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Deep Thoughts: Miguel Cabrera on pace for …

May 24, 2013, 10:32 AM EDT

miguel cabrera getty Getty Images

There’s a lot of projecting Miguel Cabrera‘s season forward going on today. Saw Buster Olney doing it on Twitter. They’re doing it at High Heat Stats today too. If you play the on-pace game, Cabrera could have, like, 200 RBI.

Odds don’t favor that, of course. He’s likely to slump at some point. Well, maybe. He kind of looks like he’s NEVER going to slump, to be honst. He’s just impossible to pitch to these days. If you haven’t had a chance to watch many Tigers games lately make a point to see some, because it’s not often you see someone toying with pitchers the way Cabrera has been lately.

But I am torn about this whole on-pace thing. On the one hand, I’d like to see him challenge a record of some kind because history is fun. And the record most in need of challenging in my view is Hack Wilson’s RBI record. That needs refreshing, I think, if for no other reason than that I selfishly and subjectively think a player better than Hack Wilson should hold that record.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what I’d do if a historic season for Cabrera turned into months of people talking about how what Cabrera is doing proves that RBI is a be-all, end-all statistic when it clearly isn’t in terms of individual player evaluation. Man, that would make the old school crowd insufferable.

Maybe we can compromise and he can challenge .400. Batting average is flawed too, but not nearly as much as RBI. I think I could live with overheated batting average talk better.

  1. raysfan1 - May 24, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    I’ve always liked Hack Wilson having that record because it’s such an excellent name for a hitter.

    • rufuscornpone - May 24, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Because Baseball was downright silly in the late-20s, early 30s, there are some amazing stats on that Cubs team

      1. Three players scored 140 or more runs
      2. Seven players had at least 300 PAs….five of them hit .330 or higher, four of them hit higher than .350
      3. Gabby Hartnett had 122 RBIs. He finished 3rd on the team.
      4. Collectively, the team hit .309/.378/.481 For a comparison, consider that George Brett hit .305/.369/.487 for his career.
      5. …they also only finished 3rd in baseball in runs scored.

  2. Ben - May 24, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Obviously he can’t keep hitting .390, but he’s cut his strikeout rate to the lowest of his career. It’s incredible that it’s possible that he’s gotten a bit better. Or pitchers just aren’t bothering to challenge him.

    • scatterbrian - May 24, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      Perhaps it’s unlikely, but obviously? It’s been done before, it can be done again.

    • aiede - May 24, 2013 at 3:14 PM

      By some advanced stats, his 2012 Triple Crown season wasn’t his best to date. Among other things, he was 16 points under his career BABIP last season, 34 points under his 2011 first batting title season. His OBP was under his career average, as well.

      As a Tigers fan who’s been privileged to watch him over the past few years, what seems to be happening with his improvement is less growing physical skills (although the move to 3B and the attendant weight loss did seem to help) and more just that he keeps getting smarter as a hitter.

      When you listen to other players talk about him, they rarely talk about his physical gifts as they did with the steroid boys. What they talk about with Miggy is how smart he is, and the adjustments he makes not just between ABs but even from pitch to pitch.

  3. mianfr - May 24, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    I think batting average stops being flawed once you get into the extremes…

    It would take such an exceptional amount of luck for a true .290 or even .300 hitter to get it that I think once you talk about a person like Miguel Cabrera approaching .400 it’s fine in normal conversation.

    Talking about this no-name quad-A player coming up and “holding his own” with a .280 average and the occasional game-winning RBI in 70 plate appearances, batting average is pretty flawed.

    • Kevin S. - May 24, 2013 at 11:03 AM

      BA is flawed because of how incomplete a descriptor of batting value it is. Even at the extemes, there’s a massive value difference between .400/.450/.500 and .400/.600/.700.

