Miguel Cabrera, When It’s All Said And Done

The week leading up to Opening Day 2014 turned out to be quite historic, with the clear two best players in the game locked into long-term contracts guaranteeing them nearly a cool half-billion. Obviously, the prognosis for the respective long-term efficacy of the two deals varies dramatically, with Cabrera’s extension locking up his age 33-40 seasons, compared to Trout’s doing the same to his age 23-28 campaigns. This week, let’s take a step back and put these two greats into some sort of historical perspective, then use that perspective to research their aging curves in order make some educated judgments regarding the Tigers’ and Angels’ investments. Today, let’s look at Miguel Cabrera.

First, let’s take a look at how Miguel Cabrera gets it done. We’ll focus primarily on the bat, as A) Cabrera’s complementary skills are negligible at best, and B) Let’s face it, even with a five-tool guy like Trout, these teams are paying for the bat first when they give out such deals. Below is a grid of Cabrera’s percentile ranks indicating the respective frequency of the six key batted ball outcomes – K’s, BB’s, popups, fly balls, line drives and ground balls – over the last six seasons. Batted ball authority is not taken into account at all here, but these numbers alone – from 1, indicating lowest in the majors, to 99, indicating the highest – paint a very accurate portrait of a hitter qualitatively. They’re his technical merit scores, if you will.

2008 71 48 49 65 73 31
2009 44 63 47 46 77 46
2010 34 92 63 73 66 22
2011 25 98 18 37 96 53
2012 26 70 14 87 64 39
2013 26 96 34 65 91 23

This, my friends, is as close to perfection as a hitter can get. A very low K rate in 2013, with a steady ongoing downward trend. A very high BB rate, with a steady upward trend. Very high line drive rates, ranging from a low percentile rank of 64 to a high of 96 – these befit perennial batting title contenders. High fly ball rates, but low popup rates – the mark of the rare power hitter who doesn’t give away free outs in the process. And remember, we’re not even taking authority into account – and Cabrera’s batted ball authority just happens to be the best in the game today. We’ll take a gander at that later.

So he’s the best hitter today, as far as the eye can see. But does being the best hitter in the game at age 30 justify his new eight-year, $248M contract extension that now guarantees him a total of $292M thru 2023 – his age 40 season? Even a hitter this prolific has peers – let’s identify them, see how they aged, and what this might mean for Cabrera and the Tigers.

I maintain a database of MLB regulars going back to 1901 that contains a whole lot of fun info. For all regulars, it tracks – among other gems – the cumulative number of standard deviations above or below league average OBP and SLG. For well above average players, it is a useful way of tracking development of on-base and slugging skills independent of one another. Cabrera has already reached 41st on the all-time list in this statistic, with 17.84 cumulative standard deviations above league average OBP and 20.34 cumulative standard deviations above league average SLG (38.18 combined). This ranks him 4th among active players (#19 Albert Pujols = 23.51 + 27.59 = 51.10, #22 Alex Rodriguez = 20.55 + 28.94 = 49.49, #35 David Ortiz = 17.17 + 24.32 = 41.49).

Cabrera has also just completed a three-year stretch that goes down as his career peak – so far – according to this method. Over the last three seasons (weighted on a 3-2-1 basis), Cabrera has accumulated 17.23 cumulative standard deviations above league average (8.71 OBP + 8.52 SLG). This represents the 9th highest individual player peak ever recorded. Check out his company on the list below:

Bonds 02-04 37-39 16.07 12.79 28.86 255
Ruth 19-21 24-26 9.68 13.41 23.09 237
T.Williams 47-49 28-30 10.41 10.79 21.20 195
Hornsby 23-25 27-29 9.80 10.43 20.23 208
Cobb 09-11 22-24 8.55 9.62 18.17 198
Mantle 56-58 24-26 8.71 8.83 17.54 206
Pujols 08-10 28-30 8.54 8.77 17.31 184
H.Wagner 07-09 33-35 7.02 10.24 17.26 190
Mi.Cabrera 11-13 28-30 8.71 8.52 17.23 176

In particular, take note of the similarity among the peaks of Cabrera, Mantle and Pujols, both overall and with the OBP and SLG components separated. Pujols’ peak three-year run also occurred from ages 28-30, like Cabrera’s. Both of these players will go onto Cabrera’s comp list.

