Some guys have it. Their history swaggers to the plate with them. If you are a pitcher your antenna go up. Fans don’t leave their seats for refreshments, but keep their eyes riveted on the action. One of those hitters is the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera. He is the defending American League batting champion and is keeping his average in the .320 range this season.
There are a select group of all-stars in the game whom I pretty much expect to get a hit every time they step into the batter’s box. Of course that’s nonsense since no-one bats 1.000, or anything close to it, but there’s an expectation, a feeling that they will make something happen. I don’t mean smash a home run. We all reached that level of expectation a few years back when guys like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., and Alex Rodriguez were popping those dingers all over the map all of the time.
This is different. It may just be a single (or in some cases even a base on balls), but you just get the feeling that a guy is almost impossible to get out and when it happens it’s a relief for the opposing pitcher.
Coming into the 2012 season Cabrera had a .317 lifetime average, with 289 career homers and 1,031 runs batted in. His on-base percentage was .394 and he was a six-time All-Star. Last year Victor Martinez hit almost as well as Cabrera and the Tigers won the American League Central Division. In the off-season the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and the lineup with that trio in the middle was already making pitchers quake. Then Martinez got injured and hasn’t played a minute this season.
Detroit began the season much more slowly than most anticipated. You can’t blame Cabrera for the Tigers’ slow start this year. Just watching him during a game I certainly felt the ground shake when he walked up to the plate, especially with men on base. Sure enough, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, the only time there were men on base, he knocked in a run.
Probably the most unusual thing about Cabrera’s career for such a terrific hitter is that he is not closely identified with a position. Few great hitters have moved around the field as much as he has. During his career since breaking in with the Florida Marlins, Cabrera, who is from Venezuela, has played more than 100 games at first base, third base, left field and right field. Pete Rose is one great hitter who also got juggled around in the field and it didn’t seem to bother him too much. Going way back, slugger Jimmie Foxx played first base and third base and when the fans voted for the first All-Star team members they didn’t know how to consider him. You can also find photos of Foxx wearing catcher’s equipment.
I kind of doubt we are going to see Cabrera behind the plate, though I won’t rule out more appearances as a designated hitter as he ages. For now, it seems that no matter what spot the Tigers find for him in the field they will always find a spot for him in the batting order and Cabrera will probably hit .320.