Friday, November 16, 2012

Cabrera's Three-Year Run Best Since Ty Cobb

As you all know by now, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera won the first statistical triple crown since Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1968 and was named the American League Most Valuable Player for his efforts.  Many including myself have disputed his MVP worthiness versus Angels rookie Mike Trout after accounting for base running and defense.  Few would argue his dominance as a hitter over the past three years however.

While Cabrera's triple crown season was a rare feat of great historical significance, it wasn't his best offensive season as a Tiger.  While he led the league with a .999 OPS in 2012, he was even better in 2010 (1.033) and 2011 (1.042).  He also had 64, 71 and 57 Batting Runs (explained at the bottom of this post) in the same three years.

According to the Baseball-Reference Batting Season Finder, Cabrera's 193 Batting Runs from 2010-2012 was the best in Major League Baseball by a wide margin.  This means he was an estimated 193 runs or 64 runs per year better than an average player in the same number of plate appearances.  The second highest total was 159 by Reds first baseman Joey Votto.  His closet competition in the American League was Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista with 140, a whopping 53 runs fewer than Cabrera.  Without a doubt, the Tigers superstar has been the best hitter in baseball for three years. 

Where does Cabrera's three-season run stand in Tigers history?  Table 1 below looks at the best three-season Batting Runs totals ever.  As usual, the legendary Ty Cobb is the leader with 211 from 1910-1912 (without even including his base running).  The Hall-of-Fame outfielder also had 202 Batting Runs from 1915-1917 and two other sums higher than 193 in overlapping seasons.

Other than Cobb though, the best aggregate belongs to Cabrera at 193.  Nobody else is particularly close, so we can say that Cabrera's last three seasons have been the best for the franchise since 1917.  When I've done these lists in the past, they have always been populated by players who played prior to 1950.  The familiar names of Cobb, first baseman Hank Greenberg and Harry Heilmann still appear on the list, but now Cabrera has passed all but Cobb.

Table 1: Three-Year Tigers Batting Runs Leaders

Player
Years
Batting Runs Year1
Batting Runs Year2
Batting Runs Year3
Total Batting Runs
Ty Cobb
1910-1912
66
76
69
211
Ty Cobb
1909-1911
62
66
76
204
Ty Cobb
1915-1917
70
56
75
202
Ty Cobb
1911-1913
76
69
52
197
Miguel Cabrera
2010-2012
64
71
57
193
Harry Heilmann
1921-1923
60
46
74
181
Ty Cobb
1916-1918
56
75
46
177
Miguel Cabrera
2009-2011
40
64
71
175
Harry Heilmann
1923-1925
74
43
55
172
Hank Greenberg
1937-1939
67
61
44
172
Ty Cobb
1908-1910
42
62
66
170
Ty Cobb
1914-1916
42
70
56
169
Hank Greenberg
1938-1940
61
44
64
169
Ty Cobb
1913-1915
52
42
70
165
Ty Cobb
1917-1919
75
46
43
164
Harry Heilmann
1922-1924
46
74
43
164
Ty Cobb
1912-1914
69
52
42
163
Harry Heilmann
1925-1927
55
43
64
161
Ty Cobb
1907-1909
43
42
62
147
Norm Cash
1961-1963
85
29
28
142

Data Source: Baseball-Reference.com

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