Dubuque: Designing a new Triple Crown

From Patrick Dubuque at Baseball Prospectus on September 24, 2018:

J.D. Martinez probably will not win the Triple Crown this season. He currently ranks second in both the AL and baseball in batting average (.329, 11 points behind teammate Mookie Betts), second in home runs (41, four behind Khris Davis), and first in RBI (124, five ahead of Davis again). But despite the uphill climb, even the potential for a Triple Crown in the waning days of the season is a rarity; Miguel Cabrera owns the only one in the past half-century. The chase has injected at least a little drama into a stretch run that has, especially in the American League, been sorely lacking.

Not only is the Triple Crown chase itself an endangered animal, the seasonal statistical achievement itself has seen better days, as Joel Sherman wrote recently in the New York Post. We began to lose our innocence regarding the shiny round numbers and the batting titles a while ago, I believe—Coors Field, and the looming specter of park effects, flitted about the national consciousness long before Moneyball hit the shelves. But as Sherman notes, the loss of the fabled .300 season is more keenly felt because no advanced equivalent has risen to take its place.

Well, one has, obviously: Wins Above Replacement, with its various forms and preferences. There may be more fans who remember the WAR leader for the National League this year than those who file away the fact that Christian Yelich’s .322 batting average stands atop the Senior Circuit. But WAR’s calculation intentionally abandons something in its goal to encapsulate all-round greatness: the idea that the statistical leaders of yore were meant to describe who was the best at something, rather than just the best. This, more than simple anti-intellectualism, is why the Triple Crown has maintained its hold over the baseball fan’s imagination, even after losing its grip on the architects of the game. It celebrates the rare player who is the best not overall, but at everything (or at least, various things) all at once.

Read the full article here: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/42797/cold-takes-designing-a-new-triple-crown/

Originally published: September 24, 2018. Last Updated: September 24, 2018.