At the age of 30, Miguel Cabrera has already established himself as one of the MLB's all-time great players. Given the immense amount of exposure he's currently receiving, some might think this praise is hyperbole. If you take a look at the numbers, though, you'll see that Cabrera measures up favorably with the likes of legends Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
What makes an all-time great, you say? For me, you have to have the numbers and the accolades. Championships can help your resumé, too, but one man can only do so much. On top of that, I think you need to be "the best" at some point in your career.
As of Aug. 15, Miggy has played in 1623 career games, or three more than 10 full seasons. For our purposes, we'll use that as the benchmark for comparing Cabrera to the other all-time greats.
Also, let's forget about defensive prowess. Not because it serves Cabrera's purpose, but rather because I don't think we have a statistic that truly quantifies a player's value on the field.
According to some nice work by Kurt Mensching at SB Nation's Bless You Boys blog, here's how Cabrera stacks up against Aaron and Mays in the batter's box:
162-Game Average Through 10 Seasons
As you can see, these numbers are all very, very close. In fact, Cabrera leads the two legends in most of these categories. Still, Cabrera has to continue his brilliance for years to come in order to be considered their peer in Cooperstown.
At this point, Miggy has one World Series Championship, one Triple Crown, one MVP, eight All-Star appearances, four Silver Sluggers and one Hank Aaron award. That's a ridiculous amount of accolades, and it's very clear that he'll be adding to that trophy case in 2013.
Al Kaline, a legend himself in the city of Detroit, heaped some serious praise on Cabrera recently when speaking before an autograph session:
Cabrera is the best hitter I’ve ever seen, by far. You have to realize, here’s a guy who doesn’t run very well and he’s leading the league (in batting average). It looks like he’s going to lead the league again by a huge margin, and the things he can do with pitches are just unbelievable...I’m not going to compare him yet to Ted Williams and some of those guys of the past, but certainly if he keeps going the way he is, he’s going to go down as one of the best hitters of all time.
Sure, there might be some Tiger bias there, but the numbers back Kaline up. And it's not as if the national media feels differently. Jayson Stark of ESPN says much to the same effect in this article:
Some may find this talk about Cabrera to be premature. Frankly, I disagree.
The consistency with which he has produced throughout his career has been nothing short of spectacular. The fact that he's just beginning to reach his peak—we think—means that the numbers should continue to pile up in the coming years.
For Tigers fans and baseball fans alike, it's a very exciting time. This kind of talent doesn't come around very often, and we should all be grateful just to witness it.
Let's see what he has in store for us as the regular season winds down and the postseason approaches.