Man, Miguel Cabrera is a good hitter. This is no news flash, of course, but he has now reached that level of consistency -- not unlike, say, Henry Aaron in the 1950s and 1960s -- where you don’t even think about it anymore. And because you don’t think about it, well, you don’t think about it, and then you come upon a Tigers game and you watch Cabrera in the batter’s box with his perfect balance, his calm, his controlled swing, and you remember: This guy is one of the best who ever lived at hitting a baseball.
Here’s a quick and easy way to tell how hard and consistently someone hits a baseball: Add up his home runs and doubles. See how often that number is at 70 or above. You might be surprised how rarely it happens. Mickey Mantle, for instance, only did it twice. One of those was in 1961, when he hit 70 on the nose with 54 homers and 16 doubles. Mantle’s doubles numbers are strikingly low. George Brett, as just one example of many, never reached 70.
You will not be surprised to know that the two players who have hit that 70 number most often are Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols, each with 11. Lou Gehrig and Manny Ramirez are next with nine. Hank Aaron had eight along with a surprise … Carlos Delgado. From 1997 to 2003, Delgado had 70 homers plus doubles every year. Of course, that was smack in the middle of the Selig Era, with baseballs flying everywhere, but Delgado hit screamers all over the park in those days.
Miguel Cabrera has seven seasons with 70-plus … seven of the last eight years. Look:
2005: 76 (43 doubles, 33 homers)
2006: 76 (50 doubles, 26 homers)
2007: 72 (38 doubles, 34 homers)
2008: 73 (36 doubles, 37 homers)
2009: 68 (34 doubles, 34 homers)
2010: 83 (45 doubles, 38 homers)
2011: 78 (48 doubles, 30 homers)
2012: 79 (38 doubles, 41 homers)
This is stupefying consistency. It’s mind-blowing … except, you know, there’s one guy who has been even more consistently awesome. You know, many of us have long thought that a big reason why Tim Raines is so underrated is because he played in the same era as Rickey Henderson. If Raines had played before Henderson or if he played now, you would marvel at his six seasons of 70-plus stolen bases, his .385 lifetime on-base percentage, his six season of 100-plus runs (twice leading the league), his genius for base running. Across the long history of baseball, he’s one of the greatest leadoff hitters ever. But in his own time, in pretty much every way, he was Henderson’s junior (who wasn’t?) and so he never stood up well in the comparisons. When people think of him, they think second-best. This is my only explanation for how he continues to be so ignored in the Hall of Fame voting.
Cabrera happens to play in the time of Pujols. And, in pretty much every way, he’s Pujols’ junior. But who isn’t? On Tuesday, Cabrera had another one of his days – 3-for-4, two homers, a double, six RBIs and three runs scored. He hit another homer on Wednesday. He leads the American League in hitting, slugging and RBIs, he’s fifth in doubles and he’s second in homers, and he was probably even better last year.
I happen to think that Mike Trout should be a dead lock for the MVP this year because he’s having one of the greatest years of our lifetime when you consider offense, defense, base running and everything else. Right now, I would probably vote Cabrera second. Last year, I think Cabrera might have deserved to be second in the MVP voting, too. The year before that, he finished second in the MVP voting. The year before that, he had an argument for a second-place vote, too.
It’s just his fortune. Second-best. But man oh man can Miggy Cabrera hit baseballs.