Pitching triples

Nobody took home the highest honor, though Ray and Wheeler gave it a good run

My story last Friday focused on the Triple Crown, that rare honor accorded to any batter who simultaneously leads his league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.

Nobody won the Triple Crown this season — no one, in fact, has done so since Miguel Cabrera in 2012 — but Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Kansas City’s Salvador Perez gave it a good shot.

You may recall that I devised a Triple Crown rating system last week to assess each batter’s 2021 performances in all three categories. Guerrero and Perez tied for the American League lead with 28 of a possible 42 points, while Adam Duvall topped the National League with 23 points.

A pitching version of the Triple Crown also exists, though it hasn’t received nearly as much publicity or acceptance as its batting counterpart over the years. Let’s take a look.

Thirty-eight pitchers have led the American or National League in earned run average, wins, and strikeouts during the same season, a feat most recently accomplished by Cleveland’s Shane Bieber a year ago.

The pitching Triple Crown is more commonly attained than the batting version. Consider the numbers: 38 crowns for all pitchers vs. 16 for all hitters throughout baseball history. If we limit the timeframe to the past 50 years, the margin grows wider: 11 Triple Crowns for pitchers since 1972, against only Cabrera’s breakthrough for batters over the same span.

But pitchers were no more successful than hitters in achieving the ultimate honor in 2021.

Toronto’s Robbie Ray came closest. He led the American League with a 2.84 ERA and 248 strikeouts, though he tied for fifth place with 13 victories. Ray received 34 points on my Triple Crown scale, which awarded 14 points for each first-place finish and a descending order from nine points to one point for the other pitchers in each category’s top 10.

The Yankees’ Gerrit Cole ran second in the American League with 31 points, but nobody else came anywhere near the frontrunners. Frankie Montas of the Athletics finished third with just 20 points.

Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler paced the National League with 247 strikeouts, and he ranked fifth in the league in the other two categories (2.78 ERA, 14 wins). That gave him a total of 26 points, one more than runner-up Max Scherzer of the Nationals and Dodgers. Corbin Burnes of the Brewers rounded out the NL’s top three.

You’ll find the complete standings for this version of the Triple Crown below. Each pitcher is followed in parentheses by his earned run average, wins, and strikeouts in 2021.


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American League

National League