Next, let’s look at a list of players with the most cumulative standard deviations above league average OBP and SLG through age 30 – Cabrera ranks 12th on this list:

Cobb 12 30.64 33.60 64.24 186 4
Hornsby 11 25.22 29.18 54.40 178 6
T.Williams 8 25.56 25.61 51.17 196 2
Mantle 12 24.32 26.81 51.13 177 8
Ruth 8 20.35 29.22 49.57 216 3
Pujols 10 21.93 24.08 46.01 172 19
Foxx 11 19.64 26.29 45.93 170 15
Ott 12 21.58 22.97 44.55 160 10
Musial 9 19.25 23.07 42.32 172 5
Speaker 10 20.84 21.00 41.84 168 7
F.Robinson 11 18.40 20.84 39.24 155 11
Mi.Cabrera 11 17.84 20.34 38.18 154 41
F.Thomas 8 20.05 17.21 37.26 174 18

First, note the eerie similarity between Cabrera and Frank Robinson, across the board. On top of the overall and component OBP and SLG and OPS+ similarities, both won AL Triple Crowns at similar ages, and peaked at almost the same time (28-30 for Cabrera, 29-31 for Robinson). He’s definitely a comp. Frank Thomas also qualifies as a close comp, especially once you take body type into consideration. Mel Ott also peaked at age 28-30, so let’s use him as a comp. One thing we can say with virtual certainty at this point is that Miguel Cabrera is going to wind up as at the very least one of the Top 20-25 hitters in baseball history.

To round out Cabrera’s group of comps we will add two recent peers with similar body types and levels of statistical accomplishment, who both experienced their career peaks at about Miggy’s current age – Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. That gives us a group of seven – Mantle, Pujols, Robinson, Thomas, Ott, Ramirez and Rodriguez. You will notice the absence of Hank Aaron and Willie Mays from these lists. Their athleticism is obviously on a whole different level, but they built from a less power-centric base of skills in their 20’s that continued to build and allowed them to thrive throughout their thirties. For all of these players, let’s look at their performance through age 30 compared to their final cumulative career total standard deviations above league average OBP and SLG.

Mantle 24-26 24.32 26.81 34.55 33.27 75.4% 8
Pujols 28-30 21.93 24.08 23.51 27.59 90.0% 19
F.Robinson 29-31 18.40 20.84 30.40 33.17 61.7% 11
F.Thomas 24-26 20.05 17.21 27.60 23.78 72.5% 18
Ott 28-30 21.58 22.97 31.91 31.86 69.9% 10
M.Ramirez 28-30 14.90 18.05 28.25 31.77 54.9% 13
A.Rodriguez 29-31 13.30 20.26 20.55 28.94 67.8% 22
Mi.Cabrera 28-30 17.84 20.34 41

Obviously, Pujols’ career is not complete just yet, so let’s keep his numbers out of the overall percentage of career offensive value accrued by age 30 for this group – excluding Pujols, they accumulated 67.0% of their career combined standard deviations above league average OBP and SLG by age 30. If Cabrera hits that number exactly, he’ll finish at 56.99 and rank 15th overall, between Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. Not too shabby. Still, let’s look more closely at the specifics of these seven players’ performances in their thirties to see what may be in store for Cabrera.

Mantle remained an exceptional offensive player on a per at-bat basis after age 30, but never again played over 144 games in a season, playing over 125 only three more times. He had only one Mickey Mantle-esque season ahead of him, at age 32 in 1964. His durability plunged after age 29, at least in part due to some hard living, but a 10-year, big money deal bestowed upon Mickey Mantle after his age 30 season would not have been a good investment.

Pujols is an easy one, as his 10-year, big-dollar deal is fresh in all of our minds. Even his age 31 season, his last in St. Louis, was a big step down from the standard he had previously set. His annual OPS+ has gone 148-138-116 since age 30, and he played only 99 games in 2013 after never playing fewer than 143 in each of his first 12 seasons. He might bounce back to some extent, but the pre-2011 level of production for which the Angels paid a premium isn’t likely coming back.

