Miguel Cabrera reached great heights in his 2012 MVP season. As he soars even higher in 2013, baseball writers across the country have struggled to contextualize his accomplishments. Their latest attempt is comparing Cabrera to baseball's all-time home run king, Barry Bonds.
USA Today talked to Bonds about Cabrera, and Bonds had nothing but praise for last year's triple crown winner. Bonds had no doubt who the best baseball player in the game right now was, saying, "He's the best. By far. Without a doubt. The absolute best.''
Bonds finished his distinguished career with seven MVP awards, 14 All-Star appearances, eight Gold Gloves, and a record 762 homers, so it's understandable why he won't say that Cabrera is better than he was. "He doesn't have my MVPs. "He doesn't have my numbers. Well, not yet, anyways." Bonds asserts, "My game was different than his game. So comparing him, to me, there's no comparison.'
Of course, there is still one major factor to consider. Bonds and Cabrera played in drastically different eras, Bonds in the steroid era and Cabrera in what is becoming a pitcher's era. Luckily, there is a stat perfectly designed for this issue. Weighted runs created plus, or wRC+, measures each player's offensive contributions relative to league average, which is 100. So, someone with a 125 wRC+ means a player created 25 percent more runs than league average. Fangraphs.com says, "wRC+ is also park and league-adjusted, allowing one to to compare players who played in different years, parks, and leagues. Want to know how Ted Williams compares with Albert Pujols in terms of offensive abilities? This is your statistic."
Through 2013, Cabrera's age-30 season, his career wRC+ is 150. Bonds's wRC+ through 1994, his age-30 season, was 158. That sample only included two of his years with the Giants, when many people speculate he started taking steroids.
Miguel Cabrera has done one thing that Barry Bonds never did. That is, of course, winning the Triple Crown. No one in the history of baseball has ever won the triple crown back-to-back. Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby both won the Triple Crown twice, just not in consecutive years. Through their age-30 years, Cabrera leads Bonds in all three Triple Crown categories.
Cabrera was a star when the Tigers traded for him, and he has only gotten better, especially in the last two years. He's terrorized opposing pitchers this year, posting a wRC+ of 206 this year. Most people agree that he won't continue on his current pace, but will still have an unbelievable season. The problem is, to compete with Barry Bonds, not only does Cabrera have to continue his current pace, but he has to continue to improve. In order to match up with Bonds, Cabrera has to post many seasons that are better than 2012 and 2013.