The Book on Miguel Cabrera

What People Think

So this should be pretty easy. The prevailing opinion on Cabrera is that he is among the best hitters in baseball. It is, in fact, that simple. Cabrera is no magician with the glove and he’s not fleet of foot, but he is a supremely talented hitter who does an adequate job at third base for someone who is better suited to play first.

What the Numbers Say

The numbers tell a story about Miguel Cabrera, and boy is it a doozy. I think the best way to demonstrate what his numbers say about him is this:

Here are three stat lines.

1) 37HR, 85R, 127RBI, .292/.349/.537

2) 33HR, 101R, 118RBI, .318/.395/.561

3) 44HR, 109R, 139RBI, .330/.393/.606

The first line is a representation of his worst big league season. The second is his average career line. The third was 2012. So what the numbers tell you is that Miguel Cabrera is at worst, an all-star caliber player, on average an MVP level player, and at best, a Hall of Fame type player.

What My Eyes Tell Me

I don’t think there’s any question that Cabrera is among the best hitters in the game. You can tell that by watching him or looking at his numbers or listening to anyone who knows anything.

What I see in Cabrera is an extraordinary talent driven by brute strength and exceptional hand eye coordination. Cabrera hits baseballs as hard and as purely as anyone I think I’ve ever seen in person. Everyone knows about his light-tower type power, but I’m more amazed by his ability to put force behind difficult pitches and shoot them between fielders for base hits. He seems capable of recognizing pitches a fraction of a second earlier than most anyone and he uses that to his advantage. Obviously he guesses wrong sometimes, but he’s among the best in the game at pitch recognition and reaction to said recognition. It shows.

On the bases, I actually think he’s pretty good at taking extra bases for someone who is as slow as he is. He knows what he’s doing, even if he can’t always capitalize on it. In the field, his arm is superb and his hands are good enough to play for me at third. His range is iffy, but I think his shortcomings are somewhat overstated. He’s not great, but I don’t think he’s terrible. In fact, I thought he was on his way to becoming a very good first baseman before the position change, so I can’t give him too much grief about not being an elite defender.

The Dotted Line

Cabrera’s contract runs through the 2015 season and will pay him $21M in 2013 and $22M in 2014-15. He’s certainly earning the 8 year, $153 deal he signed before 2008 considering the cost of a long term deal these days. The Tigers should be in no hurry to extend him as he is signed through his age 32 season, three years away. If he performs at a similar level for the next couple seasons, he could easily break the bank, but it’s too early to go there.

He’s a perennial MVP contender on a team dedicated to winning, and could easily be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Those are generally the players who try to keep in your uniform for their entire careers, but the time for that discussion is later.

Hypothetically, if he was a free agent right now, I don’t think 10 years, $280M+ would be out of the question at all. If the Tigers were looking to extend him, say another five years, the price would easily be in the $150M+ range.

Fantasyland

If you play fantasy baseball, draft him in the top five. He does everything at an elite level expect steal bases and is among the game’s most consistent performers. Draft him.

The Lead

Miguel Cabrera is one of the game’s best hitters and remains in his prime. We’re probably in for several more elite seasons and potentially a Hall of Fame plaque. He’s not the game’s best defender and he has a history of off the field issues (that we hope are over), but in spite of all of that, he’s probably one of the most valuable players in the game today.

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