Just like last year, we'll be grading all the Tigers who contributed significant playing time over the course of the season, starting with the position players, then doing the rotation members, and finally finishing up with the bullpen and writing profiles for players without enough playing time to earn a grade. Each list will run in alphabetical order. These reviews will occasionally dip into sabermetrics so we can get a better idea why things happened, but I'll try to explain as we go through things.
Miguel Cabrera. I don't really need to write anything more than that. Few players in baseball are measuring sticks for what they do. Miguel Cabrera is a measuring stick. The 2011 version measured up nicely, finishing second only to Jose Bautista of Toronto in batting tremendousness.
Cabrera played in 161 games, finished with personal highs in average (.341), on-base percentage (.458), doubles (48), and more sabermetric stats wOBA (.436), wRC (177) and OPS+ (181). So even by Cabrera standards, this was a pretty darn good year.
If you want to be really critical of Cabrera, you could point out his baserunning (-2.8 runs) and fielding (-3.8) runs were a bit below average.
But whatever. If Cabrera doesn't get an "A" from 100% of BYB voters, they're trolling.
So I'm just going to skip all that stuff that would normally be in middle and go straight to something more interesting.
Its hard to say with Cabrera. The easy thing to say is that he'll be among the best in the league when he comes to the plate. That seems obviously. The sabermetric thing to say is that he performed above where he should have and we should expect regression next year. I mean, a .458 on-base percentage? That's incredible and due in part to opposing managers who wanted no part in pitching to him. Of course, we thought last year's OBP of .420 was high!
And while he's a good batter, should we expect a batting title yearly? Probably not. Especially when you consider his BABIP of .344 was a career high. (To be fair, the xBABIP was .336).
So basically, we're looking for how likely it is Cabrera can repeat typical "skills.". His line drive rate (22.1%) was slightly above his career norms, but certainly not the best of his career. The big key difference was a big drop in Cabrera's fly ball rate, and an increase in his ground ball rate. While we might think of ground balls as easy to field outs, a lot more of them are turned into hits than fly balls. Cabrera typically has more ground balls than fly balls, so 2010 was actually the year out of whack with the norms. Finally, Cabrera's HR:FB ratio was almost exactly his career norm.
So basically, yes we could expect another big year out of Cabrera next season. The on-base percentage probably won't be that high. Maybe the average loses a few points. There's always a chance he could have bad luck. It's just part of the game. But I don't think I'm crazy if I expect an OPS of around 1.000 again.
Cabrera is Cabrera. It's just what he does.