Detroit Tigers 2016 Season Review: Miguel Cabrera

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Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) celebrates after a single against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Tigers 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) celebrates after a single against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Tigers 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /
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Miguel Cabrera has been the looming force behind the Detroit Tigers’ lineup since joining the team in 2008. Some claimed 2016 was the year of Cabrera’s regression, but the numbers tell a different story.

In 2016, Miguel Cabrera posted a quiet Detroit Tigers season with 38 home runs, 108 RBIs, and .316/.393/.563 slash. He finished 4th in the AL in batting average, 5th in OBP, 2nd in slugging, 8th in home runs, and 6th in RBI. He was not flashy in his production, but the numbers were still notable.

His numbers were not all empty either. In the 7th inning of games with the game within a one run difference, Cabrera hit .329/.379/.646 with 7 home runs and 17 RBI.

What was different about 2016 than in recent years was Cabrera’s performance in the second half of the season. He was able to stay healthy enough through the season to be able to produce through the end of September.

Sep 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) catches a ground ball against the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) catches a ground ball against the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

In the second half of the season, Cabrera hit at a .346/.423/.635 split with 20 home runs and 55 RBI. In September while the Tigers were making their playoff push, Cabrera hit .349/.439/.670 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI, by far his best month of the season.

The biggest drawback from Cabrera’s season looking forward was his inability to feast on fastballs in 2016. FanGraphs rated Cabrera above average in his efficiency against fastballs (wFA), but it was a sharp decline from his peak seasons. Cabrera hit off-speed pitches at one of the best clips of his career, but he will need to return to his fastball hitting form to carry the Tigers’ offense moving forward.

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Some have called for Cabrera to be traded as the Tigers look to stay young and competitive. They believe Cabrera’s best seasons are behind him and the Tigers could still get considerable value for him. If the Tigers still believe they want to compete, Cabrera will be at the center of their lineup. When Cabrera is going well, he can still carry the offense to victories.

Cabrera’s other issue in the season was his lack of clutch at-bats with the bases loaded. The fact that he struck out or grounded out in too many instances was one memory from 2016 that the fans, the team, and Cabrera himself would love to forget. By July, he had 10 opportunities to hit a grand slam and he failed to capitalize on any of them. Of his 38 home runs, 13 of them brought in more than one run. But, not one was a grand slam.

Cabrera did reach a few milestones this season. He reached 1500 RBIs, 2500 hits, 9000 plate appearances, 2000 games played, and 500 doubles. He also was able to check off the impressive milestone of hitting a home run in every ballpark in the MLB, against every single team. He earned two MLB Player of the Week awards and he was named the MLB AL Player of the Month for September.

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Looking ahead to the 2017 season, Cabrera will still anchor the middle of the Tigers order. Unless the Tigers sign Edwin Encarnacion, Cabrera will bat third and play first base on a daily basis.  He still has the ability to be an MVP candidate, but winning a title is more important to everyone.

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