For quite some time now one of the first thoughts that enters most people's minds when they consider Miguel Cabrera and his Hall of Fame possibilities are that he's on track to a no doubt enshrinement in Cooperstown. They're right.
We've already taken a look at Justin Verlander's potential HOF candidacy, so now it's the turn of the big man and it's fair to say the Detroit Tigers incumbent first sacker from Maracay, Venezuela, already has a concrete looking case. In fact, if he retired tomorrow there's still every chance he's a Hall of Famer. Here's why.
I've put together a very simple and revealing graph charting the average career WAR of all the current first basemen who already have a plaque, then added Miggy's existing career mark in.
I think that tells its own story. His career WAR of 64.7, per Baseball Reference, would already place him ninth all-time in the aforementioned list and already exceeds the average current first baseman Hall of Fame WAR of 62.2 were he to give it all up tomorrow.
From hitting the big leagues at just 20 years old in 2003 with the Marlins, Cabrera has spent the better part of 13 years slugging and slamming opposing pitchers all over ballparks across America. Once a skinny outfielder (yes, it was once a thing), and now very much lodged in at first base after a brief and unsuccessful dalliance with third, right from the get-go the numbers were mind boggling. As a 21-year-old he clobbered 33 home runs, and by the time he was 25 he'd already amassed 175 long balls, numbers almost unprecedented through that age.
To give you an idea of just how explosive and historic the start to his career was, here are his top comparisons, per Baseball Reference similarity scores, through those first few years.
|25||Ken Griffey Jr||957|
|26||Ken Griffey Jr||940|
One current Hall of Famer and another about to be revealed tomorrow. Quite the company he was already keeping for a player still some way off his peak.
Then December 2007 arrived and the Marlins handed the Tigers one of the greatest Christmas gifts of all time with the trade that brought Cabrera to Detroit and into the uniform he's been in since, and the one in all likelihood he'll go into the Hall of Fame wearing.
His numbers since donning the Olde English D are, of course, stuff of legend. In eight years in Motown he's amassed 270 home runs, 922 RBI, two MVP awards, four Silver Sluggers and a place in history as one of its favorite sons. Since arriving he's hit .327 with an .407 on-base percentage and .574 slugging, 34 HR and 115 RBI. Average. Not even the best, far from it, that's the average. I know!
But there's more.
In 2012 Cabrera achieved a feat not seen since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 when he won the Triple Crown. He then nearly went and repeated the trick in 2013 hitting .338/.442/.636 that year, cranking out 44 HR and 137 RBI, only to be denied by Chris Davis' career year.
In 2014 Cabrera signed one of the largest contract extensions in MLB history with an eight year, $248 million deal that will keep him in Detroit through at least 2023 with a couple of vesting options for '24 and '25 if he's still producing into his 40s. Seems a lot, and it is a lot, but when you consider in the last eight years that Cabrera has taken just shy of $162 million from the Ilitch family treasure chest, the actual value of his production, per Fangraphs, has actually been $304 million. Considering that, you begin to realize just how much in credit he truly is, and that even if his production through the extension were to drop off more dramatically than the natural aging curve would predict, he'll still more than have been worth every dime of his tenure.
Lastly lets take a peek at how Cabrera's numbers stack up against the more well known Hall of Fame metrics, the Jay Jaffe inspired JAWS and Bill James' HOF Monitor.
JAWS gives him a 44.6 seven-year peak WAR against the average first base HOFer of 42.4, and the HOF Monitor has him pegged at a whopping 241 at present, with the likely HOF'er set at 100. Positively damning. If you want any more idea as to his current standing, other metrics such as Black Ink & Gray Ink have him at 43 and 223 respectively, with the average Hall of Famer sitting at 27 and 144, so in these categories too he's way ahead of the curve.
Referring back briefly to his earlier comparisons, through ages 27-32, his closest match in each of those six years is simple yet highly illustrative. Frank Robinson four times and Hank Aaron twice, giving him five Hank Aaron comparisons in his career to date. His top-five comparison through age 32 stack up as Robinson, Aaron, Albert Pujols, Mel Ott, and Ken Griffey Jr. -- which, I believe, translates to "in on first ballot."
Totals wise we are looking already at over 2,300 hits, 400 home runs, nearly 1,500 RBI (important in many voters eyes whether we like it or not), added to a career .961 OPS and .405 wOBA. What's important to remember when looking at this sea of numbers is that Cabrera is still only 32 years old. He has many, many highly productive baseball years still left in that hulking frame of his and will only add many more layers to an already highly convincing Hall of Fame cake.
A few more years of vintage Miggy numbers and you are probably looking at 3,000 hits and 500-600 home runs, which can only further cement his place in Tigers folklore, baseball history and his going into Cooperstown with all-time historical numbers while wearing the famous Tigers cap. In reality he's already worthy, in actuality there's many more years of baseball bashing for us as fans to relish.
Miguel Cabrera is a once in a generation type talent, so enjoy him while he's here, because it's not often you get to watch your team imbibed with the presence of greatness.