The Tigers have gotten off to a sluggish start to the 2012 season and there are many reasons why. The most glaring of which is the bullpen, who have painfully blown six leads when leading after 7 innings. For a team that was 77-0 in 2011 when leading after 7 innings, six losses is a major surprise. Unfortunately there are many other culprits that deserve blame. Ryan Raburn has a pitcher-like .409 OPS, Prince Fielder has a .747 OPS, Jhonny Peralta has a .681 OPS, Brennan Boesch a .604 OPS, Delmon Young a .595 OPS. All of these guys were supposed to be major contributors to the Tiger’s attack. All of these guys are currently playing below their career average, and their numbers are sure to go up. With all of that being said, the one player that Tigers fans need never worry about, Miguel Cabrera, has put up some concerning numbers lately. I’d like to figure out what’s wrong with him.
Let’s get something straight, no matter what Josh Hamilton or Matt Kemp are doing, it’s my opinion that Miguel Cabrera is unequivocally the best hitter in baseball. He’s done it for too long, and has the stats to prove it. Miggy is so good in fact, that he’s hitting for a .830 OPS, and is second in the American League in RBI, yet everyone is asking: what’s wrong with him? First, I want to rule something out- it is not his position change. Hitting and defense are two separate acts. Someone like Cabrera is not taking his glove to the plate with him. When he’s standing in the batter’s box, there is no plausible way he’s up there thinking about third base. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Cabrera has been exhibiting some un-Miggy-like trends the past couple weeks.
Last season, Miguel had 108 walks, good for a BB% of 15.7. However, this season, his BB% is only 6.9, and since April 28 (14 games), in a span of 60 AB, Miguel has exactly zero walks. Zero. That is extremely odd. How is it possible for a slugger like Miguel, who has consistently maintained one of the best eyes in baseball throughout his career, to suddenly stop taking walks? It’s a pretty simple explanation, really. Cabrera has swung at 9% more pitches outside the zone than last year (27% to 36%) and has increased his overall swing% from 46.8 to 51.9. The strangest part, is that pitchers are throwing him 5% more pitches in the strike zone, and Cabrera doesn’t seem to be hitting them, in addition he has failed to hit HR in his last 56 at bats. Maybe he needs a contact lens adjustment, a day off to work on his approach, or to get in the video room more frequently, but hopefully “legendary Lloyd” reminds him how important walking is to his approach. I honestly don’t know what exactly is wrong with him, so hopefully someone does.
It’s easy to forget that Cabrera has had similar months in his career, to what he’s currently hitting since April 14, .286/.316/.429/.745, with 4 walks. Those are obviously pedestrian numbers by his standards. As recently as July 2011, he hit for a .798 OPS. In May of 2011, he hit for an .880 OPS. In Sept of 2010, he hit for an .826 OPS. However, in all of those months, his walk rate was over 10%. Until Miguel fixes his plate approach, he’s going to continue to scuffle a bit. I have no doubt he will, as he’s the best Tiger hitter of all time, but it’s worth pointing out that he has some work to do.
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