Robinson is perhaps the most unique overall comparison. He won the AL Triple Crown at age 30 – Cabrera did the same at 29. Robinson never played 150 games in a season after age 30, but had exceptional age 31 and 33 seasons, though his “black ink” days were over. As late as age 38, Robinson was still recording OPS+ of over 140, albeit as a DH requiring regular days off. The Tigers would certainly not complain if Cabrera went on to accumulate 38.3% of his career offensive value after age 30 – that would raise his score to 61.89, 12th on the all-time list, right behind Robinson.

Thomas basically became a full-time DH at age 30, and his best days were already behind him. He had only three 150-game seasons ahead of him, and only two of them – at ages 32 and 35 – could be considered star-quality. After being very durable in his twenties, he began pulling and tearing things in his thirties, missing over half of his age 33, 36, 37 and 40 seasons. A 10-year, big dollar commitment to Thomas at age 31 would have been a very bad idea.

Ott remained an extremely productive full-time player through age 33, but only because of the short right field porch in the Polo Grounds. After age 30, Ott hit an amazing 111 of his final 142 homers at home. He had three solid years from 34 to 36 versus wartime competition, with quite a few more days off, and that was it. 10-year, big money deal at age 31? Again, a very bad idea.

Of this group, Ramirez was the most productive offensive player after age 30, and he has a couple of PED suspensions to show for it. Moving into extremely fly ball-friendly Fenway Park at age 29 also certainly helped to fight off his decline phase. He remained a 150-game, high-performance fixture through age 33, and tossed in one more vintage Ramirez full-time season at age 36 in 2008. Man-Ram’s performance level throughout his thirties is about the apex of what Cabrera can wish for – and it is likely wishful thinking.

Then there’s A-Rod. He was an 150-game per season fixture through age 31, but hasn’t played 140 games in a season since. He capped his peak period with arguably his best season ever at age 31, with a 176 OPS+, but has watched it decline every year since – from 150 to 138 to 123 to 119 to 111, twice. Rodriguez, obviously, was a shortstop through age 27, starting in a much more athletic place than Cabrera, who did play some shortstop in his minor league days. After leading the AL in SLG at age 32, his black ink days were over. As we know, his long-term, big dollar contract has not turned out well.

Which brings us full circle, back to Cabrera. His durability throughout his twenties was exceptional – he played in at least 150 games every year, and in at least 157 every year but one. He was on his way to doing so again at age 30 last season before aggravating his hip injury on August 28. If the aging trends of his comps is to be used as a guide – and they should be – such interruptions in service are likely to increase in frequency over the coming seasons.

Cabrera’s performance dropped off precipitously after August 28, giving a glimpse of what a beaten-up, thirtysomething version of Cabrera might look like. Before: .356-.444-.586; After: .289-.393-.342. Quickly, let’s look more closely at his before and after production by BIP type to see what happened:

FLY 0.521 1.672 435 391
LD 0.670 0.860 102 131
GB 0.292 0.313 150 207
ALL BIP 0.429 0.827 218 241
ALL PA 0.356 0.444 0.686 237 258
FLY 0.227 0.409 42 206
LD 0.688 0.688 88 108
GB 0.273 0.273 125 182
ALL BIP 0.344 0.406 88 184
ALL PA 0.289 0.393 0.342 116 213

First of all, Cabrera’s plate appearance frequency data (not shown above) didn’t change much at all after the injury. The actual production, however, certainly did. Most specifically and predictably, it changed most in the fly ball department, where he went from an actual .521-1.672 line before the injury to a paltry .227-.409 afterward. Looking at the “ADJ PRD” column, however, which adjusts for ballpark, luck, etc., you’ll notice that while Cabrera’s batted ball authority level did decline after he aggravated the hip injury, it didn’t drop nearly as much once adjusted for context. He simply went from hit-the-ball-harder-than-anyone guy – ADJ PRD of 391, with league average equaling 100 – to hit-the-ball-harder-than-just-about-anyone guy, at 206. With such a small sample, a couple of balls caught at the wall in Comerica that would have been homers almost anywhere else makes a lot of noise in the numbers.

