Last night, the Detroit Tigers breezed past the Chicago White Sox by a 6-2 score, despite being without Miguel Cabrera, the reigning Most Valuable Player, for only the second time this season in 99 games. Cabrera is listed as day-to-day after exiting on Monday evening with a sort left hip flexor. The lineup, of course, looked peculiar in his absence, and Jim Leyland intentionally managed the game differently to compensate for the loss.
We hope the Tigers don’t have to go on for too long without their Triple Crown slugger. But in case (and for fun), following are a few facts regarding the few games over the past five years in which the team has had to do without Cabrera.
Since acquiring Cabrera before the 2008 season, the Tigers have played 910 regular season games. He has missed just 21 of those games, in which the team has played to an 11-10 record.
In those 21 games, they’ve tried a dozen different hitters in the third spot of their batting order. Even Casper Wells, Clete Thomas, and Brennan Boesch have had shots at the position. Matt Tuiasosopo struck out twice as last night’s insert. Torii Hunter also hit third for Detroit once this year, on the fourth of July, when Cabrera was sidelined for the same injury.
Now let’s zoom out beyond the lineup spot where Cabrera resides. In 21 games without him, the Tigers have tried 21 different hitters in 18 combinations in the third through fifth spots. The only arrangement they used thrice consisted of Johnny Damon, Ryan Raburn, and Don Kelly. They also repeated once the combination of Damon, Magglio Ordonez, and Boesch.
In recent days, though, the Tigers have definitely had much more offensive firepower with which to combat losing Cabrera. With Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez on the roster, the middle of the lineup will continue to be a threat despite lacking the best hitter in baseball.
As far as defense goes, Don Kelly is really the only viable rostered option to replace Cabrera at third base. The maligned utility man is usually the one who sees playing time increase the most when a Detroit player goes down with an injury. He has already started 16 games in center field this year due to Austin Jackson’s extended absence. This time around, his presence in the lineup isn’t as much of a disturbance, if it’s one at all. Since the beginning of June, Kelly has gone 15-for-42 (.357) at the plate with two home runs, two doubles, and as many walks—five—as strikeouts.
On another encouraging note, the Tigers have now won each of their last five regular season games played without Cabrera, dating back to October of 2010. While their record is in good shape now, and they have the talent to keep winning without him, let’s hope they’re not forced to try to continue that streak for much longer.