Miguel Cabrera consistently puts up big, MVP-like numbers year in and year out, but sometimes I get the feeling fans take it for granted and can't help but to unreasonably yearn for more. Here's a response to one of those fans...
Miguel Cabrera has a .315/.395/.960 hitting line, over 130 home runs, over 430 runs batted in, and close to 400 runs scored in his career as a Detroit Tiger. Miguel Cabrera has been a Tiger for a couple months shy of four full seasons. Let's assume the season ended today -- that'd be an average of 33 homers, nearly 110 runs batted in, and over 90 runs scored per season. Again, this season isn't over, so, although most fans would be satisfied with those numbers out of their first baseman on a yearly basis, as it stands now, those averages will only go up for Miguel Cabrera by the end of this season.
To focus on this year in particular, Miguel Cabrera has knocked in 14-percent of the runs scored by the Tigers this season, second only to Curtis Granderson and Adrian Gonzalez's 15-percent in the American League. And, since runs batted in is largely dictated by how often the teammates in front get on base, let's also note that Miguel Cabrera has knocked in and scored nearly 30-percent of the Tigers runs this season. Only Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista have been involved in more runs for their respective teams in the AL. In terms of just flat out hitting, Bautista is the only AL hitter who rocks a higher OPS than Miguel Cabrera's .981 this season.*
And Miguel Cabrera puts up numbers like that on the reg, so regular that it can be easy to take for granted. In fact, do a Google search for "taking something for granted" and Miguel Cabrera's Baseball Reference page pops up ... (Okay, it won't, but how many people checked to see?)
At least that's what it seems like sometimes. For instance this reader column on Freep.com, written by friend Greg Eno, suggests it's time for Miguel Cabrera to carry the Tigers on his back or, in other words, get better (and it's the second time he's written something like this, too!):
In Sept. 2009 to be exact, when I crabbed that Cabrera was shortchanging his teammates as the Tigers' lead in the AL Central -- which ballooned to 7 1/2 games at one point in the month -- shrunk almost daily.
Here I go again---because here Cabrera doesn't go again.
It's almost like Mr. Eno is talking about a different Miguel Cabrera, a Miguel Cabrera that isn't on a 12-game hitting streak right now, the second one he's had this season.
Unless it is being suggested that Miguel Cabrera start offering free piggy-back rides in the clubhouse, I'm not exactly sure how a hitter can carry a team's offense more than Miguel Cabrera already does over the course of a full season. He leads the team in every major hitting category and, as mentioned above, is only inferior to a couple players in the entire league. Analogically put, asking Miguel Cabrera to be a better hitter is like asking the sun to be brighter, asking ScarJo to be hotter, asking Paris Hilton to be more worthless, asking Jim Leyland to put out a less rigid lineup, asking the Tigers to stop making deadline deals with the Mariners when they're in the middle of a pennant race (because, as my brother put it, the Mariners suck for a reason) or ... okay, I'll stop there; I think you get the picture.
Mr. Eno has a rebuttal, though:
Baloney, I say, to those who would tell me that I expect too much from Miguel Cabrera. Look at his numbers, they'll say. He grinds out an MVP-like season almost annually.
So how come Cabrera has never truly put the Tigers on his back for an extended period of time? Has he? Go ahead -- I'll wait while you come up with some examples. Or one, even. [...]
It's troubling that, up until now, he has no track record of catching fire and carrying the Tigers. Numbers can sometimes lie. It's time for Cabrera to make them as truthful as possible in these final seven weeks of the 2011 season. The Tigers need him, and more than he's been giving them.
Mustard, sir. I mean, REALLY!? You can't dismiss the "look at his numbers" argument and then ask us to look at his numbers and report back. I'm coming up with some examples, but I'm not happy about the time I had to waste here...
To step back for a moment, Mr. Eno's column in September 2009 was somewhat fair because it was Miguel Cabrera's worst month of the season (a still very solid .280/.385/.865 and, oh, a season high seven home runs). Obviously that did not count as "putting the Tigers on his back" or "catching fire" by Mr. Eno's standards, but what about the two months prior to that - when Miguel Cabrera hit .340/.400/.960 over a 50-plus game stretch? How would you describe April that same year when Cabrera hit .377/.455/1.013? What about April 29 to May 20 that year when he hit .391/.455/1.107? Does Chris Shelton's 2006 April constitute "catching fire"? Remember how historically rare and record breaking that April was? I know it was specifically tabbed as such for the home run total through 13 games, but his final line that month was .326/.404/1.186 and Miguel Cabrera eclipsed Shelton's RBI total for that month four times last year alone.
As for this year, c'mon, look at Miguel Cabrera's April and June. If you're really looking to be wowed, look at the six game stretch from April 29 through May 4 when Miguel Cabrera hit .500/.607/1.507 and had at least one RBI in every single game, which is tough to do when the hitters in front of him have a combined on-base percentage just over .300. Miguel Cabrera had an even more impressive seven-game stretch at the end of June. Small blocks of games, sure, but they make up the larger chunks that ultimately make up those MVP-like seasons almost annually; he doesn't get there without catching fire three or four times a year.
So, yeah, look at the numbers and you'll find the answers to all the questions asked above. Instead of worrying about Miguel Cabrera, how about turning the focus to lesser hitters and hoping they can crank it up a notch to help lessen the load on the backs of Verlander or Cabrera? Can we really ask for more out of Miguel Cabrera without sounding like -- excuse my turn of phrase -- greedy pricks?
The answer is in the numbers. Turn the page and find another goat on the Tigers, because when it's all said and done, Miguel Cabrera will be in conversations as another kind of G.O.A.T., we'll all refer to him by full name at all times out of respect, and we'll all undoubtedly be sad because he's gone and all we'll have to be excited about at first base is the next Eric Munson.
*numbers crunched on August 14