Home > All-Star Game, MLB > Miguel Cabrera is Most Likely the Best Hitter in Baseball

Miguel Cabrera is Most Likely the Best Hitter in Baseball

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At the point when Albert Pujols wrested the title of “best hitter in baseball” from Alex Rodriguez, he was in the prime of his career and it just seemed like he could hold that mantle for another seven to eight years.  Pujols is still an amazing player, and while he’s not going to finish 2010 with any personal records thanks to a terrible month of May, I think the consensus is that he’s going to “rebound” back to career norms in 2011, and that this year is just another great year in the line of many.

Still, to crown Pujols as the best hitter in baseball going forward is probably ignorant without at least being informed the kind of cartoonish numbers that Miguel Cabrera is putting up for the first place Tigers right now.

Cabrera leads all of baseball with a .647 slugging percentage.  He does so in the superior American League in a neutral environment, Comerica Ballpark in Detroit.  He has a .420 on base percentage.  That’s second in the AL (Justin Morneau).  His .343 Batting Average leads all of baseball, and his .446 weighted on base percentage is second to Morneau.  Cabrera doesn’t have the plate discipline that Pujols does (Pujols walks more than he strikes out every year) — he probably never will — but there’s something to be said for raw, unbridled power.

Cabrera’s .303 Isolated Power (calculated as slugging percentage minus batting average) leads all of baseball, and there’s only two players within .15 points of him: Toronto’s Jose Bautista, and Boston’s David Ortiz.  In this measure of raw, extra base hit ability, Morneau is nearly 30 points below Cabrera, and Pujols is more than 40 points below him this year.  Pujols’ career mark is .292, so as long as Cabrera continues to crush the baseball at this rate, he will continue to rank up there with the best hitters of all time.

Miguel Cabrera is going to draw criticism for an on base percentage figure that doesn’t put him squarely in the superstar category like all of his other statistics do.  His .386 career figure is a good great percentage, but for a superstar, one who makes outs more than 61% of the time isn’t exactly hall of fame bound.

/ignores Andre Dawson.

Cabrera is over .400 this year for the first time as a Tiger, but his on base percentage figures to steadily improve over time as he ages.  Is that a byproduct of plate discipline? It’s not.  For years, Albert Pujols has lead the league in intentional walks, and no one has come close.  While Cabrera was walked in the National League plenty, he hadn’t been shown the same respect by American League managers in his first two years with the Tigers.  That’s changing now: Pujols leads the NL with 21 intentional walks.  The AL leader this year: Cabrera, with 8.  When you consider that Cabrera is offering rare power that even Albert doesn’t have, you can predict that for the next four or five years, he’s going to lead the AL in intentional walks.  This is going to skyrocket his on-base percentage, to the point where his career mark drifts north of .400.  He might even start walking more than he strikes out.

In Cabrera’s first two seasons with the Tigers, he hit one more homer than double.  But his career since age 24 has suggested that Cabrera is just as likely to hit a fly ball out of the park as he is to double to the gap.  If anything, that means his slugging percentage could go UP over the second three months of the season.  With the necessary increase in intentional walks, Cabrera should be able to increase his OPS, even if he can’t sustain his league-best .343 batting average.

Except, he probably can sustain it.  While Justin Morneau has an unsustainable BABIP over .380, Cabrera is at .357 right now, just 10 points above his career average of .347.  The only statistical reason that would suggest a second half decline for Miguel Cabrera is if AL pitchers man up and start to strike him out more than the did in the first half.  Absent of that, Cabrera is going to set career highs in every statistical category, and should win the AL triple crown as Morneau regresses a bit.  It will be well earned.

I would still take Albert Pujols on my team any day because he’s a more complete player.  He runs the bases better and fields his position as well as any first baseman ever.  His batting skill set is more balanced between power and discipline.  I can’t be sure that the Tigers were expecting this when they traded six prospects to the Marlins in February 2008, but Albert Pujols is not the best hitter in baseball right now or for the future.  That title belongs to Miguel Cabrera.

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  1. Alex
    July 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    You crazy men, Albert is the best player in the planet no doubt about it, Cabrera is a great player but he’s dont even close to the king, this year he’s having his best first half on their career and albert down in his standard but when cabrera made all the things that the 3 time mvp made i will be the first guy in the world to tell it,

    PD. You just have to see the slugging,avg and obp on albert career, ouchhhh

  2. Paul H
    July 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Hahaha, those wussy AL pitchers should just man up and strike him out

  1. March 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm

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