A View From Studio 3: Miggy's quest for immortality
In addition to watching a few compelling division and Wild Card races in the final month of the regular season, fans and players alike will be treated to a race for the record books. A place in baseball history that has remained unfilled for as long as the game has been in existence.
No player has ever won back-to-back Triple Crowns. Heck, only two players ever have won the award twice.
Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby.
I think that puts this chase in perspective.
When Miguel Cabrera finished 2012 leading the American League in home runs, RBIs and batting average, he became the 14th hitter in history and the first hitter in 45 years to complete one of sports greatest feats.
Here we are, heading into September and Cabrera has a legitimate shot at back-to-back Crowns. Assuming he holds onto his lead in average and RBIs, the only obstacle, it seems, is 27-year-old Texan Chris Davis, who currently leads the AL in homers. Even Davis admits that he's pulling for Cabrera to win the Triple Crown as long as it doesn't cost Davis' Baltimore Orioles a playoff spot.
Come to think of it, it's hard to imagine why any baseball player or fan would not want to witness an historic event.
While predicting the outcome of this race makes for fun conversation, the following is a look at how things may shake out in the coming weeks.
Lets start with Davis. Heading into Wednesday's action, Baltimore has 14 remaining home games and 18 road games. This appears to give Davis an edge as his home park, Camden Yards, is tied with Rogers Centre for the most home runs per game (2.88) of any park in baseball. In addition, the Orioles will play three games at Rogers Centre in Toronto in September. There's also a trip to Yankee Stadium in the final month -- a virtual launching pad for left-handed hitters with power.
As for Cabrera, his Tigers have 14 more games at Comerica Park and 15 contests on the road. Given his home run totals home vs. away, he appears to be in a tight spot. Of Cabrera's 43 homers, only 16 have come in Detroit. Comerica is a huge park that is allowing just 1.89 home runs per contest in 2013, 17th-most in baseball.
Working in Cabrera's favor, however, is that the Tigers still have games remaining at U.S. Cellular Field and Kauffman Stadium. This season, Cabrera has hit four long balls in 35 at-bats at those parks. That's one homer per 8.75 at bats.
That's about the same rate he hits homers vs. left-handed pitchers. That's another area Cabrera has an edge. He doesn't discriminate. Miggy destroys both lefties and righties. His home run rate versus southpaws is roughly one per every 8.5 at-bats; against righties, one per every 12 at-bats.
On the other hand and from the other side of the plate, Davis struggles mightily against lefties. His batting average is around .240, and only a quarter of his homers have come off lefties.
And that leads to this: In the next few weeks, the Orioles are projected to face a few of the nastiest southpaws in the game: Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, Chris Sale just to name a few.
Of course, there are other factors to account for. The lineup of players surrounding each slugger can determine the types of pitches they see. The Tigers have the highest team batting average and on-base percentage in the Majors. The more baserunners, the more difficult it is to pitch around a hitter. That's food for thought. So is this: Cabrera also puts the ball in play with much greater frequency than Davis. His strikeout total is half that of the Orioles slugger.
Expanded rosters may also factor into this home run race. The quality of pitching may dip as non-contending teams audition young talent for the future. The Tigers' final 13 games of the schedule are against teams that are already out of contention. Conversely, the Orioles face the Rays and Red Sox a combined 10 times in their final 13 contests. Those games figure to mean a ton, and Davis' bat may be avoided intentionally.
If you're looking for one fan's opinion, I'll say Cabrera catches Davis. He may not pass him, but even if they are tied at season's end, that's good enough for Triple Crown purposes. All you need is a share of the lead and you're good to go.
So take it all in. The greatest right-handed hitter many of us have ever seen is only a few dingers away from doing something that may never be done again in our lifetime.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.