Justin Morneau Legitimate Triple Crown Contender

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The Minnesota Twins are off to their best start in five years.  On this date in the season, they haven’t been more than one game above .500 since 2005.

While this is encouraging for Minnesota, they only have one man in the top 30 in ERA in the major leagues, leaving pitching as somewhat of a concern. So with average starting pitching, how has Minnesota gotten off to such a quick start atop the AL Central?

Being third in the MLB in batting average helps, and coming in ninth in runs doesn’t hurt, either. The man at the head of that offensive attack is the 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau.

Morneau has been hitting the cover off the ball the first two months of the season, with 19 multi-hit games within the first 45 he has played.

He is making a strong case for being the AL’s best first baseman, and the second best in all of baseball.  Hitting .377 with 11 HRs and 35 RBI, Morneau ranks first, fifth, and fifth in those respective categories in the A.L. With over-the-top numbers like these and the history Justin Morneau has, could we be in the midst of the first batting triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967?

Over his career, Morneau, undoubtedly aided by Joe Mauer’s prowess at the plate, has shown a knack for producing in the RBI department.  He finished second in the A.L. in RBI in 2006 and 2008, not so coincidentally, Joe Mauer won batting titles in those years.

Speaking of batting titles, Morneau seems intent on making Mauer look bad, as he is running away from the field in this category.  A full 29 points ahead of his closest competition Billy Butler and 39 points ahead of his acclaimed teammate Mauer, this category is no aspiration.  Morneau has hit over .300 twice in his career, in 2006 and 2008.  If you do the complicated math that comes with that he’s on an every other year basis of .300 hitting, and it would follow that he keeps up his hot stick going forward.

Justin Morneau Triple Crown

While Morneau is not the most powerful hitter in the league, he has clubbed 30+ home runs in three of the last four years.  While that won’t be enough to lead the A.L., the last two years the American League’s leader has had less than 40 home runs.

This leaves the door open for Morneau to have a small power spike and jump up to the top of the league.  I’m not ripping Jose Bautista, who currently leads the A.L. in homers, but before this season he had 59 career homers in 1,754 at bats.  He, Ty Wigginton, and Vlad “I fooled you all into thinking I’m still the Impaler” Guerrero are all ahead of Morneau in the home run standings, but won’t be there at the end.  Morneau’s main competition in this department will be Paul Konerko and Miguel Cabrera, both worthy adversaries.  This will without a doubt be the most difficult category for Morneau to achieve, but he’s in the right league to do it.

Morneau has been extremely impressive in the triple crown categories so far, but his most impressive stat happens to not be in the threesome of sexy stats.

Morneau’s on base percentage this year is at a staggering .493, 40 points ahead of Kevin Youkilis for the A.L. lead.  The last player to have an OBP above .450 in the A.L. was Jason Giambi’s .477 in his 2001 MVP season.

While it is only two months into the year, Morneau also leads the majors in slugging percentage and OPS, while ranking second in walks and sixth in doubles on top of his rankings in the three power categories and OBP.  Very impressive stuff.

While the Twins starting pitching remains a key to their success this year, the offensive success has, and always will, lie on the M and M boys.  While Mauer has been in the spotlight since he got to the league, Justin Morneau is beginning to creep onto the stage and draw a little of the fans and media’s attention away from Mauer.

An MVP didn’t get him the recognition he deserves, a home run derby title couldn’t do it either.  The man that has been overshadowed by others his whole career would certainly get all the praise and stardom he deserves if he wins the triple crown.

-Mike Gallagher

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  1. paulmbanks says

    Good to have you back Gallagher! As a Sox fan, I hate Morneau which is a huge compliment to him

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