Cleat Geeks

Tiger Time: Cabrera Still Among Elite Hitters

Going into 2016, Detroit Tigers fans had the pleasure of seeing their superstar, Miguel Cabrera, fully healthy and fully functioning for the first time in a few seasons.

But still, at age 33, Miggy continues to show that he’s still among baseball’s elite hitters and is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, that this generation has seen.miguel-cabrera

While playing with various nagging injuries over most of the past three seasons, Cabrera has still managed to win two batting titles and was in position to repeat his 2012 Triple Crown performance in 2013. However, injuries served to derail him a bit, most notably cutting a large chunk of his 2015 season out during July and August. Coming into 2016 fully healthy Cabrera struggled out of the gate in 2016 and failed to warm up as quickly as fans had wanted.

But, in typical fashion, here we are in late September. The Tigers sit on the brink of a wild card spot and, despite his slow start, Miggy sits with a batting average better than .310, with 36 home runs, and 105 RBI, making for his 12th 100+ RBI season in his career.

miguelcabrera2Admittedly, I’m not the greatest with advanced metrics. I know players like Mike Trout have been more valuable to their respective teams than Cabrera has been to the Tigers. But, to me, they aren’t really needed to come to the conclusion that Cabrera (or anyone of his caliber, for that matter) is a great hitter.

On the surface, Cabrera’s stats speak for themselves. On his career, Miggy is hitting above a .320 clip, has belted 443 career home runs, driving in more than 1,500, and has amassed over 2,500 hits.

He has four batting titles, including three consecutive from 2012-2014 (the first to do so since Tony Gwynn, the first righty to do so since Rogers Hornsby) and two home run titles to compliment his 2012 Triple Crown performance, the first in all of baseball since 1967.  Based on these numbers alone you could make a legitimate hall of fame case for him now. And he’s only 33.

Watching on a game-to-game basis you get spoiled seeing such a great hitter at work. But, despite being spoiled, you also get to see just how high of a baseball IQ he has. I know it’s outlandish, but I’m convinced that he can choose exactly where he’s going to place the ball when it comes off of his bat.

During at bats, from pitch to pitch, he’s proven capable of making micro-adjustments depending on how a pitcher is going about pitching to him; he’ll adjust according to the situation; if you need a base hit to drive in a run or two, he’s your guy. If you need to send one over the fence to help the score or bring the crowd back into it, he’s your guy. There are only a handful of guys that come to mind when you think of guys that can single-handedly turn the tide of a game at any given moment in time.

And I’ve seen it happen firsthand.

Scene: Comerica Park, downtown Detroit, Michigan. August 17th, 2013: A beautiful summer’s night of baseball in the midst of the playoff race against a division rival as the Tigers met the Kansas City Royals.comericaparknight

Characters: Miguel Cabrera, a then-MVP candidate, Aaron Crow, an all-star relief pitcher, and Salvador Perez, Kansas City’s young, game-calling catcher.

Cabrera came to the plate in 5-5 game to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning. As soon as his name came over the PA system 43,000 fans rose to their feet and let out a roar of anticipation. Everybody knew what he wanted to do. More than that, everyone knew what he was going to do. To everyone in attendance it was a matter of “when”, not “if”, he was going to end that game there and then.

From the first pitch of the at-bat it was obvious that Crow wanted nothing to do with Cabrera. So, accordingly, Perez set up shop on the outside of the plate, leading Crow to pitch him away and out of the strike zone.

Suffice it to say that it didn’t matter.

Knowing Crow’s approach, on a 3-1 pitch, Cabrera proceeded to take an outside pitch and flip it almost effortlessly over the right field fence, sending the Comerica Park faithful home celebrating a 6-5 Tigers victory.

Then, the very next day, Cabrera went deep again on the first pitch he saw.

This scenario can serve as proof that baseball fans of all generations and from all teams know that we’ve been watching something special in Miguel Cabrera.

And it’s not just me saying this.

Coming from three generations of baseball fans my family has seen a lot of great, hall of fame talent over the years. And my grandfather (who, mind you, has watched the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg (I’d be remiss to not mention him, as a Tigers fan), just to name a few) has told me on multiple occasions, without any doubt, that Miguel Cabrera is the greatest hitter he’s ever seen.

Despite any doubts than any baseball fans had earlier this season, we’ve been shown, rather convincingly, that Miggy does, indeed, still have it.

Do you think Miggy is still an elite hitter? Do you think he’s overrated or on the cusp of being a washed up, has-been? Let me know in the comments below!


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