      • 18thstreet - May 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        Well, three good number are always going be better than one good number. The question that Mianfr poses is whether knowing batting average (at the extemes) is sufficient. Can a bad hitter have a .400 batting average for a full season? Can a good hitter have a .150 batting average for a full season? I’d say no. At the extremes, batting average tells you enough. Most players don’t live at the extremes, though, so I’m not sure what the point is.

      • mianfr - May 24, 2013 at 12:53 PM

        Yeah, but we’re not really looking at the other things at all for this, just one specific skill. That .400/.600/.700 hitter could be the worst defender in the history of baseball and cost his team so many runs he’s about a replacement level player, making him almost worthless, but that doesn’t make him not a good hitter even if he isn’t as valuable on the whole.

  4. randygnyc - May 24, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    I’d like him to claim the single season HR record. I’m assuming he’s clean and will continue to until proven otherwise. So, I’d like to see the record broken by someone who did it without cheating.

    Now, wouldn’t it be something to see him break all three single season records, hr, avg and RBI in winning another triple crown? If anyone can ever do it, it’s him. He should be the Yankees DH, btw.

    • Detroit Michael - May 24, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      Leaving aside the steroid contrast, Cabrera doesn’t have the kind of upper cut home run swing that late career McGuire and late career Bonds had, so I don’t see how he could hit more than 73 homers in a season.

      • dondada10 - May 24, 2013 at 11:13 AM

        I think if he wanted to, Miggy could hit 70 homers and bat ~.260. He’s just too smart for that.

      • 18thstreet - May 24, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        The best chance to threaten the 73 homer mark probably requires playing in a very good home run hitters ballpark.

        http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor/_/year/2012/sort/HRFactor

        And seeing Miller Park and Great American Ball Park at the top of that list (and Wrigley Field’s always good in the summer for homers), I think a player in the NL Central has the best chance of breaking the record.

    • historiophiliac - May 24, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      That last sentence ruined everything.

    • nbjays - May 24, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      The RBI record I could maybe see. The HR record is doubtful, he’s not a pure power hitter like Bonds and McGwire were.

      As for the Batting Average record… do you SERIOUSLY think he’ll bat .425 for the season? Not in the real world, anyway.

  5. robdog0721 - May 24, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    He’s on pace for a 50 game suspension once they catch him being dirty.

    • ezthinking - May 24, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      Go watch football.

  6. skeleteeth - May 24, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Only thing worth anything:

    last 161 games for Cabrera

    .355 BA, 1.092 OPS, 50 HRs, 159 RBI, 125 Runs, 222 Hits, 419 Total Bases, 97 strikeouts

    • hisgirlgotburrelled - May 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      Even with an offseason in between those are still really impressive numbers.

      Those are numbers that could even impress Danny Espinosa.

  7. scoobies05 - May 24, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    all stats are flawed in some regard. there are no prefect stats. but to say batting avg is not a good measure is ridiculous. same with rbi. and what happened to the eye test…look at whats in front of you. good players will have good stats more often than not. bad players wont. really its pretty simple

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 24, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      but to say batting avg is not a good measure is ridiculous.

      Is it really? Here’s two hitters career BA (took this year’s out due to SSS). Going strictly by BA, which would you prefer

      A – career .299
      B – career .298

      If we just go by BA, congrats as you just took Placido Polanco over Barry Bonds. Kevin S couldn’t have said it any better above.

      • grumpyoleman - May 24, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        I’d take the one not doing steroids regardless.

      • raysfan1 - May 24, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        …and can you be certain that Polanco never tried steroids and never used any other PED? Of course not, this post isn’t about PEDs anyway.

      • grumpyoleman - May 24, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        Actually this post is about Miguel Cabrera but thanks for playing.

      • raysfan1 - May 24, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        You replied to COPO. The comparison COPO used was between Bonds and Polanco to demonstrate to another commenter that BA is not a good stand-alone stat to evaluate a hitter. Since you responded to COPO without using players’ names, you implied–intentionally or not–that you would take Polanco over Bonds based on Bonds’ PED use.

