It comes as no surprise that Miguel Cabrera‘s best seasons with the Detroit Tigers, and best seasons during his MLB career in general, came when he had the powerful and daunting bat of Prince Fielder to help give him some protection at the plate.
Cabrera has always been a well-above average hitter, but one must look at his production before and after Fielder came to Motown. From 2008-2011, Cabrera’s batting average was .322, he averaged just under 35 homers a year (34.75) and drove in an average of 115 runs. Obviously these are very good All-Star caliber numbers, but now consider his production in the two years that he had Fielder to add some type of power threat in the lineup. From 2012-2013, Cabrera’s average shot up 17 points to .339, he averaged an even 44 homers and brought in a remarkable average of 138 runs.
And on the other hand, look at how Fielder’s power numbers decreased during his time with the Tigers in comparison to when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. Granted, his new home field of Comerica Park is one of the toughest places to hit the ball over the fence, but some of Fielder’s numbers drastically dropped and only so much blame can go to where he played the majority of his games. When he was in Milwaukee from 2007-2011, Fielder slugged an average of 40 homers a year and drove in an average of 113 runs. His time in Detroit was much less productive for his homer output as his average dropped to less than 28 (27.5) and his RBI average dropped to 107.
The reason for these statistics? Pitchers simply knew that they could not pitch around both Fielder and Cabrera, and quite frankly, Fielder’s top two home run seasons are higher than Cabrera’s top two. Therefore, Fielder was seen as the bigger deep ball threat. Yet looking at his lifetime batting average of .286, he might have also been viewed as the easier out and thus was given harder pitches to hit as pitchers were more willing to attack him at the plate. Another interesting stat to consider is that Fielder averaged 101 walks a season when he was the undisputed slugger for the Brewers for that five-year span. His average in two seasons in Detroit? 80.
Fielder’s days in Motor City are over as he was traded to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler during the offseason. Kinsler is certainly a great second baseman, and his all-around play will help make Detroit’s infield be one of the best in baseball. However, his bat is not nearly as dangerous as Fielder’s as he averages less than 20 (19.5) homers a season — a huge drop-off from Fielder’s output.
With Kinsler not posing as much as a deep threat as Fielder, expect pitchers to be more aggressive with Cabrera in 2014. Do not be surprised if he sees tougher pitches to hit, and look out for his production to fall off a bit compared to his MVP seasons.