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What is the Triple Crown of Pitching?

Major League Baseball: What is the Triple Crown of Pitching?

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

The triple crown of pitching, while not as followed or cherished as the triple crown of hitting, is still a massive achievement. In order to win the triple crown of pitching, a thrower must lead the league in all three of the following categories--wins, ERA, and strikeouts. A pitcher must have a lot of skills to win the triple crown of pitching.

To win all three categories, a pitcher is unquestionably the best pitcher in his league in that given season. First of all, he is winning games for his team by leading the league in victories. He is also holding teams to fewer runs than any other pitcher in the league, meaning he's giving his team the best chance to win every time he steps on the mound. And by leading the league in strikeouts, he isn't just getting guys out, but he's mowing opposing batters down.

As of this writing, the National and American leagues have each had 16 winners of the triple crown of pitching since 1900. It's easier to win than the triple crown of hitting, of which has happened only 14 times in both leagues since 1900. Still, it's only happened 32 times since 1900, making it stand out as a remarkable achievement, even if the triple crown of batting is more rare and more celebrated by fans and media.

Technically, all a pitcher needs to do to win the triple crown of pitching is have one great year. Still, the names that grace this list are legends for the most part. Some of the names from the older days who have won this honor include Hall of Fame pitching legends like Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, Lefty Grove, Lefty Gomez, Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, and more recently--Sandy Koufax. Among more recent members of the triple crown of pitching fraternity are Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson. Contemporaries who have done it include Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw.

It's certainly not an easy feat. It shows that you are winning, dominant, and that your pitches are among the most un-hittable in baseball. To lead the league in any three categories that decide the triple crown of pitching, you have to be a really good pitcher. But usually different kinds of pitchers lead those categories. To win the triple crown of pitching, you have to be all those guys.

There is some luck involved. A pitcher who is on a bad team may lack run production, thus costing him some wins along the way. He could even have poor relief pitching cost him some victories if his bullpen isn't holding onto leads he created. So a certain number of stars have to align correctly in order to win a triple crown of pitching.

It may depend on who your contemporaries are. Some years, there's some dynamo putting up crazy strikeout numbers no one can touch. Or there just aren't many shutdown guys in the league at that particular time. Maybe one of the better pitchers changed leagues. Or perhaps the best young pitchers haven't totally matured yet or the best veteran hurlers have reached a point where they are past their primes. But make no mistake--winning the triple crown of pitching is not a byproduct of luck. It takes skill and dominance.


No pitcher has ever won the triple crown of pitching in both leagues. Some players have done it multiple times since 1900--a reliable benchmark of greatness. Those names include Walter Johnson (3 times), Christy Mathewson (2 times), Grover Alexander (3 times), Lefty Grove (2 times), Lefty Gomes (2 times), Sandy Koufax (3 times), and Roger Clemens (two times). Koufax, incredibly, won the triple crown of pitching in 3 of his final four seasons. You can see doing it more than once has only been accomplished by the some of the best pitchers in history.

In 2011, both Justin Verlander (Tigers) and Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) won the triple crown of pitching in their respective leagues. There have been long droughts between triple crowns. Hal Newhouser won it in the American League in 1945 and no one did it again in the AL until Clemens in 1997. But with some dominant pitchers spread around the league, we're starting to see it happen more often nowadays.

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