        Now if you had said something like “I believe Cabrera is clean, and we know Bonds wasn’t when he broke the HR record; therefore, I’d pick Cabrera over Bonds,” I would have never replied to your comment in the first place.

        I’m well aware of the fact the original article was about Cabrera. COPO’s comment was about batting averages and did not use Cabrera in his note.

        You’re welcome.

      • weaselpuppy - May 24, 2013 at 7:46 PM

        If there was one guy who could challenge Barroid for skull size inflation, it was Polanco…freakishly large head just appears midway in his career? I love PP, called the exact trade to the Tigers for him 8 months before it happened…but yeah. Juicer.

  8. charlutes - May 24, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    You gotta look at it this way Craig:
    In an era where pitchers are throwing harder than ever, and many prolific hitters juiced to keep up, including some who would have had legendary hall of fame careers even without the juice like Bonds, Miggy is doing this. I know you hate steroids arguments and I know pitchers juiced too, but assuming Miggy is clean, which I do, he might be the greatest hitter of all time straight up.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 24, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      he might be the greatest hitter of all time straight up.

      I know hyperbole is the best thing ever, but come on. The greatest hitter of all time? Cabrera’s career OBP is .397. Ted Williams OBP is 85 pts higher. Williams career SLG is .634 to Cabrera’s .565, and Cabrera hasn’t even hit his decline period yet so expect it to drop. Cabrera’s highest oWAR on bref is 7.9. Williams beat that seven times.

    • rufuscornpone - May 24, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      So many problems with this:

      1. Bonds was a better hitter pre-steroids. From 1990-1998, he posted a 181 OPS+, a number Cabrera so far this year but has never touched before.

      2. From the ages of 21-30, Albert Pujols was clearly a better by a notable margin.

      3. Ruth, Gehrig, Musial, Williams….

      4. His career OPS+ is 153. That’s really great, even when we consider he hasn’t hit the downside of his career yet! It also ranks 28th all-time.

      Can we just settle for “Miguel Cabrera is really fucking awesome at hitting a baseball”. Why does everyone always have to claim that somebody is the best ever when they clearly aren’t?

    • eightyraw - May 24, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      He might not even be the best hitter born in 1983. Step back from the hyperbole.

  9. eagles512 - May 24, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    RBIs have become underrated. Runs still determine who wins and loses.

    • rufuscornpone - May 24, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      But RBIs aren’t runs. RBIs are dependent on those around you.

      Yes, if you drive in 150 runs, you are probably really fucking awesome. But there are much better ways to tell. I would go with the whole “leading the league in home runs in OBP and slugging by a huge margin” as a better indicator.

      …or do you want to tell me that Ruben Sierra and his .678 OPS were awesome in 1993?

      • aiede - May 24, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        Having lots of RBIs is a sign that you’re a really good hitter in a decent lineup.

        Otherwise, you’re Giancarlo Stanton.

    • rufuscornpone - May 24, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      Quick eagles, who was better: Mickey Mantle or Joe Carter?

      I mean, sure Mantle only had 4 100 RBI seasons, as where Joe Carter had 10! Clearly Joe Carter is better because runs determine who wins or loses.

      Also, RIckey Henderson never drove in more than 74 runs. That dude totally sucks.

  10. historiophiliac - May 24, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Actual conversation with my dad last weekend watching the game:

    Dad: What’s his average?
    Me: three eighty-something
    Dad: Get real.
    Me: No, look it up.

    • indaburg - May 24, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      :-) Hug your dad.

      • historiophiliac - May 24, 2013 at 7:12 PM

        That ol’ coot.

      • indaburg - May 24, 2013 at 8:52 PM

        Yeah, that old coot. I wish I could have that talk with my dad. He would have said the same thing to me too.

