Detroit Tigers: 4 Reasons Miguel Cabrera Is a Lock for MVP
Miguel Cabrera is in a class of his own for the 2012 American League MVP race.
The Detroit Tigers' slugger hit his 30th home run of the season in Wednesday's 5-1 win over the Minnesota Twins. Cabrera, who's hit at least 30 home runs eight times in his career, including each of the last six years, became the first Tiger ever to hit 30-plus home runs in five consecutive seasons.
Cabrera went 2-for-5 with two RBIs on Wednesday, improving his average to .327 this season, and increasing his RBI total to 103.
The 29-year-old has been in contention for MVP honors several times during his nine-year career, but this season, Cabrera is head-and-shoulders ahead of the competition.
Detroit has struggled all season, spending most of the year in second place in the AL Central, and without Cabrera, the Tigers would be out of contention.
Here are the four reasons Cabrera will be crowned 2012 AL MVP.
The Best in the Business
Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball.
Cabrera's 103 RBIs are the most in the AL, and he ranks second in average, third in home runs (30), third in OPS (.974) and fourth in slugging (.585).
He trails only Derek Jeter in total hits this season with 153 and has scored the fourth most runs in the AL this season, touching home plate 77 times.
Cabrera's 274 total bases this year are 24 more than any other player, with a league-best 61 extra-base hits.
The Tigers' third baseman has a knack for coming up with clutch hits in crucial situations. He's hitting .367 with runners in scoring position this season, and .447 with RISP and two outs. In the seventh inning or later, Cabrera is hitting .320 with 10 home runs and 25 RBIs, and in innings seven through nine, with the Tigers trailing by one run, tied or leading by one, he's hitting .359.
Cabrera's value to the Tigers is off the charts. Detroit goes as Cabrera goes. In the Tigers' losses this season, Cabrera is hitting .265 with just seven home runs and 33 RBIs, but in the team's victories, he's hitting .377, with 23 homers and 70 RBIs.
Cabrera isn't just a one-trick pony.
Most players with the power Cabrera boasts are primarily limited to hitting the ball over the fence to one side of the field. But Cabrera does so many different things at the plate that he forces pitchers and defenses to stay honest, making him much more difficult to attack.
He has a fantastic eye at the plate and is a very good contact hitter, earning 47 walks compared to just 66 strikeouts. Cabrera averages over .300 against both right and left-handed pitchers, and can hit the ball to all fields with 31 hits to left, 88 up the middle, and 34 knocks the opposite way to right field.
Cabrera is obviously a devastating power hitter, routinely turning in 30-plus home run seasons, but he consistently hits for average as well.
His league-leading .327 stands out this season, but he also led the AL last season with a .344 average and has hit at least .300 for a season seven times, including each of the last four years.
Doing It on Defense
For someone as big as he is, who hasn't played third base since 2007, Cabrera has done a remarkable job at the hot corner this season for the Tigers.
An under appreciated aspect of Cabrera's greatness this season is that he continues to be one of the best all-around hitters, while dedicating so much time to re-learning how to play third base.
Switching positions is an incredibly difficult thing to ask a player to do in the middle of his career, especially someone as mammoth as Cabrera, who's gotten used to anchoring himself at first.
Cabrera has a .966 fielding percentage with only 10 errors in 294 total chances at third base. His fielding percentage is tied for second best among third basemen in the AL, and his 189 assists are third most in the league.
Not too shabby for a 6'4", 240-pounder who hasn't played the position in over four years.
Cabrera has performed at an extremely high level day in, and day out during his career, and especially during his time with the Tigers.
In his 10th year in MLB, Cabrera is a seven-time All-Star selection, including four consecutive seasons from 2004 to 2007, and his current three-year streak, dating back to 2010.
Cabrera has been in the MVP conversation at the end of the season almost every year. He finished in the top five in five different seasons including 2005, 2006 and each of the last three seasons.
Cabrera had a rough start to the 2012 season, suffering through an 0-for-22 slump in April, but rebounded to finish the month with a .298 average, and has hit at least .311 in each month since. Since the slump in April when he went hitless in five straight games, Cabrera has only had back-to-back hitless games twice.
Tigers' manager Jim Leyland can put the slugger's name in the lineup every day without worrying about him hitting a proverbial wall. Cabrera has played every game this season, and has only missed 18 games since joining the Tigers in 2008.