Miguel Cabrera is a Hall of Fame caliber baseball player. There's no denying it at this point. The 32-year-old first baseman is well on his way to Cooperstown, and nothing short of a career-ending injury or major scandal will keep him out of baseball's most hallowed club. In all likelihood, his bust will be adorned with a Detroit Tigers cap, the ninth such player in MLB history.
What if he were not around, though? The Tigers got a brief taste of life without Miggy earlier this season, when Cabrera missed six weeks with a calf strain. They went 15-20 without their star, scoring 4.4 runs per game, nearly identical to their season average. However, they tailed off in the last few weeks of Cabrera's DL stint, barely scraping by with four runs per game as they missed several opportunities to sneak back into this season's playoff race.
As a team, the Tigers rank first in the American League with a .275 batting average this season. They are second in on-base percentage, slugging average, weighted on-base average (wOBA), and wRC+. Their run scoring lacks slightly behind, but they have still scored the fourth-most runs in the AL and sixth-most in baseball. The offense is not the problem this year.
Or is it? Cabrera has been a security blanket for the Tigers' offense throughout his stay in Detroit, buffering the middle of their order against the ebbs and flows of role players elsewhere throughout the lineup. His worst season in a Tigers uniform resulted in a 129 wRC+, and he has only dipped below 165 once in the past six seasons. Thirteen different players have breached the 165 wRC+ barrier since 2010 and only two -- Cabrera and Mike Trout -- have done it more than twice.
This is a very long-winded way of saying that the Tigers would be in big trouble without Cabrera. How bad would it be? Sans Cabrera, the Tigers are hitting .267 this year, which would rank third in the American League. Their on-base percenage would suffer a more significant drop-off, going from second to seventh. Same for their slugging average (sixth), wOBA (fifth), and wRC+ (tied-fourth). A decent offense, but far less productive than the unit Cabrera turns them into.
Note: All numbers are as of Monday, August 24.
|Tigers with Cabrera (AL Rank)||7.4% (9)||20.4% (8)||.275 (1)||.331 (2)||.432 (2)||.157 (6)||.329 (2)||109 (2)||19.4 (3)|
|Tigers without Cabrera (AL Rank)||6.65% (13)||20.81% (t-5)||.267 (3)||.319 (7)||.418 (6)||.151 (t-8)||.319 (5)||101 (t-4)||15 (9)|
This goes to show that one player -- especially one as amazing as Miguel Cabrera -- can have a significant impact on a team's offensive statistics. This reliance on Cabrera's spectacular season helps illustrate why the offense lags behind in run scoring despite leading the league in so many statistical categories; Cabrera's stats are so amazing that he's masking deficiencies elsewhere in the lineup.
Even while Cabrera has put up Herculean numbers over the past eight seasons in Detroit, there have been several other players who have stepped up with big numbers. From Magglio Ordonez to Victor Martinez to Prince Fielder, Miggy has consistently had at least one "partner in crime." Even this season, J.D. Martinez is putting up some big numbers behind Cabrera. There is just no replacing the big man, though, and the numbers back it up.
As the official washer and dryer of MLB, Maytag brand is searching for the "Filthiest Plays of the Week." Starting August 3rd ball players of any level can upload a picture or video of their "filthy play" using #MyFilthiestPlay for a chance to win a trip to the World Series plus a Maytag brand Top Load Washer and Dryer pair. Baseball fans have the power to vote for their favorite filthy play each week at MLB.com/Maytag.Follow Maytag on Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date with the newest and filthiest plays.