Will Hamilton win Triple Crown?
Hamilton will don crown
Carl Yastrzemski will always be the answer to a trivia question.
Currently, the question is: "Who is the last player to hit for the Triple Crown?"
At the end of this baseball season, the question will be: "Before Josh Hamilton, who was the last player to hit for the Triple Crown?"
It's hard to believe that no batter since Yaz in 1967, in either league, has led at season's end in each of the trio of categories: batting average, home runs and RBIs. This season will be different. Hamilton, who has been leading the American League in all three categories, will continue to rake in the numbers.
Hamilton hasn't stayed healthy enough to play more than 133 games in a season since 2008. That's when he played 156 games. Hamilton has said that his personal goal is to play in 150 games this season. However, he has not set goals in any other aspect of his game.
A healthy season and perspective are not the only reasons he will win the Triple Crown. The Rangers' lineup plays a huge role in compiling those numbers.
Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus have significant roles batting in front of Hamilton. Kinsler needs to get on base and consistently get inside the opposing pitcher's head with his base-running antics. Elvis needs to continue to push Kinsler to second or third, putting Kinsler and himself into scoring position for Hamilton. And sometimes scoring position is redefined as simply being on base when Hamilton bats.
The Rangers' playoff push is a factor, too. This team is driven to succeed and get back to the playoffs and the World Series. Team success will equate to individual success. Thus, Hamilton's numbers will pile up.
There also could be a pending free agency as a motivating factor toward a Triple Crown season. Could be.
Players, media and fans marvel at Hamilton's abilities on a daily basis. At the end of this season and for many years to come, we will be amazed when we talk about that revised trivia question about the last player to win the Triple Crown.
Too many variables
It's a tribute to Josh Hamilton's tremendous talent that he has healthy leads over the rest of the American League in the Triple Crown categories.
It just isn't likely to last.
That's not exactly going out on a limb. After all, it's been 45 years since Carl Yastrzemski was the majors' last Triple Crown winner.
So I'll take it a step further and predict that he'll come up short in the home runs category.
Hamilton won the AL batting title in 2010. He led the league in RBIs in 2008. He has never finished higher than fifth in homers.
It's a pretty safe bet that Hamilton will surpass his career-high homer total of 32, which he had when he led the AL with 130 RBIs in 2008 and matched when he had a league-best .359 batting average in 2010. Hamilton has already homered 18 times with 119 games remaining on the Rangers' schedule.
Hamilton is on pace to hit 68 homers this season, but that's not going to happen. He's not going to have another four-homer game or nine-homer week.
Most likely, Hamilton will revert to his normal impressive-but-not-otherworldly home run rate. That would put him in the neighborhood of 40 homers at the end of the year, assuming that he can stay healthy a whole year for only the second time in his career.
If Hamilton finishes with 40 homers, he'll have a chance to win the home run title. Just not a very good one.
The AL home run champion has gone deep more than 40 times in all but four of the past 25 seasons.
Toronto's Jose Bautista won the past two AL homer crowns with totals of 43 and 54. He has 11 now and has yet to hit a really hot streak.
Chicago's Adam Dunn is tied for second behind Hamilton with 14 bombs. He averaged more than 40 homers in a seven-season stretch before a dreadful 2011 campaign that he has clearly recovered from.
Consider Bautista and Dunn the favorites to stand between Hamilton and history.