Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has the chance to pull off the improbable this year, fighting for a chance to earn the first Triple Crown since 1967.
Having gone 4-for-5 at the plate in Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins, Cabrera stands at the top of all three Triple Crown batting categories, averaging .329 with 44 home runs and 137 RBIs. With only two games left, the 29-year-old infielder looks to fend off Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout, who trails by four points in batting average (.325) and Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton, who fell behind by one home run on the leader board (43) last night. Cabrera also has a sizable lead over Hamilton in the RBI race, leading by a 137-to-127 count. Though the likelihood of Cabrera holding onto the Triple Crown is distinctly possible, its his other seasons that do more than impress.
Cabrera is hands down one of the best sluggers in the past decade. In the nine years he has been in the league, Cabrera has amounted a career .318/.395/.561 slash line, which pits him just in line with Angels’ Albert Pujols (.325/.415/.609), retiree Manny Ramirez (.312/.411/.585) and New York Yankees’ Alex Rodrgiuez (.300/.384/.560), to name the top three sluggers in range of the award. Except, Cabrera is fighting for one of the best seasons ever recorded by a major league player (without being linked to steroid use).
In 2012, Cabrera has accumulated career-highs in hits (203) and total bases (375). However, he has matched, and even surpassed, this year’s performance in three different seasons: 2006, 2010 and 2011. In 2006, Cabrera set his career-high mark in on-base percentage (.430) and in 2011, he surpassed it (.448). The following year — arguably his best season — Cabrera notched an impressive .328/.420/.622 slash line, leading the league in both home runs and RBIs and coming up just one point shy of the batting average mark.
In the last few years, Cabrera has made considerable strides as the best player in the last decade. Since 2006, he has averaged .326, .327, .332, .352, .355. In the last three seasons, he has hit .334/.420/.605 while averaging an impressive 37 homers and 123 RBIs. To be so consistently high in batting average is a remarkable feat on its own and one that deserves Player of the Last Decade consideration.
As Cabrera ages, so does his competition. Pujols is in the back-nine of his career (32) while Rodriguez is on the verge of retirement (37). Meanwhile, Cabrera is in the prime of his, with no significant injuries in his recent past to drag him down and only missing one game during the 2012 season. He should continue to push for the Player of the Last Decade (if there was such an award) as he notches his bid for the Triple Crown.
If Cabrera does pull off the unthinkable and edge out Trout and Hamilton in their respective categories, it will be deemed as one of the best single seasons by a player. But its the mark of a consistent hitter, which he has mastered throughout his career, that grants him a higher accomplishment — Player of the Last Decade.