  11. Old Gator - May 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Nice contrast in courtroom appearances, too. Hack Wilson was once arrested – can’t recall for what – and when brought before the Chicago judge, the judge said something like, “Ossifer, don’t you know this is Hack Wilson? Don’t you ever arrest him again!”

    Miggy, though….

  12. scoobies05 - May 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    so polanco had a higher avg then bonds…ok thats one stat.. and as i said whatever happened to the eye test. lots of players hit better avgs then bonds. but to throw out 2 players and 1 stat certainly doesnt prove your point

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 24, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      You stated that BA was a good measure as a stat. It’s not, and I showed you why. We can also take a hitter like Juan Pierre and his .295 BA vs a guy like Carlos Beltran and his .283. Beltran also has more power, is a far more efficient base stealer, and a better defender. Since BA treats a single just like a HR, it has huge issues with it as a reliable stat. Don’t use it.

    • rufuscornpone - May 24, 2013 at 5:06 PM

      but to throw out 2 players and 1 stat certainly doesnt prove your point

      Actually, it proved his point very well. The correct response should of been “Good point, Obviously Bonds is a much better hitter than Polanco. You’re clearly right. I will utilize this new information in my future postings and not defend the indefensible like an asshole.”

  13. mungman69 - May 24, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Hack Wilson weighed 190 lbs. and was 5’6″ and looked a lot like a fire plug.

  14. detroitr1 - May 24, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Why is it that whenever there is a mention of something Cabrera does on this site, it has somehow gets inverted into a backhanded compliment? Miggy hitting .389? Reference Barry Bonds’ hitting streak earlier this decade (but conveniently leave out the part about his hat/shoe size growth during that same duration). Cabrera on pace for 200 RBIs? Diminish RBIs and people who value them:

    As Craig states about not valuing RBIs:

    “Man, that would make the old school crowd insufferable.”

    Can’t he just get props for being good the “old school” way without seemingly having to qualify it all the time?

    You know, guys on base–they score. Pitches left up, they go out.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 24, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      Reference Barry Bonds’ hitting streak earlier this decade (but conveniently leave out the part about his hat/shoe size growth during that same duration).

      No one mentions a hitting streak by Bonds. Are you talking about the reference to his OPS+ streak with the Pirates, because that’s mentioned. All evidence points to Bonds taking PEDs after the HR chase by McGwire/Sosa, so taking his stats before then is a way to look at, possibly, pre-PED Bonds.

      Taking it even further back, look at Bonds thru his age 30 season. He has an OPS+ of 159 (Cabrera is 153). Cabrera’s highest OPS+ is the 207 he’s putting up this year, prior to that it’s 179. Bonds already had a 206, 204 and 183 at that time.

      Seriously people. Go look at baseball-reference.com and check out Bonds information with Pittsburgh. It’s not like he went from Alex Sanchez to Mark McGwire overnight, after reaching SF. he SLG .677 for an entire year in ’93!

    • historiophiliac - May 24, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      Don’t take the bait. Just homer it up whenever there’s a Miggy awesomeness post.

      Miggy MVP!!!!

  15. eightyraw - May 24, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    On-pace arguments should find a sample of similar player seasons through the same amount of games played and then look at the final line of those players.

  16. missingdiz - May 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    I always cherished the memory of Hack Wilson because he was shorter and heavier than me. But I looked at his stats–39 homers, 56 homers, then no more than 23. Clearly he was on PEDs–probably had acne on his back, too.

    I wish Cabrera all the best, but the one thing you can say about projections is that they are almost always wrong. One other thing, in 1969 Reggie Jackson had 37 homers at the All-Star break.

  17. Ponsonby_Britt - May 24, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    “He kind of looks like he’s NEVER going to slump, to be honst.”

    That’s true.

    But the last time you omitted a vowel (as in above), you ended up with ‘Dog Fister’.

    That’s also true.

  18. eagles512 - May 25, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    I wasn’t saying RBIs are the end all-just that they’ve become underrated.

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