Miguel Cabrera Milestone: 1800 and 1900 RBIs
Miguel Cabrera famously won the Triple Crown in 2012, leading the American League in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. He’s now just the 4th player ever to win a Triple Crown and hit 500 career home runs. Homers continue to be widely celebrated, and batting average still gets some respect, but stat-loving fans don’t seem to care about RBIs nearly as much as they once did. That’s probably a good thing.
For decades the key ingredients for winning an MVP award seemed to be hitting for a high batting average, racking up a lot of RBIs, or playing for a division winner (see George Bell in 1987, Juan Gonzalez in 1996, Justin Morneau in 2006, etc.) In recent years fans and writers have come to view RBIs as more of a product of circumstance than a demonstration of pure skill. But perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
It is true that any decent hitter might luck into a 100-RBI season or two, but when career RBI totals start getting above 1,500 we can throw luck out the window. And with Miguel Cabrera there’s clearly skill involved. His career batting average with runners in scoring position is .329, the 9th highest ever (min. 500 PA). Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera is “just” a .295 hitter with the bases empty. That 34-point gap is among the biggest in MLB history. Henry Aaron was 29 points better with men on, while Babe Ruth was just 10 points better, and Ted Williams was actually 9 points worse.
Thus, it’s worth celebrating Miguel Cabrera’s 1,785 career RBIs. He’ll soon become the 22nd member of the 1800-RBI club, and though it will be tough to tack on another 100 to become the 13th member of the 1900-RBI club, he only needs to get to 1,861 to pass Mel Ott for the 13th most RBIs in MLB history. That’s a pretty spectacular accomplishment.