Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera Falling in the Ranks
There are only three living baseball players who have achieved the elusive hitting Triple Crown. The two retired players are 76-year old Carl Yastrzemski and 80-year old Frank Robinson. The other is Miguel Cabrera from the Detroit Tigers. Despite being the only current Triple-Crown-winning player who has consistently dominated at the plate in the MLB, two major sports media organizations have ranked the one-and-only Cabrera as the number two and number three first basemen coming into the 2016 season.
This is ridiculous.
The players who are ranked above Miguel Cabrera for the upcoming 2016 season include Paul Goldschmidt with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Joey Votto from the Cincinnati Reds. MLB Network and their “Top 10 Right Now” rankings place Goldschmidt and Votto as one and two, with Cabrera ranked third. CBS Sports placed Goldschmidt in the top spot, with Cabrera in the two spot.
Why is this so ridiculous? Because this is Miguel Cabrera they are talking about.
It might seem like Cabrera has been in the league for so long that he is bound to be on the decline. He has been playing since 2003 when he was 20 years old. In those 13 years, he has earned two MVP awards, six Silver Slugger awards, and of course, the Triple Crown. He has led the league in statistics ranging from batting average, home runs, total bases, sac flies, intentional base-on-balls, doubles, and games played. His lifetime batting average of .321 is more than respectable.
Along the way, he has played third base and first base. His 6’4 frame makes him an ideal first baseman and he regularly surprises his fans with amazing plays at his position. He manages to make the position look easy. In his 13 years, his dWAR is -13.5. In his last two years at first base, he earned a -1.0 dWAR in 2014 and a -0.3 in 2015. Keep in mind that he was either knowingly injured, hiding an injury, or recovering from an injury in those two years. In 2014, he led the AL in assists at first. He also led the AL in Range Factor at first.
Paul Goldschmidt has been in the league for five years, beginning at age 23. He has yet to win an MVP, but he finished second in the league in 2015 and 2013. He has been in three All-Star games and he has won two Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. He has yet to lead the NL in any batting categories. He did lead the NL in putouts in 2013 and 2015. His dWAR in 2014 was -0.7 and 0.9 in 2015. Goldy’s lifetime batting average is .299.
Joey Votto and Miggy were both born in 1983. Votto has played in the MLB since 2007 when he was 23. He has earned one MVP award and he has led some batting stats, like doubles, walks, OBP, and OPS. In his nine years in the league, his lifetime batting average is .311. As the first baseman for the Reds, he has led the NL in assists. In 2014, his dWAR was 0.1 and in 2015, he earned a dWAR of -0.4.
Numerically, none of the dWAR stats are impressive. And, none of them are too far away from each other. In the past two years, Cabrera has -1.3, Goldy has 0.2, and Votto has -0.3. Meh.
The MLB “Top 1o Right Now” rankings were made by a computer algorithm known as “The Shredder” which only uses the numbers to decide who is top in the league. Since “The Shredder” is made of pure math, there are no emotions used in the decision. The CBS Sports rankings were chosen by three “specialists” who did use emotion and bias. My opinion is also based on emotion and bias. When it comes to baseball – and any activity that involves humans – emotion and bias should be included.
In the AL, only two positions can be evaluated based only on offensive stats or defensive stats: the DH and the pitcher. In the NL, all positions play offense and defense. Votto and Goldschmidt may have a slight edge over Cabrera defensively at first, but neither man can touch Cabrera at the plate. Cabrera is so good at the plate, that many even forget that he can play defense, too. He has a powerful arm, nimble hands, and a substantial range at first. The fact that he is a complete player should put him at the top of every list.
There are a handful of players who can be thought of as the faces of the MLB – Cabrera is one of those elite few and has been for many years. The other two are not.
Cabrera is still the best first baseman in the MLB. Just because he is getting older, he is still Miguel Cabrera. Opposing pitchers continue to fear him. Opposing players respect him because he has earned it. Fans adore him. The great closing pitcher Mariano Rivera said it best in 2013 after Miggy’s iconic home run at Yankee Stadium, “The guy is special no doubt about that.”
Next: Detroit Tigers: Who Should Be the Leadoff Batter?
Special enough to still be the best first baseman in the MLB. The best hitter on the planet is feeling good. Watch out, MLB and CBS Sports. I, for one, cannot wait to see the Great Cabrera prove those rankings wrong.