Cabrera a part of AL MVP discussion
First baseman an offensive standout on Tigers team
DETROIT -- Could Miguel Cabrera garner American League Most Valuable Player votes from a Tigers team that disappointed offensively? It's an intriguing question, with an answer coming Monday.
From a team standpoint, the Tigers' offensive inconsistency was at times debilitating, dampening the impact of a pitching staff that became the strength of the club. They were held to three runs or fewer in 63 games, while they ranked among the bottom handful of American League teams in total runs, runs per game, batting average, total bases and doubles.
Those numbers seemingly wouldn't set up an MVP season. But imagine what those numbers would've been like without Cabrera.
For that matter, imagine how the season in general would've unfolded without him.
Overlooked in Detroit's search for offense was Cabrera's return to the batting average he posted on a seemingly annual basis during his younger years in Florida, while again posting the power and run production that the Tigers coveted when they traded for him two years ago.
Cabrera either drove in or scored 165 of the Tigers' 743 runs. Not only did his 103 RBIs mark the Tigers' only 100-RBI season for the year, they made him the only Tiger with more than 84. Not only did he duplicate Magglio Ordonez's feat from 2007 by leading the Tigers in all the offensive triple-crown categories, he led the team in virtually every major offensive statistic except for triples and stolen bases.
For that matter, he finished among the AL's top six in plenty of those same categories. He was a big part of the AL batting race for much of the summer before ultimately finishing fourth behind Joe Mauer, Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter. His .396 on-base percentage and .547 slugging percentages both ranked sixth, resulting in an OPS that ranked fifth. His 334 total bases trailed just Mark Teixeira and Aaron Hill. He couldn't repeat his AL home run title, but he came close.
The one major category where he fell shorter than others wasn't entirely his fault. His RBI total tied for eighth in the league, but that resulted in part from a shortage of runners to drive in. According to baseball-reference.com, he had fewer runners in scoring position when he came up than the average Major League hitter with his number of plate appearances.
Nobody on a team that ranked in the bottom half of the league in runs scored drove in more runs than Cabrera.
Still, on a team that generally rode its pitching to the division lead and stayed there until the regular season's final game, Cabrera didn't even garner MVP votes on his own team. When the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America gathered earlier this month to vote for the Tiger of the Year, staff ace Justin Verlander was a unanimous choice. He finished third in AL Cy Young voting last week.
Cabrera's late-season struggles, then his end-of-season troubles, didn't help his case. He batted .229 over Detroit's final 12 games, including an 0-for-11 performance over three games against the White Sox on the final weekend of the regular season. An early-morning call to police from his wife on the next-to-last day of the season put him in a difficult spotlight.
In an AL MVP race dominated by Mauer, Teixeira and Jeter, Cabrera isn't likely to threaten their chances. Still, with 10 places on the ballot, he's sure to get a good share of support. If he can crack the top 10, he'll be the fourth Tiger to do so in the past four years. Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson placed second and 10th, respectively, in the 2007 balloting, after Carlos Guillen placed 10th in '06.
No Tiger has won AL MVP honors since reliever Willie Hernandez in 1984.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.