Aug 11, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera hits a home run in the 9th inning against the New York Yankees during the game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Miguel Cabrera and the Best Right-Handed Hitting Seasons of All-Time

Whenever you’re speaking about baseball and “best of all-time” is thrown about – legitimately, not just hyperbole – you know something special is taking place. We’re seeing something along those lines from Miguel Cabrera this season.

Cabrera is a hall of famer without any doubt in my mind. He could walk away from the game after this season and probably have no problem getting in. The rule-of-thumb WAR threshold for Hall of Fame induction is 60 – a mark Cabrera, who’s at basically 56 WAR, hasn’t yet reached – but he’d likely get a boost from voters for being the first player to win a triple crown in 45 years and for being the first player to win three consecutive AL batting titles since Rogers Hornsby did it in the 1920’s (he won six in a row).

ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote a piece a few days ago in which he compares Miguel Cabrera’s career to-date to some of the greatest right-handed hitters who’ve ever played. He doesn’t ever come up with a hard and fast ranking for Miggy, but says he’s right up there with the top five, ten, or fifteen in baseball’s history. I don’t think we could yet put him in the top-five if we’re talking about careers – he’s probably not yet at the level of Albert Pujols, for instance – but his current 2013 pace certainly places him in an elite group for best seasons of all time.

Entering Tuesday Miguel Cabrera owned a 207 wRC+. Only seven individuals have ever had a season better than that – names like Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams – but if we narrow our view to only right-handed hitters, we see that Cabrera’s 2013 is currently the third best ever on record.

# Year Player Team wRC+
1 1924 Rogers Hornsby Cardinals 221
2 1884 Fred Dunlap Maroons 214
3 2013 Miguel Cabrera Tigers 207
4 1994 Jeff Bagwell Astros 205
5 1994 Frank Thomas White Sox 205

In the history of what is now Major League Baseball, only two right-handed hitters have had better seasons at the plate than what we’re currently witnessing from Cabrera. I’m not sure how recognizable the 1884 version of baseball would be today, so I’m not sure that keeping Fred Dunlap in the mix is apples to apples, and Rogers Hornsby played in an era in which minorities were barred from playing in the big leagues. So, depending on how you wanted to frame your argument, you could make the case that Cabrera’s current season is the single most impressive season from a right-handed hitter ever. That’s awesome to think about.

There’s still a decent amount of baseball left to be played this season, so it’s completely possible that he falls below the likes of Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas (and also a Mark McGwire season), but even so, we’re talking about an elite handful of right-handed seasons.

It’s easy to take for granted that Miggy is going to do something special when he steps to the plate, but this truly is one of those years that we’ll discuss with our kids and grandkids every time we pass the Cabrera statue at Comerica Park.

“Was Miguel Cabrera really the best you ever saw?” they’ll ask.

Yes. Yes he was.

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