There are two triple crowns in baseball, and neither of them is easy to achieve. The batting honor is defined as leading the AL, NL, or entire MLB in home runs, RBIs, and batting average. The pitching accomplishment, to lead the league in win, strikeouts, and ERA is nothing to sneeze at either. You need to stay healthy to be a triple crown winner and get plenty of support from your teammates. Oh, and you have to be damn good at baseball too.
When it comes to batting, the big sluggers usually aren’t quick enough to leg out hits to capture a batting crown. And on the other side of the coin, those who have the speed and a knack for placing the ball where they choose on the diamond usually don’t have the power to slam 40 or more homers a year. It’s such a rare feat that it’s been accomplished just 17 times in MLB history (by 15 different players), while the pitching triple crown has been achieved slightly more often — 39 times by 24 different pitchers.
The last hitter to do it was Miguel Cabrera (AL) in 2012, when he cranked 44 home runs, 139 RBIs, and batted .330. The last pitcher to wear the crowns were Clayton Kershaw (NL) and Justin Verlander (AL) in 2011. Since we’re a few weeks into the 2018 baseball campaign, now’s a good time to see who may stand a chance of winning a triple crown this year. This list will feature six batters and six pitchers who may have a shot at making baseball history this season.
Other batters with an outside shot at a triple crown due to their fast starts are Hanley Ramirez (Boston) Nolan Arenado (Colorado) and Ozzie Albies (Atlanta). Other pitchers who could also pull it off include Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets), Dylan Bundy (Baltimore), Charlie Morton (Houston), Joey Luchessi (San Diego) and Carlos Martinez (St. Louis).
6. Shohei Ohtani
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding 23-year-old Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels rookie has been living up to it so far. The Japanese right-hander was 2-0 after his first two starts in the Majors, with a 2.08 ERA to go along with 18 strikeouts in his 13 innings pitched. His average four-seam fastball is listed at 97.13 miles-per hour while the MLB average is 92.75 and he’s been recorded as high as 102.5 mph. Ohtani’s a two-way threat, since he’s also a designated hitter and has already captured an AL Player of the Week award this season. As long as he gets enough starts and innings in this year, the former star of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters has a legitimate shot at a triple crown. He went 42-15 in Japan with a career ERA of 2.52 and 624 strikeouts.
5. Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros won his first World Series ring last year and previously took home an American League Cy Young and MVP Award. The 35-year-old is now aiming for his second triple crown after capturing one in 2011. With an average fastball of 95.3 mph and a wicked slider, he has a good chance. Verlander’s a regular 200-inning pitcher and that’ll help his chances of topping the league in strikeouts. As for wins, he’s with a fine Houston squad which typically provides him with plenty of run support. Verlander usually picks up the pace as the season rolls on and by mid-April already had a record of 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 26.2 inning pitched. He was just four strikeouts behind the leader, was tied for second in wins and owned the fifth-best ERA for those with over 20 innings pitched.
4. Chris Sale
Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale may be entering the prime of his career now at the age of 29. The left-hander is a six-time All-Star who as never led his league in ERA as of yet, but placed second in both 2014 and 2017, at 2.17 and 2.90 respectively. He’s been as high as fourth in wins with 17 in each of the 2012, 2016, and 2017 campaigns. As far as strikeouts go, he led the AL in 2015 with 274 and again in 2017 with 308 under his belt. Sale had just one win to his name in mid-April, but his 1.23 ERA was second best in MLB for pitchers with over 20 innings and his 31 strikeouts were tied for fifth in the Majors. This could be the year everything aligns for Sale and he captures his first triple crown.
3. Corey Kluber
Cleveland Indians’ right-hander Corey Kluber is always in with a shot at a triple crown and this year appears to be no different. The 32-year-old started the season at 1-1 in his first three starts with a 1.57 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 23 innings. Kluber often depends on his curveball to get by and it’s served him well, as he won the AL Cy Young Award with the Indians in both 2014 and 2017. The two-time All Star led his league in ERA last year at 2.25, as well as wins at 18, but fell just short of a triple crown as he was second in strikeouts with 265 (while Chris Sale led the AL with 308). Kluber’s definitely one of the best pitchers out there and his near miss of a triple crown last year may be rectified in 2018.
2. Clayton Kershaw
Over in the NL, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is a good bet to challenge for his second triple crown after winning one in 2011. The 30-year-old left-hander had 31 strikeouts in his first 26 innings this year while going 1-2 in his first four starts. He also had a fine ERA of 1.73. Kershaw may have lost some velocity off his fastball, but this is a guy who had 2,151 strikeouts in 1,961 innings pitched and is still as dominant as ever. Kershaw has three NL Cy Young Awards under his belt from 2011, 2013, and 2014 and the seven-time All-Star was even named the NL MVP in 2014 — a rarity for a pitcher. Kershaw has led the NL in ERA for five of the last six seasons, led the league in wins in 2017 (as well as 2011 and 2014) and was the strikeout king in 2011, 2013, and 2015. He fell just short of the triple crown last year by ranking eighth in strikeouts. He’s more than capable of putting it all together for a triple crown season.
