Three for three

Guerrero came within five hits and 10 RBIs of a Triple Crown

It isn’t easy to win a Triple Crown.

No kidding, right? Only 16 batters have simultaneously topped the American or National League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Nobody has done it since Miguel Cabrera in 2012, and only Cabrera has done it since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

That’s two Triple Crowners in 55 years — and only 16 winners in a total of 267 AL and NL seasons.

Those are daunting odds, which Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came remarkably close to surmounting in 2021. The 22-year-old first baseman tied Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for the AL lead with 48 home runs, while also finishing third in the league with a .311 batting average and fifth with 111 RBIs.

If Guerrero had punched out five more hits in his 604 at-bats, his average would have climbed to .3195, edging out Houston’s Yuli Gurriel (.3189) for the batting title. And if he had driven home an additional 10 runs, he would have tied Perez for the RBI crown with 121. It was that close.

Guerrero was the only American League batter to finish among the top 10 batters in all Triple Crown categories. Two National Leaguers did the same on their side — Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos (fourth in BA, seventh in HR, sixth in RBI) and Atlanta’s Austin Riley (sixth in BA, 10th in HR, second in RBI).

I devised a quick index to measure this year’s batters against the Triple Crown standard. I used the same scale that’s employed for Most Valuable Player voting. The leading batter in each category was given 14 points, the runner-up got nine, and each subsequent member stepped down a point. The floor was a single point for 10th place.

Guerrero and Perez tied for the American League lead with 28 Triple Crown points. Guerrero picked up eight points for batting average, 14 for homers, and six for runs batted in. Perez swept 14 points apiece for the latter two categories, though his .273 failed to make the top 10 for BA.

The National League’s frontrunner split his time between two clubs. Adam Duvall began the year with the Marlins, but was traded to the Braves at the end of July. His 113 RBIs topped the league, while his 38 homers put him second to the 42 launched by San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. As for Duvall’s .228 batting average? Certainly no points there, though the other two categories brought him a league-leading total of 23.

You’ll find the complete Triple Crown standings below. Each batter is followed in parentheses by his batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.

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American League

National League

  • 1. Adam Duvall, Marlins-Braves (.228/38/113), 23 points

  • 2. Nick Castellanos, Reds (.309/34/100), 16 points

  • 2. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (.282/42/97), 16 points

  • 4. Austin Riley, Braves (.303/33/107), 15 points

  • 5. Trea Turner, Nationals-Dodgers (.328/28/77), 14 points

  • 6. Bryce Harper, Phillies (.309/35/84), 13 points

  • 7. Joey Votto, Reds (.266/36/99), 11 points

  • 8. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals (.255/34/105), 10 points

  • 8. Juan Soto, Nationals (.313/29/95), 10 points

  • 10. Ozzie Albies, Braves (.259/30/106), 8 points

  • 10. Pete Alonso, Mets (.262/37/94), 8 points

  • 10. Manny Machado, Padres (.278/28/106), 8 points

  • 13. Max Muncy, Dodgers (.249/36/94), 7 points

  • 14. Adam Frazier, Pirates-Padres (.305/5/43), 6 points

  • 15. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals (.294/31/99), 5 points

  • 16. Tyler O'Neill, Cardinals (.286/34/80), 4 points

  • 16. Bryan Reynolds, Pirates (.302/24/90), 4 points

  • 18. Freddie Freeman, Braves (.300/31/83), 3 points

  • 19. Brandon Crawford, Giants (.298/24/90), 2 points