We've seen slumps from Miguel Cabrera before. Everyone goes through rough patches, even the best hitter in the game. Future Hall of Famers like Cabrera are generally less prone to them than others, but the two-time MVP still gets into the occasional funk.
Cabrera is in one of those rare slumps right now. Hitless in his last 19 at-bats, Cabrera is batting .167 with a .257 on-base percentage and two extra base hits since August 27. His last home run came on August 26 against lefthander Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels. The 18-game homer-less streak is his longest of the season, and his longest since August 2014, when he was essentially playing on a broken foot.
Luckily, Cabrera's health is not an issue. He told MLB.com's Jason Beck that he is healthy, but has "gotten into bad habits at the plate." While it's strange that a player would develop these habits all of a sudden -- especially Cabrera, who was batting .370 at the time -- his swing is clearly off.
Take a look at Cabrera's swing when he homered off of Santiago. Note his right (back) foot, which pivots during the swing, providing a solid base for his stride and hip rotation during the swing. Cabrera also does a good job of keeping his front shoulder in during his stride, allowing for plenty of shoulder and hip rotation when he decides to turn on the baseball. The result is a beautifully violent swing (and two runs).
Cabrera showed a similar rotation in an at-bat later in the game, when he fouled off a pitch from Angels reliever Drew Rucinski. Cabrera's plant foot stays planted, and his front shoulder is still locked in.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, when Cabrera faced off against Phil Hughes of the Minnesota Twins, a pitcher that Cabrera has dominated throughout his career. In 44 plate appearances, Cabrera is batting .415/.455/.902 with five home runs off Hughes. One would expect this matchup to sway heavily in Cabrera's favor.
Instead, Cabrera went 0-for-2 (and 0-for-4 overall). He hit a sharp liner to right in his first at-bat, but the swing was clearly different than the two examples above from a few weeks ago.
Here, Cabrera's back (plant) foot starts to drift and his front shoulder opens up earlier. He still puts solid contact on the ball, but that's partly because Hughes delivers a belt-high fastball down the middle of the plate. This is a pitch that Cabrera should obliterate, yet he hits a hard-but-not-that-hard line drive with a rather weak swing. We don't see the same controlled violence that Cabrera put on display against Santiago.
Cabrera's bad habits reappeared throughout the game, including this weak groundout to shortstop.
It was after this play that Fox Sports Detroit announcer Rod Allen remarked that Cabrera's swing was "all arms," a reference to his drifting plant foot and early shoulder rotation.
It's difficult to say whether this is just a bad stretch for Cabrera or if he is injured, so we have little choice but to take his comments at face value. With two full days off before Friday's series opener against the Kansas City Royals, we will see if Cabrera has had time to iron out the kinks or heal whatever ails him. With his lead in the AL batting average race dwindling, his hopes for a fourth batting title may depend on it.