Friday, September 21, 2012

Where Does Cabrera's Season Rank in Tigers History?

I have spent too much time recently trying to explain why I think Mike Trout should be the MVP over Miguel Cabrera.  So, today I'll just talk about Cabrera and where his season ranks in Tigers history.

Everyone knows that the Tigers slugger is closing in on a Triple Crown.  He is currently leading the American League in batting average and Runs Batted In and is just one behind Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton in homers.  Winning the Triple Crown would be a rare event.  It has been accomplished only 13 times since 1901, nine in the AL and four in the NL. The only Tiger to do it was the legendary Ty Cobb who batted .377/9/107 in 1909.

I think it would be really cool if Cabrera won the triple crown, but most of you know that those are not my preferred statistics.  I'll start by using the OPS+ statistic.  If we compare a batter's OPS to league average and adjust for home ballpark, we get his OPS+.  An OPS+ of 100 is league average.  An OPS+ of more than 100 is better than average and an OPS+ of less than 100 is worse than average.  Cabrera currently leads the league with a 170 OPS+. 

The Tigers single-season leaders are shown in Table 1 below.  As of today, Cabrera is 16th on the Tigers all-time list.  Interestingly, this is only his third best season as a Tiger as he posted marks of 181 in 2011 and 178 in 2010.  Three consecutive years with an OPS+ of 170 or better would be quite remarkable.  The only other Tiger to do that was Cobb from 1909-1912.

As is always the case, Cobb dominates the leaders appearing nine times in the top 20.  Other Tigers showing up multiple times are the great Hank Greenberg (four), Cabrera (three) and the under appreciated Harry Heilmann (three). For someone who grew to love the game in 1970s, it's pretty exciting to finally see a modern Tiger finally making a top twenty list more than once. 

Table 1: Tigers Single-Season OPS+ Leaders  

Player
Year
PA
OPS+
Ty Cobb
1917
669
210
Ty Cobb
1910
590
206
Norm Cash
1961
673
201
Ty Cobb
1912
609
200
Ty Cobb
1911
654
196
Harry Heilmann
1923
627
194
Ty Cobb
1909
651
193
Ty Cobb
1915
700
185
Miguel Cabrera
2011
688
181
Harry Heilmann
1927
596
180
Ty Cobb
1916
636
180
Miguel Cabrera
2010
648
178
Al Kaline
1967
550
176
Hank Greenberg
1937
701
172
Hank Greenberg
1940
670
171
Miguel Cabrera
2012
646
170
Hank Greenberg
1935
710
170
Hank Greenberg
1938
681
169
Ty Cobb
1922
613
169
Harry Heilmann
1922
526
169
Ty Cobb
1908
635
169

Data Source: Baseball-Reference


A limitation of OPS+ is that it weights OBP and slugging equally.  In actuality, OBP is more important than slugging and should carry more weight.  It also does not give a batter credit for playing time.  So, I'll also take a look at Batting Runs.  It has been determined from the results of thousands of games that the following linear weights are most appropriate:

single 0.47
double 0.77
triple 1.04
home run 1.40
walk 0.31
HBP 0.34

Based on that, we can arrive at a player's Batting Runs (BtRuns).  Cabrera currently has 57 BtRuns which means that he has contributed 57 runs beyond what you would expect from an average player.  As shown in Table 2, that ranks him 18th on the Tigers all-time single-season list.  Cabrera still has 13 games to go, so he has a chance to move up the list. As with OPS+, Cabrera had even better seasons in 2011 (71) and 2010 (64).

First baseman Norm Cash is the Tigers all-time leader with 85 BtRuns in 1961.  Beyond that, we see the same familiar names populating the table - Cobb, Cabrera, Geenberg and Heilmann.

 
Table 2: Tigers Single-Season Batting Runs Leaders

Player
Year
PA
BtRuns
Norm Cash
1961
673
85
Ty Cobb
1911
654
76
Ty Cobb
1917
669
75
Harry Heilmann
1923
627
74
Miguel Cabrera
2011
688
71
Ty Cobb
1915
700
70
Ty Cobb
1912
609
69
Hank Greenberg
1937
701
67
Ty Cobb
1910
590
66
Miguel Cabrera
2010
648
64
Hank Greenberg
1940
670
64
Harry Heilmann
1927
596
64
Ty Cobb
1909
651
62
Hank Greenberg
1935
710
62
Magglio Ordonez
2007
679
61
Hank Greenberg
1938
681
61
Harry Heilmann
1921
672
60
Miguel Cabrera
2012
646
57
Ty Cobb
1916
636
56
Ty Cobb
1922
613
56

Data Source: Baseball-Reference


What I find most interesting about these compilations is Cabrera's three-year run of 191 Batting Runs which is surpassed only by Cobb's 211 in 1910-1912.  Cabrera's 2012 season has certainly been outstanding, but his consistent greatness over three years has been even more impressive.   

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