Our Detroit Tigers 40-man roster preview kicks off with Miguel Cabrera
When I think of Miguel Cabrera and a preview of the upcoming 2021 season, two numbers come to mind: 500 and 3000. Detroit Tigers fans could be treated to some big-time career milestones from the Big Fella. This will be the last opportunity to see a longtime Detroit Tigers player reach these historical punch-your-ticket-to-Cooperstown numbers for at least a generation.
Miggy is in need of just 13 home runs and 134 hits to provide us with a season for the ages. While many followers of the ball club will rightfully be focused on the future of the Detroit Tigers as more of the vaunted minor league talent makes its way north to Comerica Park, the stroll down memory lane will make for a perfect storyline as a culmination of past greatness blends with the youthful future, giving us as fans another compelling reason to watch as the losses mount for yet another season.
Looking back on his 2020 campaign Miguel Cabrera gave us .250/.329/.417 effort with 3 years left to go on his contract. That included a miserable July in which he had just 4 hits, 3 of which were home runs interestingly enough, in 30 AB’s in what I am attributing to being his spring training games trying to round back into form. There were also flashes of greatness, highlighted by the game in Minnesota on September 23rd featuring a pair of classic 3 run homers and followed up by a mammoth 450-foot blast against Kansas City the next day. It was an even 0 bWAR season when it was all said and done.
What can we expect from Miguel Cabrera in 2021? Here are a pair of projections courtesy of FanGraphs (ZiPS) and Baseball-Reference.
ZiPS: 481 PA’s, H 111, HR 16, RBI 64, .256/.320/.396
BR: 567 PA’s H 129, HR 16, RBI 69 .257/.333/.393
Similar expectations from a couple of reputable projection systems. I think Miggy will exceed these forecasts a little bit for a couple of reasons. Looking at his splits, Miguel Cabrera still crushes left-handed pitching, .340/.414/.557 in 111 plate appearances in 2019 and .400/.488/.629 albeit in just 41 PA’s during the pandemic wrecked 2020 season.
He fell off dramatically against right-handed hurlers slashing .219/.295/.373 after a .268/.329/.359 performance in 2019. He can improve upon these numbers and did from 2017 where he slashed .230/.300/.374 against righties but rebounded in his shortened 2018 campaign to .308/.397/.471 in 121 PA’s before a bicep injury sent him to the sidelines on June 12th. Assuming he comes to camp in the best shape of his life as we come to expect to read every February, it is not unreasonable to believe a measurable improvement in performance will follow.
How do I see things ultimately playing out on Miguel Cabrera’s 2021 season? On a chilly Sunday, October afternoon, with the famous Chicago winds and a light rain falling from the heavens on a typically miserable overcast fall day, our legend will stroll to the plate in the first inning with a .271/.350/.421 slash line to go with 21 HRs and 81 RBIs.
The Central Division winning White Sox will be featuring their reserves in the starting lineup and a bullpen day on the mound as they set their sights on a long postseason run as favorites to represent the American League in the World Series. Most local sports fans will be watching the Detroit Lions, tiresomely complaining about yet another bad call and even more tiresomely debating the future of Matthew Stafford and how he should have been traded in the offseason.
There will be a small gathering of loyal Tigers fans behind the road team’s dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field, amongst them will be this 46-year-old lifelong fan wearing his 24 Jersey proudly, looking for a hot chocolate vendor to calm the shivering body as Miggy strolls to the plate. On an 0-1 pitch, that patented opposite-field swing lines a hanging slider over the 2nd baseman’s head for a single.
The ball will be tossed back to the Tigers dugout and a standing ovation will occur while I am choking back the lump in my throat and wiping the tears forming in my eyes. Miggy with that patent smile waves to the crowd as he is congratulated by players from both squads in a proper acknowledgment of the historic moment. Hit number 3000 caps off the 2021 season, about 7 weeks after we cheered Home Run number 500 sailing into the right-center field stands at Comerica Park as Mike Trout watched helplessly as a middle-middle fastball from Shohei Otani is turned into a valuable souvenir for one lucky fan.
As Miguel Cabrera then soaks in the cheers and accolades for one last moment on the field before departing the game and heading for the warmth of the locker room, with pinch-runner Zack Short replacing him for the day and become a trivia question answer, our attention will soon turn towards the all-important 2022 offseason, with renewed optimism, in part to the feel-good moment from our hero, the last man standing from the glory days. Miguel Cabrera will have reminded us all why through thick and thin we will always watch the great game of baseball.