Baseball’s Triple Crown is sort of cool because it’s been celebrated for close to a century and because 12 of the 13 players to accomplish the feat went on to join the Hall of Fame. It’s also outdated, as new stats have emerged that do a better job of evaluating offensive production. But enough of our lecturing.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera launched his 43rd home run of the season in Saturday afternoon’s 6-4 defeat of the Twins, moving back into position to capture the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski finished with a .326 batting average, 44 homers and 121 RBI over 161 games for the Red Sox in 1967.
Cabrera is sporting a .327 batting average. In second is Angels outfielder Mike Trout at .321.
Cabrera is up to 43 home runs, which has him tied with Josh Hamilton for the major league lead.
Cabrera has 136 RBI. Hamilton has 125 RBI. That advantage is likely safe with just four games to play.
Some might argue that a Triple Crown should lock up the American League MVP for Miggy, but the aforementioned Trout has the AL lead in OPS+ and is a far better defender and baserunner. It’ll be close.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.