of course, never liked Ted, and he never liked them.
However, it looks like Cabrera is following the footsteps of those two great hitters, and not other triple crown winners: his .365 average at the break, if sustained for the rest of the season (which is no small feat, even for a hitter of Cabrera's caliber), would be over 20 points higher than his career high of .344, which he achieved in 2011 as the first of 2, and likely 3, consecutive batting titles. It is also over 20 points above the NL leading Yadier Molina's .341 and over 40 points above the second highest average in the AL, owned by Mike Trout at .322. He has an MLB leading 95 RBI, and other than Chris Davis, no one is even near him- after Davis's 93 RBI, the next closest total is Paul Goldschmidt's 77, and, in the AL, Edwin Encarnacion's 72. Having less games played than RBI, he is on pace for a ridiculous 165 or so RBI. He also has 30 homeruns, and, having played 93 games, that puts him on pace for about 51 homeruns, which would be the second highest single-season total by a third baseman ever. He also has a league-leading 73 runs, which puts him on pace for about 126 runs- not as great as 165 RBI, but still great.
51 homeruns, 165 RBI, 126 runs, 101 walks. A slash line of .365/.458/.674. An OPS of 1.132. That would be a season for the ages, and a practical guarantee of an MVP award- except for the season Chris Davis has thrown together.
Everyone who followed the Rangers knew that Chris Davis had power. The problem was, he wiffed at rates that make Adam Dunn look like Ty Cobb. As a result, the Rangers traded him in 2011 in a package for Koji Uehara. In 2012, for the Orioles, Chris Davis had 85 RBI- a good total for a first season with over 500 plate appearances- and 33 home runs, a very impressive total for the post-steroid era. This year, along with a .315 BA, he is second to Cabrera in RBI with 93, and he is actually AHEAD of Cabrera with 37 home runs at the break- tied with Reggie Jackson for the AL record for home runs pre-break, and just 2 behind Barry Bonds' tainted record of 39 before the break. This puts him on pace for EXACTLY 62 homeruns- which would break the AL record (and, in the eyes of a significant proportion of baseball followers, the true MLB record) of 61 home runs, set by Roger Maris in 1961. However, Jackson fell off after the break in his big power year, hitting only ten after the break, when he had to hit 25 in order to break Maris's then-new mark. Of course, Davis doesn't have the track record that Jackson does, and wiffs just as much as Jackson. Davis could break the mark, but it would take a second half as ridiculous as his first. Now, Davis has the lead in HR and is right behind Cabrera in RBI, but is nowhere near Cabrera in average. Therefore, Davis has no chance of winning the crown himself, but is just playing spoiler to Cabrera's hopes of winning an unprecedented second straight crown.
I am asking the following questions:
1: Who do you think will end up winning the MVP: Cabrera, Davis, or someone else, and why?
2: Do you think that Cabrera will win a triple crown? If not, does Davis have any chance, or is he just playing spoiler?
3: Will Davis break the AL mark? If so, would you consider that the real home run record, or do you consider 73 to be the record, despite steroid use?
4: Both the Tigers and the Orioles have a chance of making the playoffs. If the Red Sox make the playoffs, who would you rather face? Keep in mind that there are other players besides Cabrera and Davis.
5: Do you think that either of them are using steroids? The last time we had a chase like this was... Sosa and McGuire. Cabrera has a track record of excellent hitting, and Davis has changed his swing significantly, so I would say no, but I would like to hear your opinions.