At the All Star Game break, we posed the question "Is Miguel Cabrera one of the ten best hitters of all time?". The consensus was "no", or at least "not yet". Now the buzz seems to have changed to "Miguel Cabrera is one of the best right-handed hitters of all time". That helps Cabrera's case, as it eliminates Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Barry Bonds from the discussion.
So let's evaluate this question: Is Miguel Cabrera one of the top five right-handed hitters of all time? Positional value and defense are not a concern.
I will be referring to OPS+, which considers on-base percentage and slugging percentage but adjusts for league and park effects. It allows comparison of players from different eras, though like all stats it has its flaws. League average is 100. You are free to make your argument based on any offensive stats.
Five players have a strong claim to the top five slots.
Rogers Hornsby exceeded Miguel Cabrera's 2013 OPS+ of 201 four times and recorded an OPS+ of 175 for career. His career triple slash line was .358 / .434 / .577. One strike against him is that he played before integration, so the talent pool was thinner and statistical extremes were more common.
Jimmie Foxx dominated the American League from 1928 to 1940, and finished with an OPS+ of 163. One strike against him is that he played before integration, and while he dominated for over a decade, he produced little after age 33. But he still totaled 2646 hits and 534 home runs.
Albert Pujols had a historic run from 2003 through 2010. His career OPS+ of 165 will continue to decline, but he will add to his totals of 2347 hits and 492 homeruns. Or he could just call it a career at age 33 and be a latter-day Jimmie Foxx.
Willie Mays and Hank Aaron dominated the National League from 1954 through the 1960's. Mays made his debut at age 20 and stayed productive into his 40's. His career OPS+ was 156. Though he played in the 1960s when pitchers dominated, he still had 3283 hits and 660 homeruns.
Hank Aaron had a career OPS+ of 155 and accumulated 3771 hits and 755 home runs. He is first all time in RBI's and total bases. He had both outstanding individual seasons, and longevity.
Miguel Cabrera has matched Hank Aaron's OPS+ to this point, but may well decline as he adds to 1975 hits and 364 home runs.
Some of the others in the discussion include:
So where do you place Miguel Cabrera in the pantheon of right-handed hitters?
And if top five, whom does he replace?
I vote top 10, with Frank Thomas and Manny Ramirez dropping into the top 20.