I think most Tiger fans know that Miguel Cabrera is a special player, but it’s easy to take him for granted when we see him day in and day out. When I compare his career to other famous Detroit first basemen, I begin to wonder if he’s the type of player that’s liable to end up with a statue.
FanGraphs has a fun feature called “WAR Graphs” that allows users to compare players’ careers from different teams and different generations. I thought it would be fun to compare Miguel to Hank Greenberg, Norm Cash, and Cecil Fielder. I thought about substituting Rudy York for Cecil Fielder, but I wanted to have someone a little more recent in the group. (Click on the images for a larger version).
The first graph sorts and displays each players’ seasons in descending order of productivity. There are a few interesting thing here. Big Cecil’s best year (1990) was as productive as productive (from a WAR standpoint) as Cabrera’s best year (2006), but there’s not really much comparison after that.
Save one outstanding year, Norm Cash’s curve seems to match Cabby’s the closest (at least in the top four or five years). Hank Greenberg seems to be on a different planet from everyone else.
I really like this second graph. As the title indicates, it gives a cumulative total of each players’ WAR by age. From this graph, we see that Cabrera has matched the production of Greenberg through age 27, although Miguel achieved mark in one more year.
Norm Cash didn’t get his career started until a few years after the other guys, but after eight years, his production was on par with Cabrera’s.
It’s pretty safe to say that Miguel’s career has already been more successful than Fielders, and he’s well on his way to equaling (or surpassing) the production of Stormin’ Norman Cash. He’ll have to hustle to catch Hammerin’ Hank, but that’s not out of reach either. If Cabrera can average 6.2 WAR per season for the next five years, he’ll equal the Greenberg’s 13 year output. It’s a bit of a stretch, but he’s had two years of 6.2 or better in the last five years, and he’s probably just now in his prime.
Maybe he won’t end up as the best first baseman in club history, but it looks like he’ll be in the conversation for a while. Who knows, maybe one day your grand kids will pester you with questions about what it was like to watch Miguel Cabrera play ball.