Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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It has been an up an down year for Cleveland Indians fans. I would know as I am a big supporter of all Cleveland sports teams just like many of our followers. But for me, it hasn't been frustrating because we have been inconsistent or are not able to score runs when needed. That would be too easy. For me, my frustration lies behind our inability to beat the Detroit Tigers in 2013 and how we can’t stop Miguel Cabrera. If you haven't been keeping track Tribe fans, the Indians are 4-14 against the Tigers and 28-13 against the rest of the AL Central. The constant struggle to play well against the Tigers has kept the Indians from making any serious run at the divisional race. Maybe the final playoff spot is still in contention, but with the Indians just narrowly avoiding a sweep in Detroit, they need to begin stringing some wins together.
As I watched the Indians and Tigers play a couple innings the other night with some family, my dad made an interesting statement about Miguel Cabrera that got me thinking. He said, "I can't watch Cabrera anymore. All he does is kill the Tribe when he comes up to bat. I think he is juicing, but regardless if he is or isn't, this guy is the best hitter in baseball and we can't stop him." I thought about what he said for a while and it really made me wonder. How good is Miggy?
I think we have all heard over the past couple of weeks and months that Miguel Cabrera is on one of those all-time great hitting streaks. But numbers and history suggest that this may be way more than a streak. He really might be THAT good. Cabrera is leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging by posting a .358/.449/.681 slash line this season. He is also second in the league in home runs with 43, which is 4 behind leader Chris Davis of Baltimore with 47. If he continues this pace, and manages to catch Davis in home runs, he should win his second straight Triple Crown and will then have even achieved winning the Sextuple Crown. To put this into perspective for everyone, no one has ever won the Triple Crown two years in a row. Let that marinate for a couple of seconds. Then to go a step further, Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Chuck Klein and Carl Yastrzemski are the only other players to ever win the Sextuple Crown, and all five of them are in the Hall of Fame.
Cabrera is also in the prime of his career. He is currently 30 years-old and should be reaching the peak of his physical abilities. Cabrera hit 37 home runs at age 25 so we should have expected him to at least improve on those numbers, but maybe not to this extent. I read an article by Dave Schoenfield of ESPN.com that noted in a recent post that avoided players from the "steroid era", Cabrera has the best OPS+ (205) since Willie McCovey in 1969 (209) and is the first player since Barry Bonds in 1992 (his final season in Pittsburgh) to have an OPS+ over 200. I suggest taking a moment to remember how great of a baseball player Barry Bonds was and then you will understand how good of a hitter Cabrera is in 2013. It wasn’t long ago that Barry Bonds was being talked about as one of the best hitters of all time.
I love looking into the advanced metrics of athletics and baseball is the prime sport for digging deep into the stats behind the play on the field. Sabermetrics is the term for the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. In other words, Sabermetrics tries to answer the objective questions about baseball. Recently, I found a stat on Cabrera that I felt explained his offensive game in a nut-shell and we have Sabermetrics to thank for it. Miguel Cabrera is setting a new standard for himself in the weighted runs created plus (wRC+) column, which shows a player's ability to create runs compared to the average player. He currently has a wRC+ of 210 where 80-100 is the league average. Basically this means he is 110 percent better than the average player in the AL.
I am no baseball expert or scout but it is obvious that we are watching someone making history. I sort of feel like I am watching Jordan in his prime when I am watching Cabrera now-a-days. At age 30, Jordan recorded 32 PPG, over 6 RPG and 5.5 APG and completely dominated everyone he played. MJ literally retired because he had nothing else to prove in the NBA and he had only played in the league for 9 seasons. Cabrera has shown us glimpses of his ability in the past, but he has taken all of our expectations to another level these past two years. I wanted to write a piece on Miggy not because I like him as a player, athlete or person, but because I think he deserves our respect. As sports fans, we need to truly understand when we are witnessing greatness because it just doesn’t happen every year. At least not like this. Cabrera is making the case to become one of the best hitters in this generation and if he manages to win a second consecutive Triple Crown, then we may be witnessing one of the greatest hitters of all-time.