Tracking Ohtani's Triple Crown chances

August 21st, 2023

Daily updates on this story were paused on Aug. 20 with Ohtani's .306 batting average trailing a few elite American League hitters. (Ohtani led the AL at that time with 43 homers and was three RBIs off the pace with 89.) Updates will resume if Ohtani mounts a strong Triple Crown threat down the stretch.

Just about everything does makes history, which speaks to the two-way star's unprecedented combination of skills.

As the end of the 2023 season draws nearer, Ohtani has a lot of individual achievements in his sights -- in addition to the Angels' first playoff appearance since 2014. He is the overwhelming favorite to win his second American League MVP Award in three years. He has a shot at Aaron Judge's AL record of 62 home runs, set just last year. And then there is the Triple Crown.

Ohtani is looking to become only the second player in the past 56 seasons to lead the AL or NL in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the same season, and is tracking his progress along the way.

AL ranks (through Aug. 20)

Batting average: 4th (.306) -- Leader: (TEX), .346; 2nd: (TB), .325; 3rd: (TOR), .320
Home runs: 1st (43) -- 2nd place: (CWS), 33
Runs batted in: 3rd (89) -- Leaders: (TEX), 92; (HOU), 92

Note: Seager and Bichette, who were sidelined by injury for a portion of the season, need 502 plate appearances (3.1 per team game) to officially qualify. If they fail to reach 502 PAs, they can still win the batting title, but rules stipulate that in order to do so every plate appearance short of 502 is treated as a hitless at-bat.

Home run pace (through Aug. 20)

Ohtani HR: 43 through 125 team games
Pace: 56
Judge in 2022: 48 through 125 team games

Past Triple Crowns

Here are the all-time greats Ohtani would join if he pulls off the feat. Since RBIs became an official stat in 1920, just 10 different AL/NL players have won a Triple Crown, with two multiple-time winners. There's been only one Triple Crown in the Divisional Era (since 1969).

Triple Crown winners

2012: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (AL)
1967: Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox (AL)
1966: Frank Robinson, Orioles (AL)
1956: Mickey Mantle, Yankees (AL)*
1947: Ted Williams, Red Sox (AL)
1942: Ted Williams, Red Sox (AL)*
1937: Joe Medwick, Cardinals (NL)
1934: Lou Gehrig, Yankees (AL)*
1933: Jimmie Foxx, Athletics (AL)
1933: Chuck Klein, Phillies (NL)
1925: Rogers Hornsby, Cardinals (NL)*
1922: Rogers Hornsby, Cardinals (NL)

* = Led all AL/NL players in all three categories

Note: Six players led the AL or NL in all three Triple Crown categories before RBIs became an official statistic.

Recent close calls

In the seasons since Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012, several star sluggers have been pursuing a Triple Crown down the stretch -- including Aaron Judge and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the past two seasons. Here are six recent players who came up just short.

Aaron Judge (2022, AL): Most of the focus was on Judge hitting 62 home runs -- 22 more than any other AL player -- but he made a serious run at the Triple Crown, too. Judge won the AL RBI title with 131 and hit .380 from Sept. 1 on to challenge Luis Arraez for the batting crown up to the final day. Ultimately, he finished five points short (.316 to .311).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (2021, AL): Vlad Jr.'s Triple Crown push was a big storyline in the MVP race against Ohtani (the eventual winner), but although he tied for the AL home run crown with 48, he finished second in batting average (.311, behind Yuli Gurriel's .319) and fifth in RBIs (111, 10 behind league leader Salvador Perez).

Marcell Ozuna (2020, NL): Ozuna led in home runs and RBIs during the shortened season, but his .338 average put him third, behind the Nationals’ Juan Soto (.351) and Braves teammate Freddie Freeman (.341).

Christian Yelich (2018, NL): Yeli's NL MVP campaign for the Brewers featured a batting title and narrow misses in homers (36, two behind Nolan Arenado) and RBIs (110, one behind Javier Báez).

J.D. Martinez (2018, AL): Martinez was the AL RBI champ and finished second in both homers (43, five behind Khris Davis) and batting average (.330, 16 points behind Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts).

Miguel Cabrera (2013, AL): Miggy nearly won two straight Triple Crowns, bringing home the batting title but finishing nine homers and one RBI behind Orioles slugger Chris Davis.

Three things to know about Ohtani's Triple Crown chase

• Ohtani not only would become the first Angels player to win a Triple Crown but also the first player from any expansion franchise.

• Ohtani, of course, is doing some fine work as a pitcher as well, which makes his offensive exploits all the more impressive. Of the 10 previous official Triple Crown winners, none made even a single appearance on the mound in that season.

• An Ohtani Triple Crown would extend the AL’s run of Triple Crowns since the last one was won in the NL to seven. The last time an NL player won the Triple Crown was 86 years ago, when the Cardinals’ Medwick won it in 1937.