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J.D. could be latest 'Bizarro Triple Crown' winner

Martinez's average, HRs and RBIs would all top the National League
March 11, 2019

J.D. Martinez has performed probably better than anyone could have expected in his first season in the tough Boston market, putting up the kind of numbers worthy of a Triple Crown. But Martinez is seeing firsthand that capturing the Triple Crown (in which a player leads his league in batting

J.D. Martinez has performed probably better than anyone could have expected in his first season in the tough Boston market, putting up the kind of numbers worthy of a Triple Crown.

But Martinez is seeing firsthand that capturing the Triple Crown (in which a player leads his league in batting average, home runs and RBI) is easier said than done. Entering Friday, Martinez's .330 average trailed his teammate Mookie Betts by 16 points, and his 42 homers are shy of Khris Davis' 47 out in Oakland.

The roads would be more open for Martinez across the way, however, as fellow MVP candidate Christian Yelich's .321 average would represent the only serious threat to Martinez if he suited up for a National League club. That's some tough luck, but it wouldn't be the first time a Triple Crown hopeful could have benefited from a league switch. Below are seven players prior to Martinez who fell shy of a Triple Crown, but would have locked up the honor had they played in the other circuit. This list includes seasons beginning in 1920, when RBIs became an official MLB statistic.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 2013
Triple Crown stats: .348 BA, 44 HRs, 137 RBIs
Miggy really did win a Triple Crown in 2012, becoming the first player to do so since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. He nearly went back to back with similar numbers the next year, when he easily led the AL in batting average en route to his second straight MVP Award. But the Orioles' Chris Davis got in the way with a huge power display, bashing a league-leading 53 homers and driving in 138 runs. Cabrera finished with eight more homers and 12 more RBIs than any NL hitter.

Billy Williams, Cubs, 1972
Triple crown stats: .333 BA, 37 HRs, 122 RBIs
Sweet Swingin' Billy won his only batting title in 1972 while excelling once again for a Cubs squad that missed the postseason. Johnny Bench claimed both the NL home run and RBI crowns, edging out Williams by three in each category, but Williams would have paced the AL in average and RBIs and tied White Sox slugger Dick Allen in home runs.

Duke Snider, 1954
Triple crown stats: .341 BA, 40 HRs, 130 RBIs
The Duke of Flatbush put up a career year in '54, but also faced some stiff competition in his league that year. Snider placed four points behind Willie Mays in average, tied for fifth in home runs despite belting 40 and finished runner-up to Ted Kluszewski's 141 RBIs. While Snider's .341 average would have tied Cleveland's Bobby Avila atop the AL, he would have finished eight homers and four RBIs clear of Larry Doby.

Tommy Holmes, 1945
Triple crown stats: .352 BA, 28 HRs, 117 RBIs
Holmes benefited somewhat from the slow return of established stars from World War II, but he was a career .302 hitter who put up big numbers -- including a then-NL-record 37-game hit streak -- in '45. The Braves star finished three points behind Phil Cavarretta in the NL batting race and seven RBIs behind Dixie Walker, but would have swept an AL roster that was notably missing Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

Ted Williams, Red Sox, 1941
Triple Crown stats: .406 BA, 37 HRs, 120 RBIs
Nobody has cracked the .400 mark since Williams in '41, when he also would have captured an NL Triple Crown, including a tie with the Dodgers' Dolph Camilli in RBIs. But in the AL, while Williams ran away with the batting title and finished first in home runs, he placed fourth in RBIs -- five behind first-place Joe DiMaggio. Don't feel too bad for the Splendid Splinter, though. He went on to win AL Triple Crowns in both '42 and '47, with three seasons lost to military service in between.

Jimmie Foxx, Red Sox, 1938
Triple Crown stats: .349 BA, 50 HRs, 175 RBIs
Foxx also has an AL Triple Crown to his credit, from 1933, and Double X could have added another five years later. Unfortunately for the Boston slugger, Detroit's Hank Greenberg popped 58 homers that year to lead the Junior Circuit. Foxx would have cruised to a Triple Crown in the NL, where no hitter had more than 36 homers or 122 RBIs.

Babe Ruth, Yankees, 1931
Triple Crown stats: .373 BA, 46 HRs, 162 RBIs
Despite leading the AL in home runs 12 times and RBIs five times between 1918-31, Ruth never captured a Triple Crown, largely because the .342 career hitter managed just one batting title ('24). On the other hand, this was the last of three seasons in which the Bambino's stats would have been good enough for an NL Triple Crown. He would have left the NL field in the dust in all three categories in '31, but in the AL, he lost out to the Athletics' Al Simmons in batting average (.390) and teammate Lou Gehrig in RBIs (185).

Ruth, Yankees, 1926
Triple Crown stats: .372 BA, 47 HRs, 153 RBIs
Ruth more than doubled the home run total of any other player in the Majors but finished six points behind Detroit's Heinie Manush in the AL batting race. No NL hitter batted higher than .353.

Ruth, Yankees, 1923
Triple Crown stats: .393 BA, 41 HRs, 130 RBIs
This was the highest batting average of Ruth's career, but fellow future Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann hit .403 for the Tigers to take the AL batting title. The Babe would have tied the Phillies' Cy Williams for first in the NL with 41 homers and beaten out Rogers Hornsby (.384) -- himself a two-time Triple Crown winner -- in the batting race.

Note: Ruth and George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns each had Triple Crown stats that would have led the NL in 1920. However, had both been in the NL, Sisler (.407) would have beaten out Ruth in batting average, while the Sultan of Swat would have finished first with 54 homers and 135 RBIs. Therefore, neither would have earned a Triple Crown.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSimonMLB.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.