CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Changing Speeds: No Co... (06/09)
No Previous Column
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Action: Yo... (06/09)

June 9, 2010

Checking the Numbers

The Baby-faced Assassin

by Eric Seidman

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.

a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

While the game of baseball involves uncertainty in a variety of areas, at least one constant exists: When a very young player begins to make an impact in the major leagues, everyone takes notice.

Perhaps it’s due to the idea that, while the game is certainly no stranger to stars, getting such a head start could potentially lead to super-stardom, a legendary career bound for Cooperstown that fathers will tell their sons about years later. What has made Jason Heyward so impressive isn’t just the gaudy triple-slash line but the production relative to his mere 20 years of age.

Similar sentiments apply to Justin Upton’s 2009 campaign and to everything Felix Hernandez has done since entering the league while unable to buy an alcoholic beverage. Well, there is another youngster continuing to produce historical numbers that some forget is still technically not even at his peak age, regardless of how one feels about the subject: Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.

At the time this article will hit the web, Cabrera will have been just 27 years old for less than two months, even though it seems as if he has been in the game for over a decade. It’s easy to forget that the current frontrunner for the AL MVP entered the league as a 20-year-old third baseman back in 2003, when he almost instantly found himself slotted in the Marlins’ cleanup spot after hitting a walk-off home run in his first game. He would finish the year hitting .268/.325/.468 with 12 home runs in 346 plate appearances, but would become more famous for an incident in the playoffs that served as a modern equivalent to one of those old-timey stories our grandfathers like to tell. In Game Four of the 2003 World Series, Cabrera was knocked to the ground by a patented Roger Clemens brush-back pitch; no more than two pitches later, Cabrera smashed the ball out of the yard and into the right-field bleachers. The Marlins went onto win that championship, and while Cabrera’s rookie numbers were not eye-popping by any stretch, the entire sport knew a new star had joined the ranks.

Over the next six seasons, Cabrera never played fewer than 157 games, and if one were to pluck his worst slash-line components from different seasons, the makeshift .292/.349/.512 would still end up markedly above average. In that span, Cabrera hit .315/.388/.548, averaging 39 doubles and 33 home runs per season. Even more impressive is the fact that he also averaged just 124 strikeouts per year, a figure that decreases to 119 when the 148 punchouts in 2004 are removed; that happened to be his first full season. No matter how one chooses to slice and dice the numbers, Cabrera is an elite hitter in every sense of the term, combining an ability to make contact with tremendous power and a patient eye.

The numbers look even better this season, as he is hitting .351/.421/.678 in 235 trips to the dish, with 17 doubles and 17 home runs. He also ranks fifth in OBI Percentage, our metric that measures the efficiency with which batters knock in runners, measured relative to the number of RBI opportunities. In fact, since 2005, Cabrera is the second-most efficient batter in terms of knocking in runners in the entire sport. The table below shows the top five in this category with 3,000 or more plate appearances:




Vladimir Guerrero



Miguel Cabrera



Ryan Howard



Magglio Ordonez



David DeJesus



With the background out of the way, how does Cabrera compare to players from the past? Aside from Justin Upton—due to Cabrera’s age-21 season—the comps at Baseball Reference are Hank Aaron and Ken Griffey, Jr. Looking at comparable players through a certain age, Cabrera’s production resembles that of the aforementioned duo, as well as Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Albert Pujols, and Mickey Mantle. It's no wonder, as his WARP3 sum between the ages of 21 and 27 ranks 20th among players in the same age range since 1962, and that includes his numbers in the current season, suggesting that he could certainly move up a few spots come the end of September. The table below shows his classmates in the aforementioned query:




18. George Brett



19. Scott Rolen



20. Cesar Cedeno



21. Miguel Cabrera



22. David Wright




 If there is a chink in the proverbial armor, it is that Cabrera is by no means a solid defender. Then again, he isn’t exactly Adam Dunn with the glove, either; being five to eight runs below average defensively does not negate that much of his value given the offensive prowess. What the future holds for Cabrera is unclear, especially given his body size and the issues with conditioning that have plagued him for several years, but it might take an MVP award in his eighth season for everyone to finally catch on that the guy is pretty darn great.

Eric Seidman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Eric's other articles. You can contact Eric by clicking here

Related Content:  Orlando Cabrera

3 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Changing Speeds: No Co... (06/09)
No Previous Column
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Action: Yo... (06/09)

Prospectus Feature: Baseball Brexit
Tools of Ignorance: Is Now the Time to Sell?
What You Need to Know: Baltimore Bombs
Rubbing Mud: Houston's Delayed Launch
Premium Article The View From Behind The Backstop: Triple-A ...
Prospectus Feature: Bloom's Taxonomy and the...
Prospectus Feature: The Unbreakable Kimmy's ...

Premium Article Manufactured Runs: What Strasburg Threw
Premium Article On the Beat: Wednesday Update
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: High-flying Birds
Under The Knife: Wednesday Update
Premium Article Transaction Action: Youthful Orient-ation
Premium Article Changing Speeds: No Contact Allowed Redux

2010-06-18 - Premium Article Seidnotes: Wait, WHO has 18 Home Runs?
2010-06-16 - Checking the Numbers: Where in the World is ...
2010-06-11 - Premium Article Seidnotes: The .300/.500 Club
2010-06-09 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: The Baby-faced Assassi...
2010-06-04 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: A Developmental Dilemm...
2010-06-02 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Sneaky SIERA
2010-05-26 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Royal Pains

2010-06-09 - Premium Article Checking the Numbers: The Baby-faced Assassi...