After securing the first Triple Crown season in 45 years last season, the idea that Cabrera could improve his play seems ludicrous, but thanks to an improved lineup around him and a scorching hot start, Cabrera looks poised to make a run at something never before achieved in MLB history: back-to-back Triple Crowns.
Winning just one Triple Crown is rare enough, as it’s only been done 16 times in the history of the MLB. As for winning two? That would put Cabrera in some truly elite company. Only two other players have ever won two Triple Crowns in their careers, and they’re two guys you may have heard of: Rogers Hornsby won them in 1922 and 1925, and Ted Williams achieved the rare feat in both 1942 and 1947. Cabrera would be the first to do it consecutively.
Just 46 games into the season, Cabrera is hitting .388 to go along with 14 home runs and an amazing 57 RBI, putting him on pace for a "Ruthian" 49 home runs and 201 RBI on the season. In May alone, he has hit an amazing .419 with 10 homers and 29 RBI, buoyed by a May 19 game in Texas, where he hit three home runs and reached base in all five of his plate appearances.
His numbers this year put him far ahead of last year’s Triple Crown pace, when he batted .331 to go along with 44 homers and 139 RBI. Through 46 games last year, Cabrera was hitting a paltry .310 with “just” 8 home runs and 37 RBI. Obviously, he picked up his pace some as the season went along, but his current May would easily have stood as his best month last season.
So, how exactly can someone who had one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history be on pace to improve upon their numbers of the year before? A lot of the credit has to go to Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski. Despite Cabrera’s Triple Crown season, the Tigers ranked just 11th in runs last season, and this offseason, Dombrowski signed Torii Hunter to bat in the No. 2 hole, directly ahead of Cabrera and his No. 3 spot in the lineup.
Hunter is batting above .300 for the second season in a row, and his presence in the lineup has been felt from the get go. The Tigers lead the Major Leagues in runs scored, even though they have been without the bat of the injured Austin Jackson for much of May. To think that Cabrera’s recent five-game stretch, in which he drove in 15 runs, came without the help of Jackson is downright scary.
There’s no pitching around Cabrera, either, with former 50 home run man Prince Fielder batting cleanup behind him.
With the rich Tigers only getting richer, the rest of the league knows they’re in trouble.
Even Cabrera’s own manager, Jim Leyland, is in awe of what Cabrera is doing this season.
“There aren’t many of those guys. They see things different from other guys,” Leyland said, according to Noah Trister in the National Post.
Leyland is wrong here, though.
Cabrera is in a league of his own, and there are no other guys like him.
Even for the best, though, winning the Triple Crown isn’t easy.
Simply put, there’s a reason the Triple Crown is one of the hardest achievements in baseball. To do it requires not only an incredible offensive season but also a considerable amount of luck. Take Albert Pujols’ 2006 season for example. That year, Albert had 49 home runs, 137 RBI and hit .331, and not one of these numbers was good enough to lead the league.
As part of the most potent lineup in the MLB, Cabrera looks like a cinch to repeat as the AL RBI leader, but leading the league in average and home runs again won’t be as easy. Though he leads the AL in average by 41 points, he’ll surely face stiff competition from fellow stars like three-time batting champion Joe Mauer, and Mike Trout, who he bested by just four percentage points last season. Chris Davis, who lead the AL with 16 home runs, will give Cabrera stiff competition for the home run title, too.
History says the odds are against Cabrera, and normally, I’d be inclined to side with the past.
Cabrera, though, is no mere mortal.
By no means do I expect Cabrera to hit .388 for the season or for him continue his pace toward 200 RBI (a pace that would shatter Hack Wilson’s record of 191), but a .350 average with somewhere around 45 homers and 160 RBI by season’s end would surprise no one.
Right now, Miguel Cabrera is the premier offensive player in the MLB, and it would be no surprise if, for the second year in a row, his numbers reflect that, and lead the American League, at the end of the season.