Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What's wrong with Miguel Cabrera?

Miguel Cabrera is viewed by many Tigers fans as the poster child of the Tigers poor first third of the 2008 season. Personally, I think there is plenty of blame to go around and I wouldn't single him out but I did expect him to be doing better than he is. So what's wrong with Miguel?

Table 1 shows the standard stats and he is clearly down across the board from his previous three seasons with the Marlins. After three consistent seasons, his BA has dropped from more .320 to .277, his slugging from .565 to .461 and his OPS from of .965 to .821 this year. That is obviously a substantial decrease in production. Now, if you compare his OPS to league average and adjust for home park (OPS+), it doesn't look quite as bad. He has gone from 50% above league average (150 OPS+) to 24% above average. It's still a sizable decrease though.

Table 1: Miguel Cabrera's standard stats

Year

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

2005

685

.323

.385

.561

.947

151

2006

676

.339

.430

.568

.998

159

2007

680

.320

.401

.565

.965

150

2008

239

.277

.360

.461

.821

124



What's the problem? He sure seems to lack plate discipline and strike out a lot this year. Doesn't he? Table 2 presents his plate discipline stats abstracted from Baseball Reference and Fan Graphs. We can see that his walk percentage (11.8 in 2007 vs. 11.6 in 2008) and strike out percentage (21.6 in 2007 vs. 20.9 in 2008) are about the same this year as last year.

More detailed stats also do not reveal anything unusual. His pitches per plate appearance (3.68 in 2007 and 3.69 in 2008) are about the same this year as last. His OSWING% (percentage of pitches outside the strike zone at which he swung) is higher than it was in 2005 and 2006 but almost the same as last year. ZSWING% (percentage of pitches inside the zone at which he swung) is lower than it was last year but about the same as it was in 2005-2006. His contact% (percentage of swings on which he made contact) has also not changed much from 2007. So, there is no indication of decreased discipline this year.

Table 2: Miguel Cabrera's plate discipline stats

Year

BB%

K%

P/PA

OSWING%

ZSWING%

Contact%

2005

9.5

20.4

3.84

23.5

68.4

79.2

2006

13.0

18.8

3.91

23.1

67.3

80.7

2007

11.8

21.6

3.68

30.2

74.3

76.7

2008

11.6

20.9

3.69

30.8

67.7

77.2



Table 3, also abstracted from Fan Graphs, is a little more revealing. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) has dropped from .361 to .316. A drop in BABIP is often an indication that a batter is unlucky. That is, balls which dropped in for hits in the past are being caught this year.

However, a further look at the data indicate that something else might be going on here. While Cabrera's ground ball rate (44.9%) is significantly higher than it was in any of the previous three years, his line drive rate (15.0%) is substantially lower. Additionally, his rate of home runs per fly ball (11.9%) is much lower. All of this indicates to me that Cabrera is not hitting the ball as solidly as he did in the past.

Table 3: Miguel Cabrera's batted ball data

Year

BABIP

GB%

LD%

FB%

HR/FB

2005

.363
38.3
24.5
37.2
17.9

2006

.382
40.3
24.2
35.5
15.6

2007

.361
40.0
20.7
39.3
18.5

2008

.316
44.9
15.0
40.1
11.9


Not hitting the ball as hard is probably less of a red flag than a drop in plate discipline but it's still a problem. I'm not sure whether it's just a slump of random bad luck or whether it's something mechanical. I'm not really concerned yet though because his past performance indicates that he'll likely start hitting better soon. Of course, I've been saying that about the Tigers all year.

6 comments:

  1. To me, there could be only 2 reasons for Cabrera's slump: still adjusting to the AL, and/or the quad is still bothering him. He's too good a hitter to continue like this the rest of the season.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't share your optimism. I have seen every little from Cabrera this season to make me think he'll turn it around. I'm like you in that I tend to trust the statistics and track records. His track records suggests that this is nothing more than a blip on a great career. However, you have to admit, when you seem him step to the plate he just doesn't look like he's that into the game.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's possible he does not always concentrate on his at bats enough. Jim Leyland said that much. However, my impression is that he was the same way in Florida and he got great results there. He seems to have a laid back personality but he is also very durable and almost never misses a game. This year has been frustrating but I still fully expect him to have a great career for the Tigers.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think the odds are that he will come around, just given his history. However, he has shown almost none of production that the Tigers thought they were getting when they traded for him. In other words, maybe this is him now. It's possible that over the next 8 years he's a .270/25 HR sort of player.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great work as always. The drop in LD% and HR/FB has me worried as well. Clear signs that he's not hitting the ball as hard. I checked out his extra base hit charts and he's still pulling the majority at about the same rate as 2007.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I had not looked up the spray charts yet. It's interesting that they are similar to last year. I think (hope) the fact that he's not hitting the ball as hard is more correctable than plate discipline issues but it's still something to keep an eye on.

    ReplyDelete

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