Every baseball fan knows about Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. The man is one of the most feared hitters in baseball, usually certain to reach 30 home runs and 100 RBI, not to mention hitting well above .300. He is a future Hall of Famer and, at age 34, is just 41 home runs away from 500 homers for his career.
But something has gone off the rails for Cabrera this year. He has struggled at the plate and, much like the fourth-place Tigers, appears off his game.
This should concern Tigers management, especially since Cabrera is being paid $28 million this year and has $184 million guaranteed remaining on his contract.
The two-time MVP is underperforming this year, but the reasons behind it will surprise you.
Miguel Cabrera’s numbers would suggest that he is declining. He is hitting a career-worst .259 with just 13 home runs and 56 RBI, though his .344 OBP shows his patience at the plate is still there.
But Cabrera has definitely not been himself this year, with his OPS at just .757 and nearly 200 points below his career mark. His BABIP is at .307, but his isolated power is down to .154 this year from .247 in 2016. He is striking out nearly 21% of the time, after doing so in just 17.1% of his at-bats last year.
Those numbers aren’t particularly encouraging, especially since Cabrera entered the 2017 season on an interesting streak. Entering this year, he had posted a WAR of 4 or higher every season since 2009. So far this year Cabrera has posted a career-worst 0.7 WAR this season and not even the hottest of streaks can bring it north of 4.
On numbers alone, it looks as though Cabrera’s underperformance this year is a signal of his decline.
Miguel Cabrera is underperforming this year, but to say he is declining hard after years of success is ridiculous. This is the same man who hit .316 with 38 home runs and 108 RBI last year, and that kind of ability doesn’t disappear overnight.
According to Cabrera his issues this year are health-related, per ESPN. In that report, the 11-time All-Star stated that he had been dealing with the hip, back, oblique, and groin issues that had plagued him during this year’s World Baseball Classic.
That’s a lot of injuries for one player to be dealing with at one time, especially a veteran like Cabrera. Former MLB catcher turned TV commentator Tim McCarver stated during a broadcast some years back that when his St. Louis Cardinals faced the New York Yankees in the 1964 World Series, he could hear star outfielder and injury poster boy Mickey Mantle grunt in pain whenever he swung the bat. One can only imagine Cabrera is experiencing something very similar this season.
That all being said, it’s fair to say Miguel Cabrera is having a down year for three reasons: injuries, injuries, and more injuries. Yes, he could sit out until he’s well again, but that’s not who he is. He puts his team first and plays if he thinks he can play even if he’s not at his best.
Here’s hoping he can be back at full strength next year and get right back where he belongs in the MVP race.
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