After the injury, he still hit a ton of line drives. He still almost never hit a weak ground ball. He still hit the ball hard in the air, just not as hard. The one thing he could no longer do was pull the ball in the air. Prior to the aggravation of the hip injury, he pulled 46 of his 119 fly balls to LF and LCF – in fact, 18 of the 22 fly balls he hit to LF went over the fence, an otherworldly ratio. After the injury, he hit three, count ‘em three, of his 22 fly balls to LF and LCF, and zero went over the fence. Moving forward, over time such nagging, aggravating injuries, and just general wear and tear will not suddenly rob Cabrera of his powers, but they will gradually erode them, as they chipped away at them late last season.

For many of the reasons cited on Fangraphs and elsewhere, this contract really is indefensible. His existing deal wasn’t even expiring for two more seasons, after all. For me, it’s not the annual salary, but the duration that will bite the Tigers. Albert Einstein’s genius was, among other things, in discovering and explaining the relationship between space and time. Look at this as baseball’s take on those same laws of physics – today’s Miguel Cabrera hits a ball at a certain speed and angle that projects the ball over the fence. That same swing from that same player, three or four years from now, with more physical wear on the moving parts involved will yield a somewhat lower exit speed at a slightly higher or lower angle and won’t go over the fence quite as much anymore.

As the parts continue to wear down, they require more down time. Eventually, the exit speed too often declines only slightly to that fly ball tipping point where the result changes from the optimal – the home run – to just another out. It happens to everyone – to most of us, it happens in Little League or maybe high school. It too will happen to Miguel Cabrera, and if history is our guide, it will happen well before this contract runs out.

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81 Responses to “Miguel Cabrera, When It’s All Said And Done”

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  1. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Cabrera’s history of alcohol abuse doesn’t bode well for a “healthy” transition to his mid 30’s. Mickey Mantle likely had more talent than Trout and the booze did him in too.

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    • Frost says:

      Shut up

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      • SeaBass says:

        On the BP podcast, they actually mentioned that this concern isn’t as outlandish as it seems at first glance. IMO, what if he starts to suck years down the line and goes to booze as a crutch? I’m not suggesting it will happen or that it it even has a .00001% chance of happening, it’s just something to consider/speculate about.

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        • maguro says:

          I don’t even get why it would be considered outlandish at first glance. A penchant for hard living has done in lots of talented players aside from Mantle.

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      • Matthew says:

        Yeah, alcoholism has never had any effect on someone’s health or motor skills. Or reaction time. And as we all know baseball doesn’t require any of those.

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    • Dave K says:

      Considering the guy has been sober for the past three years, travels with a sober coach, and has even abstained from alcohol related celebrations (even when they used non-alcoholic booze), I’m less concerned about his “history” of alcohol abuse. Mantle did not get sober at age 27. Quite the opposite in fact, so the comparison doesn’t really hold.

      Certainly there is always the possibility that Cabrera could fall off the wagon and relapse, but no evidence has presented itself over the last three years to indicate that will happen.

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  2. Bil Bo Baggins says:

    its trout really five tools? he doesnt have a great arm. like its Average

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    • McCutchen says:


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    • Andy says:

      True, OTOH, the five tool description assumes there are only two aspects to an OFers defense, catching and throwing. There’s a third, range. Trout is excellent at two of these three, so I guess you could say he’s a 5 tool player with six the maximum possible.

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      • Dane says:

        Andy, you can’t honestly call “catching” a tool.

        Wouldn’t the five tools basically be:

        Speed (both on the base path and as a part of range)
        Contact (also referred to as hitting)
        Throwing (accuracy and arm strength)
        Defense (all aspects of defense – range, tracking, awareness)

        Then, if you had to call for a “sixth tool” it’d be staying on the field.

        Counting catching and range as two separate tools is simply ridiculous. If you can’t catch a ball, you wouldn’t be an outfielder. It’s really that simple.

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  3. ricker says:

    There are plenty of untruths that go with projection models, stereotyping, and profiling. It’s like comparing our planet Earth to a billion other planets and and concluding life on planet Earth can’t mathematically exists. So I have a hard time comparing Miguel Cabrera to anyone but Miguel Cabrera. He is his own entity.

