By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – Teammates say that when Miguel Cabrera enters the clubhouse, he does not do anything out the ordinary. He works out approximately the same amount as other players do during the season, and there is nothing particularly strange about his daily routine.
When he gets a bat in his hands, though, it is something to behold.
“When you watch him during batting practice it’s like a kid playing wiffle ball,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. “It’s like he can do whatever he wants with the bat, that’s for sure.”
Avila and the rest of the Detroit Tigers know they are witnessing history by watching Cabrera.
“It’s amazing,” Avila said. “There’s nobody in this clubhouse that takes that for granted.”
Cabrera batted three for four in Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, boosting his average to .373, the highest in Major League Baseball by 16 points.
Media members recently awarded Cabrera the award for AL Player of the Month for his May numbers that included a .379 batting average, 12 home runs and 33 RBI. Tigers manager Jim Leyland has repeatedly called it an honor to watch Cabrera play each day.
“When I talk to other managers, they talk about him to me – what a hitter he is, how impressive he is and everything,” Leyland said. “For me, it’s really an honor, really, to be able to see him every day. I get to see him every day. They get to see him for a series and they’re remarking how good he is, but I have the pleasure of seeing him every day.”
Cabrera obviously has immense physical ability, but Leyland also appreciates Cabrera’s mind for game.
“He’s a smart hitter, and he’s got a pretty good idea what guys are trying to do to him,” Leyland said. “He hit a ball recently that was inside, and he hit it out for a home run because the guy had been away, away, but he remembered that the guy had tried to crowd him a little bit, maybe the time before, and all of a sudden he looks for it in there and hit it out of the ball park, so he’s pretty special.”
What’s the ceiling for Cabrera? He won the Triple Crown in 2012, the first player to do so since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, which was 16 years before Cabrera was even born.
Only nine other players have achieved that distinction since 1922, the earliest Triple Crown season for which baseballreference.com displays game logs. All nine continued to be impressive the year following their accomplishment.
Even among those players, though, when one looks at numbers through June 6 of the post-Triple Crown season, Cabrera stands out.
His .366 batting average through June 6, which encompassed more games than that of earlier players, was at least 18 points higher than that of Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Joe Medwick, Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein, Jimmie Foxx and Rogers Hornsby in 1925. The only players to have a more successful start to the season following their Triple Crown year were Mickey Mantle, Hornsby in 1922 and Ted Williams.
Only one man in the history of baseball won the Triple Crown twice – Hornsby in 1922 and 1925. Needless to say, no one has ever earned the honor consecutive seasons.
With 17 homers, 66 RBI and a .373 average through 58 games, Cabrera is now on pace for 47 home runs, an unthinkable 184 RBI – an amount not achieved since the 1930s – and, of course, the same remarkable average. Staying on that pace is unlikely, of course, but Cabrera already defied likelihood once by winning the Triple Crown in 2012.
Could he be the first player in history to win it in back-to-back years? No one knows, and guessing is pointless, but Avila said he is just enjoying getting to see it all unfold.
“I’d rather not try to predict it and just watch it,” Avila said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch.”