No games? No problem? Even though Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier spent 15 days on the disabled list after fracturing a pinkie finger, he didn’t lose much ground in his quest to become the first .400 hitter since 1941 and the first National Triple Crown winner since 1937.
When Ethier went to the disabled list, he was leading all three Triple Crown categories-home runs, RBIs and batting average. As he prepared to return to the Dodgers’ lineup on Memorial Day, Ethier’s .392 batting average was well ahead of the competition. His 125 at bats left him about 30 short of the 3.1-per-game needed to qualify for the batting title, but he’ll likely make up that ground if he stays health for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Christian Guzman was leading the National League with a .327 batting average as of Memorial Day. That meant Ethier had a great cushion in his quest for the National League batting title even if he does not achieve the .400 batting average mark.
In home runs, Ethier lost little ground despite missing several games. He has 11 homers and is just two short of Corey Hart’s league-leading 13 homers. Four other players have 12 homers, and two more are tied at 11 with Ethier. Ethier’s RBI total, meanwhile, is 38, and that puts him just three shy of Casey mcGehee. The Milwaukee third baseman has 41 RBIs. Florida’s Jorge Cantu and Arizona’s Mark Reynolds each have 39 RBIs, and three National League players are tied with Ethier.
No player has won the Triple Crown since 1967, when Carl Yastremski accomplished it with the Boston Red Sox. The last National League player to win the Triple Crown was Joe Medwick, who accomplished the feat with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937.
Ethier’s quest is one that St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols nears almost every season. This year, though, Pujols hit an early slump, and his batting average took a serious dive. On May 30, though, Pujols belted three home runs and lifted his batting average to .314. He entered Memorial Day’s game with the Cincinnati Reds with 12 homers and 38 RBIs. Thus, he could have a shot to win the Triple Crown, too. Pujols’ chances, though, hinge greatly on how Ethier performs in his return. If Ethier’s batting average plummets, it could turn into a two-man Triple Crown race, and that might make September 2010 one to remember. So stay tuned, baseball fans.