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    • Eric R says:

      “It’s like comparing our planet Earth to a billion other planets and and concluding life on planet Earth can’t mathematically exists”

      Except for the math part.
      If there are ~100 billion galaxies and each has
      200 billion stars and those average
      3 planets each [aren’t we lucky to have eight…?] then

      Even with a one-in-a-million chance that a planet meets the conditions for life and a one-in-a-billion that it actually happens, we’d still expect tens of millions of inhabited planets!
      with a 1/100 chance
      If there are ~200 billion stars in each of
      100 billion galaxies and each of those stars averages just there planets

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      • ricker says:

        Which is exactly my point. In 100 years of baseball, we haven’t discovered all conditions which are specific to Miguel Cabrera. Maybe with a billion more years of baseball data, we would discover a thousand Cabrera like planets. Baseball is still in its infancy when it comes to statistics.

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        • chuckb says:

          Thus, since each entity is, by definition, unique, no comparisons can ever be made.

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        • Brian says:

          > Maybe with a billion more years of baseball data, we would discover a thousand Cabrera like planets.

          There’s really no need to make a cheap joke like that about his size.

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    • bookbook says:

      Interesting analogy. It would have more power if we knew anything about whether life existed on almost every other planet out there. (Even for Mars, our closest neighbor, the jury is still out.)

      Your analogy would work almost perfectly when comparing Cabrera’s aging curve exclusively to that of Negro League players, where there was very little in the way of reliable stats, and even the players’ ages were subject to debate.

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    • tz says:

      But if you DO want to compare someone who’s an outlier like Cabrera, you go about it like Tony did, looking in depth at the most similar looking outliers and picking apart both the quantitative and qualitative comparisons.

      Just because you can’t make an exact comparison, or even build a statistically “conclusive” probability curve on best comparisons, doesn’t mean it’s pointless to piece together some good analogies.

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      • ricker says:

        There are more dissimilarities than similarities, among those players listed, if you look more carefully. It’s like apples and oranges.

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        • Kevin says:

          Yes. Exactly like apples and oranges. VERY similar with a few differences.

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        • ricker says:

          They are nothing alike and not even related. They are both round fruits and that’s about it.

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        • LK says:

          Are you trying to say that Miguel Cabrera is “nothing alike and not even related” to other baseball players?

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        • ricker says:

          I’m saying, in a recipe you can’t substitute apples with oranges and still call it apple pie. The result is completely different.

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        • Andrew says:

          More like apples and lampshades

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        • That Guy says:

          If I substituted Cabrera for Mantle or Ott, I’d still call it baseball.

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    • LK says:

      I agree. We should never analyze anything. It’s not like we’d be doing it perfectly anyway.

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      • Jon Bon Jovi says:

        Dear Fangraphs,

        Cease all your fruitless endeavors.



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      • ricker says:

        Just maybe we should consider that MLB clubhouses at the time of Mickey Mantle use to resemble a cigar smoked filled nightclubs, instead of our modern training facilities that they are Today. Players back were poster boys for cigarette companies. They had shorter careers and lived shorter lives. There are perfectly logical reasons why some of those players declined when they did.

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        • LK says:

          If only the author had provided some comparisons of more contemporary players. Alas!

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        • Cabrera’s cigar goes to 11! It’s imcomparable!

          Uhh, Ted Williams, on that list of comp players, didn’t smoke and played 17 years and fought for 5 years in two wars to boot.

          And, there will be logical reasons for Cabrera to decline as he does when he does.

          Except he’s incomparable!

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        • Chris Perez says:

          You also have to factor in the impact on the mood in the clubhouse

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    • Old School says:

      How could people seriously argue for Trout over Cabrera? His season last year was slightly worse than the year before, while Miggy’s was slightly better. WAR is a flawed stat that’s always changing how its even formulated. It shouldn’t really even be mentioned in an MVP discussion but stubborn folks around here just like to keep beating their WAR drums and it carries over to mainstream sports media where people take your (fangraph’s) expertise and run with it. Sure Trout is awesome, but get off his nuts already. Miggy deserved the MVP because he is the best player in the game. Trout wasn’t good enough, regardless of what some flawed metric says.

      -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • heywally says:

      A very interesting and detailed analysis by Tony – thanks.

      Because he is also a human being with predictably degrading physical skills, it is very valid to make a comparison between Cab and these other players, even if the sample size is not huge.

