Of all the poor performances at the plate last night, Miguel Cabrera’s stands out to me as the worst. In the first inning, with two runners on base and only one out, Cabrera took a called third strike on a fastball middle away, exactly the kind of pitch that he usually drive to right center field. In the next three trips, he popped out to first, popped out to second, and popped out to third.
Sadly, this has not been just one bad game.
Over the past six games, the Tigers are 2-4 vs the Twins and White Sox. Over that span Cabrera has all of one home run and one run batted in. At the exact moment that big time players do big time things to carry their clubs, Miguel Cabrera has come up small. He has a .263/.364/.421/.785 line in those contests.
In fact, since the Tigers’ impressive road sweep of the Rays on September 6, Cabrera has been unable to carry the team at all. In the 24 games since that sweep concluded, the Tigers are 10-14. Cabrera has five homers and 17 RBI since then, but he has seen his average drop from .339 to .328 and his OPS from .972 to .947. His numbers over the past 24 games don’t look terrible at all. He is hitting .280 and carrying a .847 OPS, but those are not numbers that Miguel Cabrera usually carries, and they are not numbers that the best right handed hitter not named Albert Pujols should be posting when his team needs him the most.
There was a time, at the end of August, that there were those of us touting him for MVP consideration, but those voices have long since quieted down. Frankly, Cabrera seems to be feeling the moment, which is entirely unexpected. By all accounts, Cabrera is a laid-back guy, one who joyfully goes about his day in a manner not unlike Manny Ramirez. Ramirez never seems overtaken by pressure, neither does Pujols, and neither does Joe Mauer. The great ones always seem to step up when they are most needed.
The Tigers need Cabrera now more than ever. He can either raise his game and take the Tigers to the playoffs, or he can wilt away and be forever compared to the select few others that couldn’t come through when it counted most.