One of the best things about baseball is that they keep a stat for almost everything. And within the past 10 years or so with the evolution of Sabermetrics, there seems to be new stats added every year and others keep getting tweaked. Regardless of your personal view of advanced stats, this is a great time to be a baseball fan as as we can use this information to further our understanding in the greatest game in the world (even if some are so complicated that you need a PHD in Statistics in order to understand them). Two of my favorite baseball sites, Baseball Reference and FanGraphs seem to add stuff without much promotion. For example, did you notice that Baesball Reference has added Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) to their site?
Over the off-season, FanGraphs has added a bunch of split stats to their site, which brings me to Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera has been struggling mightily (.206/.275/.333, 1 HR and a 65 wRC+) to start the season and it has been noted that he isn't using the whole field. During the game yesterday, Rod Allen stated that Cabrera has only 1 hit to the opposite field (and FanGraphs confirms this). With the added stats, we can dissect this even further.
Cabrera has put 21 balls to the pull field, 17 to center field and only 10 to the opposite field (43.8%, 35.4% and 20.8% respectfully). Here is how he compares to the last 3 years:
Cabrera went 0-4 yesterday, but he put 2 balls to the opposite field and 2 to center field, so there are signs that he's getting out of his slump, even if the balls didn't fall for base hits. Here is how he has performed when he hits it to the opposite field over recent years:
That's a negative 33 wRC+, which is beyond terrible (considering that 100 is league average). Last year, Cabrera had his best offensive year (.348/.442/.636, 192 wRC+) and a lot of that is attributed to his production of hitting the opposite way.
We can even go further and look at how the balls were hit, either as a line drive, ground ball or fly ball. These stats are to the opposite field:
Line drives fall in for base hits more often then the other balls in play, however fly balls get hit for home runs more often. Cabrera hit 13 HR to the opposite field in 2013, tied for the most in his career (he also hit 13 to the opposite field in 2008), mostly due to hitting fly balls 62.4% of the time.
Here are his numbers to the other fields:
When Cabrera is pulling the ball, his production is about the same as is has been in recent years.
The 9.5% fly ball rate is the lowest in his career, which means only 2 of his batted balls to the pull field have been fly balls, including his only home run so far this year. Cabrera has pulled at least 15 home runs every year since his first full year in 2004.
Cabrera has also struggled when hitting the ball to center field this year, however...
His batted ball data hasn't changed much from recent years. In fact, his line drive rate is higher than it's ever been, so most of this could be due to bad luck.
Visually, from Brooks Baseball, we can see Cabrera's spray chart:
Here's another chart showing the types of balls Cabrera is hitting:
I find this one interesting since it shows that Cabrera has only hit 5 off-speed pitches to the playing field. Could be nothing, but might be a contributing factor to why Cabrera is struggling.
The Tigers have only played about 3 weeks this year, so we are still in small sample territory. By the end of the season, all of these numbers could and should even out, provided that nothing is bothering him injury-wise. This article from Bleacher Report takes a look at Cabrera's swing mechanics this year. A theory has surfaced that when Cabrera was injured in September of last year he had to change his swing to compensate and those bad habits have carried over into this year. As long as he can fix these problems, he will be fine.