The Washington Nationals’ Triple Crown Winners
If you’re like me, you were glued to the TV on Saturday evening, watching the Belmont Stakes to see American Pharoah win the Triple Crown. In horse racing, the Triple Crown means that a horse wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. American Pharoah was the first Triple Crown winner since a horse named Affirmed did it in 1978. American Pharoah’s win on Saturday ended a 37-year drought for thoroughbred racing’s biggest prize. (It was also more fun to watch than the Nationals games this weekend.)
The race got me thinking about another hard to achieve prize – baseball’s Triple Crown. In baseball, winning the Triple Crown means leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. The last major leaguer to win the hitting Triple Crown was Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. Miggy was the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. He was the first to do it since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
There’s also a lesser-known Triple Crown for pitching. To win that, a pitcher needs to lead the league in ERA, wins and strikeouts. The last time there was a pitching triple crown was in 2011, and it was shared by Detroit’s Justin Verlander and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
As the Nationals celebrate their 10 year anniversary, are there any players in Nationals history good enough to be declared Triple Crown winners? I looked at the players over the 10-year history of the Nats who had at least one year playing with the team.
When it comes to batting stats, we have a clear Triple Crown winner – Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals’ face of the franchise, Zimmerman leads all of the Nationals in all three hitting categories, and like American Pharoah, he wins this category by several lengths. Over the course of Zimmerman’s career, his batting average is .282, he’s driven in 744 RBIs, and hit 189 homers. So far this year, he is batting .213 (well below his career average), and has five home runs and 34 RBIs. He averages about 24 homers and 96 RBIs a year over his career, so about one-third of the way into the 2015 season, he’s a little behind pace there, too.
Zimmerman leads the Nationals in almost every career hitting category. He has the most runs scored, highest slugging percentage, most hits, longest hitting streak and most extra base hits. He has the most career home runs in Nationals history, and also most singles and doubles. The record for most triples, interestingly, belongs to Cristian Guzman, with 28.
When it comes to pitching, there is no single player who wins the ERA, strikeout and wins categories. Jordan Zimmermann wins in two categories, and Stephen Strasburg wins in one, but it is a very close race.
Zimmermann has the most wins of any pitcher in Nationals history with 62. Strasburg has 46. Zimmermann easily wins this leg of the Triple Crown.
On the other hand, Strasburg leads in strikeouts, with 791. Zimmermann is right behind with 787. It’s Strasburg by a nose!
At the end of last season, Strasburg led the ERA category with a career average of 3.02. This year, however, his ERA is up to 6.55, which increased his career number to 3.25. Zimmermann now sports a slightly better 3.23 ERA. This category is also a photo finish!
Keep in mind that Zimmermann joined the Nats a year earlier than Strasburg, and has pitched 38 more games in his career than Strasburg. Zimmermann came back from his Tommy John surgery before Strasburg went on the DL for his. The comparison between them may be a little bit unfair, then. Although it’s not part of the Triple Crown,
Zimmermann did pitch the first no-hitter in Nats history, so he gets a special recognition for that achievement.
It’s easy to declare Zimmerman the American Pharoah of the Nationals. The race for the pitching Triple Crown is a very close one between Zimmermann and Strasburg, and it will be interesting to see which horse wins.