      The bottom line for me is that it was a bad deal for the Tigers who didn’t need to put of all/many of their eggs in his one basket, in 2014, when his market value is at its very peak. The $$ would have been better spent being spread around to add several good younger players over the next several years.

      And maybe Cabrera is immune to it but this type of deal puts a different type of pressure on him to perform, while making less money available to give to position players that can protect him in the lineup.

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  4. B says:

    I’ll take the under on passing Robinson.

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  5. Tony, on Ott, there’s one other complicator. His late career numbers were burnished by playing against undrafted lesser players during WWII, not just a short RF porch in the Polo Grounds. Dan Szymborski at ESPN also forgot to mention that in his discussion of Ott as a comp for Cabrera.

    There’s also the lesser issue, specific to Cabrera’s current situation: No Prince Fielder behind him this year. I expect a full 10 percent drop in his counting stats this year.

    And, overall, Robinson’s probably about the right rank. Plus, Miggy was a minus defender at 3B and will likely be one at 1B by next year, if not the end of this year. And DHs don’t get $30M a year.

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  6. John Elway says:

    If you cross Frank Robinson with Frank Thomas, you get a Big Hurtin’ Triple Crown winner.

    That just about sums up Miguel Cabrera.

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  7. Andrew says:

    “For many of the reasons cited on Fangraphs and elsewhere, this contract really is indefensible.”
    Hahaha. Robinson Cano signs 240 million dollar 10 year deal in free agency. Pujols gets the same thing. Two years from Free Agency, at the rate contracts are increasing, he would have signed an 8-10 year deal worth more than what he got.
    We get it, the last 2-4 years of the deal are not going to be favorable to the team, but for the next 4-6 years the team gets to retain the best hitter on the planet. The current premium on contracts is in years and total value, throwing away money in the last few years of a deal has become the cost of doing business. In 4-5 years when Trout signs his next extension you’ll see the same thing.(unless the landscape changes)
    Plus when you factor in baseball related revenue related directly to Cabrera (Jersey sales, ticket sales) and indirectly (tv contracts and media coverage of the chase for 600 homeruns and beyond)
    The contract is firmly and totally defensable.

    -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Richie says:

      How many extra jerseys/tickets did Manny/Frank/ARod sell in their 30s? Just how many is Albert selling now? These things have long been studied, and long ago concluded to be baseless. (especially with regard to jersey sales, for goodness’ sake; anyone who wants a Miggy Tigers jersey long ago got one, near zero amount of people are going to say “hey, Miggy just re-signed? Guess I gotta now go buy a second jersey!”)

      The Tigers are already going with holes at shortstop, in the outfield and in the bullpen (fallout from having to give away Fister) due to budget constraints. Any player who produces less than his salary hurts his ballclub’s W-L record due to those salary ramifications. (this year he’s already cost them Fister and Stephen Drew) With the coming injuries, that’ll be Miggy from 2016 onwards. 2017 at best.

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      • bdsparty32 says:

        The Tigers have holes at SS, LF, and in the bullpen due to injuries, not budget constraints. The plan all along was to have an all-glove, no hit SS in Iglesias. Doesn’t make sense to give up a 1st round draft pick to sign Stephen Drew when they could just replace him with an all-glove, no hit SS for next to nothing. And the Fister trade has absolutely no connection to the Cabrera deal. There are people within the organization that were very concerned with Fister’s health/future performance due to his mechanics, so they flipped him for a guy they view as a top pitching prospect who is just about ready to contribute, a cheap lefty for the bullpen, and a utility player whom they used to get their current SS and player who had the walk off RBI single in the first game of the year.

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        • Actually, it’s the Yankees who need Drew, to play 3B if he will, and play SS the half the time Jeter’s not resting or playing DH. Since Brendan Ryan is out for at least a full month and likely two, maybe Cashman will change his stance?

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      • Andrew says:

        So the fan base of the team is unchanging? There will never be new fans of the team that want to own a jersey of their favorite player…people that are drawn to the best hitter in the game, that begin to root for the Tigers because of him?
        The Fister decision was totally about paying miggy? not about wasting years of control over Smyly in the bullpen while paying Fister 7+ million?
        I wouldn’t rule out Drew, but lets be real as long as he has a draft pick assigned to him he’s not even worth that, also if he wants more than one year, it’s a bigger waste since Jose will be back next year.
        If you had said the money might cost them Scherzer it might have held weight, but the odds were long of them re-signing him before FA anyway.

