Miguel Cabrera Does Not Respect Inside Pitches

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers

I’m not the first person to point this out, so don’t give me all the credit, but Miguel Cabrera is a really good hitter who destroys the baseball pretty much anywhere it’s pitched. But this year, he’s crushing the inside pitch. He’s always been good, but this year we’re seeing a ton of homeruns on pitches that most hitters literally couldn’t even foul off.  Let’s take a look.

Here are his 38 HR so far with an approximate strikezone from the catcher’s perspective measured in feet:

pic1

Most of them have been in the zone, but there have been a handful that were way off the plate. Six to be precise. You’ll notice two that were just off the plate, but those seem human. The other six don’t. What do we know about those homeruns?

They were all fastballs.

None of them had more than 7.5 inches of horizontal movement.

They all came when the count was even or Cabrera was behind.

The slowest was 91 MPH, the fastest was 96 MPH. 

Five went to left field, one went to center field.

What have we learned from this demonstration? Probably something we already should have known. You can’t get Cabrera out inside and you especially can’t do with with run of the mill fastballs even when you’re ahead in the count. I looked at how you might try to get him out earlier this season and my advice was hard stuff up and away and breaking balls down and away. You have to make him chase, you can’t jam him inside because he can apparently hit homeruns on pitches two feet from the center of the plate.

But I was also curious if this was new for Cabrera. I don’t remember him hitting this many homeruns on inside pitches, which poses the question, “is he getting better?” Let’s take a look at all of his homeruns from 2008-2012:

pic2

Apparently, this isn’t terribly new for Cabrera. We might be noticing it more, but he’s been doing it forever even if he is a few ahead of his pace in 2013. Of the 16 pitches that he hit out from 2008-2012 on inside pitches, all of them were fastballs. None of them above 96 and only four came with Cabrera ahead in the count. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

If we do a quick search of every homerun that was off the plate inside to righties (not just the really far inside ones), Cabrera leads baseball by a ton. He has 53 homeruns on pitches off the plate inside since 2008, the next closest RHH is Ryan Zimmerman with 31.

In fact, his homerun against Phil Hughes last Saturday was the furthest inside pitch to be hit out by a righty since Pitch F/X started recording the data. In fact of the 11 most inside pitches hit out by righties since 2008, 6 of them are Miguel Cabrera. Now some of that is selection bias because he’s hit the most homeruns, but 6 of 11 is way of out proportion. He’s a monster.

miggy_composite

And he also does this. (Click to play if it doesn’t run automatically on your browser).

Editor’s Note: For more on this subject, the great Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs published a piece with the same premise less than a minute after this post went live. A lot of cool images and GIFs, go read it.

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