1. Max Scherzer
As of April 16th, Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals was leading the NL and MLB in wins (3) and strikeouts (38) in his first 27 innings. As expected, his ERA wasn’t too shabby either as he was ranked fourth in the Majors for pitchers with over 20 innings hurled, at 1.33. The 33-year-old right-hander is going for his third-straight NL Cy Young Award in 2018 and also won one with Detroit in 2013. The five-time All-Star has never led his league in ERA, but came close in 2017 by finishing second at 2.51. He led the AL in wins in 2013 and 2014 and topped the NL in 2016. As for strikeouts, Scherzer has led the NL the last two years running. He won two-thirds of a triple crown in 2016 by leading the league in strikeouts and wins, but finished eighth in ERA. He should challenge for it again this year.
6. Matt Chapman
It shouldn’t be a problem for 24-year-old third baseman Matt Chapman of the Oakland A’s to reach the required number of at-bats, as long as he stays healthy. He was off to a great start with five homers and 12 RBI after 60 at-bats, while batting .333. This ranked him in a third-place tie in MLB for round-trippers and just three behind the RBI leader. Not that it matters, but he was also second in slugging at .698 and 18th in MLB for on-base percentage at .424. This is just Chapman’s second year in the big leagues, but he could already be on the verge of a breakout season after batting .234 last year with 14 homers and 40 RBIs in just 84 games. He’s got the potential to be a consistent 30 homer and 100 RBI player and could be a surprisingly good hitter for average this year.
5. Shohei Ohtani
Can you imagine what a story it would be if rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani added the batting triple crown to go along with the same feat in pitching? Well, it may not be as ridiculous as it sounds. Ohtani had home runs in three straight games and a fifth-best 11 RBIs in just 30 at bats as of mid-April, with a stellar .367 batting average and was slugging .767. The 6’4″ pitcher/designated hitter has all the tools to lead the league in homers, RBI, and batting average, but it’s likely he’ll fall just short of the official at-bats needed to qualify for the batting title. However, Ohtani has let the Angels’ management team know he’d definitely like to play more when he’s not pitching, so you never know.
4. Charlie Blackmon
Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon posted some triple-crown worthy numbers in 2017 and he might hit the jackpot this time around. The 31-year-old with a .305 career average smacked 37 homers last year, to go along with 104 RBI and finished the campaign with a .331 batting average. They were career-bests for Blackmon after 29 homers, 82 RBI and a .324 average in 2016. If he continues to improve at the same rate this year, then a triple crown’s not out of the question. He’s off to a good start since he had a second-best six homers and 11 RBI in mid-April to accompany his .298 batting average. Blackmon led the NL in batting last year, was eighth in RBI, and third in home runs, so certainly has the credentials needed to be on this list. The only problem might be that he consistently hits lead-off for the Rockies, which will limit his RBI potential.
3. Bryce Harper
As of mid-April, Bryce Harper was leading the Major Leagues in homers with seven and was tied for second in RBIs at 14. But for Harper to be a legitimate threat for a triple crown this year he’s going to have to pick up his batting average a little, as it was sitting at .300. In fact, just under half of the 25-year-old right fielder’s 15 hits were dingers. Harper may pick up the pace, but he’s only a career .285 hitter. His 42 homers in 2015 and 29 in 2017 (in just 111 games) proves he has the power to hit the long ball and he’s also had seasons with batting averages of .330 and .319. If everything falls into place for Harper for the remainder of 2018, he has a chance of having his name entered in the history books.
2. Mike Trout
It’s hard to believe center fielder Mike Trout’s still just 26-years-old. The Los Angeles Angels’ phenom is in his eighth season and has already won a pair of MVP Awards and Rookie of the Year honors. This guy can do it all and has already led the AL in RBIs (with 111 in 2014), came second in batting (.326 in 2012), and third in home runs (36 in 2014 and 41 two years later). He cranked 33 homers and 72 RBIs last year in only 114 games, with a .306 average. He was hitting .271 in mid-April with a second-best six home runs and 13 RBIs. With Trout being surrounded by talent such as Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and Justin Upton in the lineup he should have plenty of chances to drive in runs again this year and it’s a safe bet the career .305 hitter will pick up his batting average.
1. Aaron Judge
There’s no question New York Yankee’s slugger Aaron Judge has the potential to be a triple crown winner, due to his amazing power. He’s not too bad when it comes to batting average either, as the 25-year-old was batting .340 by mid-April and had an 11-game hitting streak going. He may be off to a relatively slow start in the home run and RBIs department (at three and nine respectively), but we all know the 6’7″ right fielder will improve on those numbers as the season goes along and the weather gets warmer. Judge belted 52 homers and added 114 RBI last year as a rookie. If he can cut down on his strikeouts, which he appears to be doing so far in 2018, he’s probably the best bet out there for a triple crown winner in 2018.