Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera's Move to Third Base Has Defied Critics

Christopher Czar@@detsportsczarContributor IApril 19, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 13:  Miguel Cabrera #24 the Detroit Tigers throws out a runner against the Chicago White Sox during the opening day game at U.S. Cellular Field on April 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Tigers 5-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I'm not going to say I told you so, because honestly I wasn't quite sure myself.

When the Detroit Tigers acquired Prince Fielder, everyone wondered what the Tigers were going to do with two first basement.

The natural guess was they'd platoon at first and DH with Victor Martinez out for the year—creating a quandary for next year instead.

However, it quickly became apparent that GM Dave Dombrowski and Manager Jim Leyland had other ideas. Cabrera would fill the enormous hole at third place.

The media scoffed at the idea. Even die-hard fans of the Detroit Tigers were extremely skeptical. 

Cabrera came to Detroit from Florida—now Miami—as a third baseman but was moved quickly to first base. Why in the world did the Tigers' brass believe he would succeed there now?

Despite the trepidation, it was the best move for the lineup. At best he would be average, at worst it'd be a failed experiment and he'd move to DH.

After taking a bad hop grounder to the face in spring training—leading to stitches and a chipped orbital bone—Fielder's move was questioned even more. That was a play a good third baseman would have made. Bull. It was a bad hop that would have happened to even a Gold Glover.

It's part of the game.

On opening day, Cabrera butchered a one-hop line drive, and snickers persisted. That's been his only error to date.

Cabrera has been more than adequate this season in the field and better than anyone could have expected. In the second most chances by everyday third baseman—41—he's made just one error. His .976 fielding percentage is fourth highest in the American League.

Additionally, he leads the American League in putouts and has the top Range Factor (RF) in the league—putouts + assists / nine innings. 

In fact, Cabrera likely saved the game with a great play in the series finale at Kansas City. 

With closer Jose Valverde making the 4-3 game as interesting as he usually does—he had runners at first and second with one out—Royals hitter Alcides Escobar hit a grounder to Cabrera. Cabrera stepped on third to get the force out and threw to first to complete the double play.

It wasn't a particularly hard hit ball, but Cabrera fielded the ball cleanly by adeptly scooping it on a short hop—a play more difficult than it seems and perhaps a play a fielder without several years of first base experience wouldn't have made.

While it's still early, it's becoming apparent that Cabrera definitely won't be the laughingstock at third base that we were lead to believe he would be.

He defied critics who claimed he wouldn't rebound from his offseason issues last year and is once again proving them wrong on the field this year.

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