The name strikes fear into the hearts of American League pitchers from New York to L.A. He won the triple crown last year, and many of his ‘13 stats eclipsed the historic season. To acquire a more broad view, here is Cabrera’s per-year-average batting line based on 10+ seasons:
His career ratio of Ks to HRs is 3:1. Yes, for every three strikeouts, Miguel cranks one out of the park. Before being shipped off to Detroit in ‘07, Miggy was batting .313 lifetime with 138 HRs in 720 games/4.5 seasons. In the past few seasons, as the Tigers have shaped into a formidable team, the slugger is finally being given the attention his talent deserves. Down in the heat of Miami, though, we’ve always known about Miggy.
It has been around ten years since Miguel Cabrera’s illustrious major league debut. Marlins fans know the tale well. The Fish were hosting the Rays at Pro Player Stadium, and great pitching was dominating. By the first out in the bottom of the fourth, the game was tied at one apiece via a sac fly for Tampa, and a ground out RBI for Florida. The box score shows a final total of 6 hits per team. With one out and one on in the 11th, Miguel Cabrera was going to the plate for the fifth time.
The 20 year old, baby faced string bean of a rookie didn’t look like much in his very first game in the majors. He’d gone 0-4 through the first 10 innings (sidenote: Miggy started in LF, batting 8th), which didn’t fall in line with all the hype he stirred up in the minors. In his final at bat, Miguel obliterated the misconception. He rocked the first pitch he saw out of the park, leading to a celebratory walk off win. In extra innings, presumably for panache. It marked the start of his offensive career; this was his first hit in the big leagues. After the game, 2003’s latest Marlin hero had this to say: “They got me out the first four times, but I told myself they are throwing a lot of fastballs, so I am going to look for a first-pitch fastball.”
A player’s first hit coming with dramatic, walk-off homer theatrics doesn’t preclude him becoming a member of the baseball elite. 114 players have hit a HR in their first at-bat, but only 2 went on to the hall of fame–Earl Averill of the ‘29 Indians, and Hoyt Wilhelm of the ‘56 NY Giants. Only 7 hitters included in the tally managed 200+ bombs in their career. Miguel didn’t get the first HR in his first at bat, but regardless, he’s the exception to the rule.
Fast forward to present day. Miguel Cabrera has come a long ways since his days as the NL’s best kept secret. He gives teams mental fits, even with no legs as Keith Olbermann likes to point out. Prior to game 1 of the 2013 ALCS, Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke about pitching strategies with Miggy at the plate: “I think we still see some of the strengths that he has, which are many. But if you make a mistake on the outer part of the plate, you’re going to pay for it. You hope that you can find ways to, I don’t want to say contain him, but maybe minimize the damage that the situations present themselves”.
It’s all but unanimous; Miguel Cabrera is the most dominant hitter currently playing the game. Some even argue he’s the best ever. The probability that we will see Miguel Cabrera in the hall of fame is very high, but not set in stone. However, what we can be certain of is something long-suffering Marlins fans have always known: for every three strikeouts, the kid can deliver one moment of pure magic.