Sunday, June 09, 2013

Cabrera on Pace for Best Batting Season Ever for a Tiger

There is much talk about the possibility of Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera winning an unprecedented second consecutive triple crown.  That would be a remarkable feat, but most of you are aware of the limitations of the triple crown statistics.  From a sabermetric perspective, 2012 was not even Cabrera's best season.  According to more advanced numbers, his 2011 and 2010 seasons were even better.  This season, however, he is on pace to do something truly historic.

I'm going to use the Batting Runs statistic to show where Cabrera's prformance stands among the greatest seasons in Tigers history.  The Batting Runs metric was first introduced in The Hidden Game of Baseball by Pete Palmer and John Thorn in 1984.  It is an estimate of the number of runs a player contributed above an average player based on the number of singles, doubles, triples, home runs, bases on balls, hit batsmen and outs accumulated throughout the season.

Cabrera currently has 30 Batting Runs to give him a narrow lead over Orioles slugger Chris Davis (28).  This means that Cabrera has created an estimated 30 runs more than an average player would have been expected to create given the same number of outs.  If we project from the 60-game sample to 162 games, the Tigers slugger would have 81 Batting Runs by season's end.  How awesome is that?  As great as he was in 2010-2012, he accumulated only 55, 65 and 53 respectively in those years.

The table show that 81 Batting Runs would be the most in the history of the franchise eclipsing first baseman Norm Cash's 76 in 1961.  Not even the legendary Ty Cobb had that many in any season.  If we include base running, then Cobb's 1911 season might be better, but based just on batting Cabrera would be number one.


Table 1: Tigers Single-Season Batting Runs Leaders

Player
Year
Batting Runs
Cabrera
2013
81*
Cash
1961
76
Heilmann
1923
74
Cobb
1911
74
Cobb
1917
70
Cobb
1912
68
Cabrera
2011
65
Greenberg
1937
64
Heilmann
1927
64
Cobb
1915
63

*Projected for a full season
Source: Baseball-Reference.com

The 81 Batting Runs would also be the 24th highest total in American League history.  Cabrera would be in great company as he would join Babe Ruth (9 times), Ted Williams (6), Lou Gehrig (5). Mickey Mantle (2) and Jimmie Foxx (1) as the only American League players with more than 80 Batting Runs in a season.  Cabrera would be the first to do it since Mickey Mantle (84 Batting Runs) and Ted Williams (83) in 1957.  Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have surpassed 80 in the National League since then.

There is a long way to go and it will be difficult for Cabrera to maintain his current pace, but he has chance to put together a season for the ages in 2013.

12 comments:

  1. AnonymousJune 09, 2013

    Batting runs is another completely useless stat unless you live in an ideal world.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find it to be a pretty useful statistic for measuring overall batting performance. Since you think it is completely useless, which statistic would you use to describe overall batting performance and how do the the all-time Tigers ranks differ on that statistic compared to Batting Runs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well it's somewhat irrelevant because Cabrera is a great player, but we certainly have not ever had one impressive season as a TEAM which is all I care about in the end. We are really far removed from being an elite team, and I don't see us developing one necessarily before Cabrera retires. No championships, and weak prospects to win championships with any kind of regularity. So what good is it to have a great performance from any one player if you can't capitalize on it and develop a legacy?

      This team sucks, but Cabrera is indeed a special one of a kind player. Still, so what until the TEAM accomplishes desirable goals.

      Delete
    2. First off, the Tigers don't suck. They have some weaknesses, but they lead the league in runs scored and have a great starting rotation and will probably have one of the highest win totals by season's end. I think they are one of the best teams in baseball.

      Also, while team success is the ultimate goal, many fans including myself are interested in individual performances as well.

      Delete
    3. It's all relative and a matter of expectations and I have higher expectations than the average expectation level. So I'm coming from a different place and perspective with regard to my viewpoints. If this team had a $75MM payroll this year then I would agree they don't suck. But at $150MM I think "sucks" is very spot on as the appropriate sentiment to describe the quality of this team.

      And yeah I'm a big fan of individual performances as well, that's something that's very important to me. Like I would have let Scherzer stay in for a chance at his first complete game ever. But that's just me, because I think there are principles in play to try and achieve special things and milestones. That's part of the individual legacies that I think a team and player should set goals for in addition to the team goals and legacy.

      I would also sit down Cabrera many times during the regular season to conserve his health for the long-term if this was ONLY about winning. But to try and win a Triple Crown is important, so let him play 162 games if we can because I think we should have our cake, and eat it too. That's part of the game of baseball to me. And when a player is going for something important, you should let him try to do it.

      Delete
  3. Nice breakdown. I would love to see a similar breakdown for most valuable hitting season ever, and maybe broken down multiple ways with salary as one of the filters. I'd love to see an analysis that shows the best performances per dollar in team history. That would be really intriguing to see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AnonymousJune 09, 2013

      Yeah, because salaries now are completely related to salaries in the 1920's and 1950's...

      Delete
    2. Then one could separate them by decade as well. I'm more interested in the contemporary times to compare against other contemporary players. There are lots of inherent challenges to comparing players of different eras for many reasons. The natural size and strength of a human has also evolved over time, so how do you compensate for that?

      If you wanted to compare different eras on salary, then you could try a proportional system.

      So you would look at what players in the 1950's were making relative to other players in the 50's in proportional relationship to those dynamics in today's game. Depends on what one wants to do in terms of coming up with a "most valuable" season as just one other possible way to dissect things. To me that's an interesting process.

      Delete
  4. You have Cobb's 2011 season (which would be truly amazing) and I think you mean 1911 season.

    That's a crazy pace for Cabrera. I didn't think I'd see anyone make a run at Cash' 76 batting runs given how good Cabrera's been in the past and how far away from the total he's wound up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Mike. My ideal world has Cobb playing in 2011, but I'll fix it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The Tigers have the best starting rotation since the 90s era Braves, at least. And they have among the best, if not the best, batting production of any team in professional baseball. They're 5.5 games ahead in the AL Central, and it would be a lot more except for some bad luck.

    That said I wouldn't mind having Ty Cobb minding centerfield, at least until Austin Jackson gets back. His production might be a bit off, but after all you have to expect that from a 126 year old zombie. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Another nice column Lee. Individual performances can be just as memorable to a fan as a team accomplishment and your column brings to light the historic relevance of Cabrera's season. What is truly amazing is that he is earning those batting runs almost exclusively in the first six innings.

    ReplyDelete

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