Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came to the Major Leagues as an ultra-hyped prospect with a Hall of Fame name. In 2021, he’s making a name for himself.
While batting average, home runs and RBIs might not have the same resonance they once did, it’s still an enormous accomplishment for a player to lead the AL or NL in all three categories, especially in this 30-team era that features a broad, international talent pool.
Miguel Cabrera (2012 Tigers) is the only player to do it during the past 53 seasons, but Guerrero -- who has drawn some Miggy comparisons -- has a shot. Here is a look at his progress, as well as some historical context:
• Guerrero on Friday: 1-for-4, HR, RBI
• Guerrero’s past 10 games: .293, 6 HR, 6 RBIs
• Guerrero on Saturday: vs. MIN, 3:07 p.m. ET
The MLB race
Not only is Guerrero contending for an AL Triple Crown, but he also has an opportunity to become the first player in 65 years (since Mickey Mantle in 1956) to lead both the AL and NL in all three categories.
Past Triple Crowns
What sort of company would Guerrero be keeping if he pulls off this feat? Since RBIs became an official stat in 1920, only 10 players have won a Triple Crown, including a pair of multiple winners. But it has happened only once 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)
*-Player led all AL and NL players in all three categories
Note: Six players led their leagues in all three categories before RBIs became an official statistic.
Recent close calls
Cabrera in 2012 isn’t the only player who has pursued a Triple Crown lately. Here are four players who came up just a bit short since then:
• Marcell Ozuna (2020, NL): He 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): His 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): The AL RBIs champ was second in both homers (43, five behind Khris Davis) and average (.330, 16 points behind Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts).
• Miguel Cabrera (2013, AL): Miggy nearly won two straight Triple Crowns, notching another batting title but finishing nine homers and one RBI behind Orioles slugger Chris Davis.
Notes to know
• Guerrero, 22, would be the youngest official Triple Crown winner in AL/NL history, beating out Williams, who in 1942 was in his age-23 season. (He turned 24 on Aug. 30). Ty Cobb was only 22 when he led the AL in all three categories in 1909 -- including nine home runs -- but that was before RBIs were an official stat.
• Guerrero entered 2021 with 183 MLB games under his belt. The fewest games played prior to a Triple Crown season since 1920 is 436 by Williams (1942).
• Guerrero would be the first Blue Jays player to win a Triple Crown and the second player born outside the U.S. to do so (after Cabrera).
• One trend Guerrero would be following is that of AL supremacy in Triple Crowns. The past six have all gone to AL players, with nobody accomplishing the feat in the NL since Medwick in 1937.
• It’s difficult to talk about Guerrero Jr. without mentioning Guerrero Sr., so the natural question is: Did the elder Guerrero ever challenge for a Triple Crown? Somewhat surprisingly, he never led his league in any of the three categories, despite batting at least .315 nine times, topping 35 homers five times and 120 RBIs four times. Guerrero placed in the top five in the NL in all three numbers in 2000 and ‘02, and in the AL in ‘04, but he was never especially close to a Triple Crown.