Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera has an otherwise decent triple-slash line: .298/.363/.372. However, the lack of power is noticeable for the future Hall of Famer, who has hit just one of his 466 career home runs this season.
By many measures the Tigers have the worst offense in the American League. For example, the Tigers’ average of 3.47 runs per game is worst in the league, significantly behind the second-worst Indians at 3.81. Cabrera in fact, attributes his lack of power to his lack of lineup protection, Chris Nelsen reports for the Detroit Free Press. Cabrera said, “You know Prince Fielder? You know who’s hitting behind me right now? That’s a big difference, too.”
Cabrera added, “How am I going to hit 40 home runs. In the past, I got Prince Fielder, Víctor Martínez, Jhonny Peralta. I got a big bat behind me. You see the way guys pitch me? That explains everything.”
Niko Goodrum has most commonly batted cleanup behind Cabrera this season, doing so in 24 of 31 games. He hasn’t been bad, owning a .224/.336/.398 triple-slash line. No, not prime Prince Fielder or Víctor Martínez but also nothing to sneeze at. Goodrum’s .735 OPS is just a hair under the league average of .744.
Pitchers haven’t really altered how they pitch Cabrera, overall. According to FanGraphs, Cabrera is currently seeing a career-low percentage of fastballs at 53.3 percent. His career average is 58.4 percent and was as high as 59.6 percent in 2011. However, that’s in line with the overall league trend. Batters saw 58.7 percent fastballs in 2010 and are seeing 53 percent this year.
Furthermore, pitchers have actually pitched Cabrera outside the strike zone slightly more than he’s used to, but that’s also attributable to the overall league trend. Pitchers were in the strike zone 45.3 percent of the time throughout his career, but only 42.2 percent this season. The league-wide percentage was at 45.8 percent in 2010 and only 42.8 percent in 2019. Cabrera is also seeing a career-high percentage of first-pitch strikes (66.9%), and he’s swinging and missing at his second-highest rate in the last decade (10.8%).
I don’t buy that a lack of lineup protection is the reason Cabrera isn’t hitting for power. He hit just 16 home runs in 130 games in 2017, and three in 38 games last year, which is only slightly better than the one in 31 games he has this season. The easier explanation is that he’s 36 years old. He battled a hamstring injury last year and his body is starting to wear down, as it does for almost all players in their mid-30’s. His bat speed has slowed. Cabrera is one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game, but not even he can outrun Father Time.