Miguel Cabrera, Tigers still wondering what hit them

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Triple Crown winner and likely American League MVP Miguel Cabrera took an 89-mph fastball from Sergio Romo right down the pipe to end the World Series on Sunday night.

An 89-mph fastball.

With Quintin Berry looking nothing like a major league No. 2 hitter ahead of him and Prince Fielder flailing away behind, Cabrera certainly didn’t get much help. And he actually hit a two-run homer tonight, though it would have been nothing more than a lazy fly to right if the gusting wind hadn’t picked it up and deposited it over the wall.

That was the only time in the game Cabrera managed to put a ball into fair territory. He struck out three times and walked once to finish the series at .231. Fielder went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts behind him to end up at .071. Jhonny Peralta came in at .067. Tigers catchers combined to go 1-for-14. The three corner outfielders not named Delmon Young were 1-for-22.

Young, who also had a wind-aided homer tonight, was the best of the Tigers, going 5-for-14. Austin Jackson also did nice work, reaching base safely seven times. Omar Infante was 5-for-15 before breaking his hand when he was hit by a pitch tonight.

That’s it for success stories, though. The Tigers scored six runs in four games against the Giants. They topped that total 34 times in 162 regular-season games. The two shutouts in the series matched their total for the entire regular season.

Cabrera looking completely overmatched against Jeremy Affeldt and Romo in his final two at-bats will be the lasting images from tonight’s Game 4. Which is hardly fair, considering that the superstar behind him looked like that for four games straight. Cabrera and Fielder still need to be considered the game’s best 3-4 combination, but they were completely outshined by Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey the last five days.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