Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Watch Derrek Lee 

In a summer of terrorist bombings, supreme court vacancies, alleged Karl Rove conspiracies, and frantic, ongoing non-news from Aruba, you might have neglected to scrutinize the sports pages with appropriate regularity. If that is the case, here's a quick mid-season baseball update for you:

After a slow start, the Yanks have gotten back in the race for the AL East and today trail Boston by 1/2 game; the Washington Nationals have owned first place in the NL East by a small margin for the last two months, but the Braves threaten to, once again, win the division; the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox have both put away their respective central divisions, and appear poised to enter October as the teams to beat; the LA Angels look tough in the AL West, but no one looks particularly good in the NL West; and Derrek Lee, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs is having the best year in baseball.

To win the coveted Triple Crown, a player must finish the season ranked first in his league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. It is a difficult feat in today's game, since the big home run hitters tend to strike out a lot and rarely threaten to win the batting title. (In recent years, Albert Pulhols of the Cardinals has been among the leaders in all three categories).

This morning, Derrek Lee leads the National League in batting by a wide margin, batting .376 with his nearest challenger at .338, home runs with 30, with Andruw Jones right behind with 29, and is tied with Carlos Lee (no relation) for the lead in RBIs with 77. With his 30th home run yesterday, Lee tied his career high, set last year.

The last baseball player to win the triple crown was Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox (.326, 44, 121) in 1967. The last National League triple crown winner was Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937 (.375, 31, 154).

Watch Derrek Lee.

Correction: A reader correctly points out that Lee had 31 home runs in 2003, and 32 last year (a fact easily confirmed in the very stats page I linked to above. Doh!). My bad. Fortunately the self-correcting nature of the blogosphere doesn't let such disinformation go unchallenged for long.


By Blogger Chris, at Wed Jul 20, 11:31:00 AM:

As a long-time Cubs fan, I have been. The difference this year appears to be his ability to hit inside pitches. In the past (including the 2003 NLCS) teams were able to consistently get inside on him. His swing appears to be quicker, and as a result he is getting tremendous plate coverage. He is also very disciplined, consistently going the other way and taking walks, unlike some other *Sammy Sosa* hitters.

Unfortunately, I believe the Triple Crown is probably out of reach simply because of the proliferation of one-dimensional hitters, guys with power strokes only, and RBI opportunities. If the Cubs can keep getting the top of the order on base, he has a shot, but a long one.  

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