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        • Well Bearded Vogon says:

          Jersey sale revenue is split between the teams. Each Cabrera jersey sold actually increases the Oakland A’s budget by a 2-3x higher relative margin than it does the Detroit Tigers’ budget.

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      • Deacon Drake says:

        If we are paying players based on the number of jerseys they could sell, Scott Boras would hold all the cards trying to sign a player named Cooter…

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    • LK says:

      Your argument that there will be even larger contracts getting handed out in 2 years is very relevant in many situations, but for a player who is almost certainly in decline over that period it doesn’t really hold. There’s a reason why executives from 29 teams think this is a horrible contract.

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    • JayT says:

      You make it sound like the Pujols deal was one worth signing, which so far, it obviously has not.

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    • Tim says:

      They already had him signed for the next two seasons. Why extend him now when his value is at it’s absolute highest?

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    • A-Rod says:

      I agree with this analysis

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      • Andrew says:

        There’s a decent article on SI today by Tom Verducci that supports my argument, most of it is based on the financial realities of the game, and the owners understanding of their own revenues.

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        • bdhudson says:

          That article doesn’t say that it’s a good idea, just that there’s a ton of money in baseball and owners can spend it however they want. It’s not about the money going to the players, that’s great. It’s the allocation of resources (present and future) that’s disastrous in these deals.

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        • In reality, what this shows us is that future Pujolses will take the Mike Trout route, and push for a big contract buying out arb years plus first 1 or 2 of free agency but no more.

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  8. Syd Finch says:

    I could strike him out.

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  9. Swfcdan says:

    A-Rod, Manny and Miggy all have similar body types? Ha! Manny yeah, but A-Rod, cmon…

    It’s pretty hillarious how Manny remained in the OF all those years being as slow and unathletic as he was, no way would that happen nowadays.

    As for an ageing curve, Miggy has to look no further than the guy DHing in Boston. If Miggy can follow a Papi route and DH his final 6 years, they could keep him productive. That said it’s rare and shows how impressive Papi has been in staving off the aging process so much longer than most players.

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    • Swfcdan says:

      In fact I think Papi’s such a rare occurance in this day and age that he deserves his own fangraphs topic. How many players have remained so productive into their late 30’s and entering 40?

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      • Low45 says:


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      • Tim says:

        Chipper was pretty productive (2.4 WAR/year his last four seasons) but also only played about 120 games a season.

        And regardless, Ortiz is just about the best case scenario for the end of this deal and the Red Sox aren’t paying him anywhere close to 30 million and they’re going year to year with him

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        • Swfcdan says:

          Sure those guys did, but how many in the present time? only one. Noone else his age is close to his level of production, heck hardly anyone his ages is even PLAYING anymore…

          Staggering when you think of it like that.

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        • Swfcdan says:

          And the fact that there’s so few names means that Papi has to be a lock for the HOF surely.

          And thats coming from a Yankee fan. One from overseas granted, but still takes a great Red Sox player to appreciate them and Papi truly is that. Not to mention his ‘clutchness’ (if there is such a thing).

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        • Tim says:

          Edgar should make it before Ortiz does but unfortunately, I doubt that happens

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      • pft says:

        Ruth, Aaron, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. These are the only players with an OPS+ higher than Papi at age 37

        Only Bonds was as good or better at the end like Papi. Wonder what they might have in common

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    • Jon L. says:

      Strongly agree with this comment about body types. A-Rod in particular was fast, agile, and athletic. I don’t mind comparing Cabrera and A-Rod as hitters, but to put a pudgy (at least in appearance), slow-footed corner infielder in the same physical category as a skilled shortstop doesn’t really work. I don’t think of Frank Thomas as the same body type either, even though their speed is more similar. Cabrera appears heavy, while Frank Thomas always looked like a human wall.

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    • Papi was already at DH for Boston; LF was the spot where Manny would do the deep damage.

      As for Papi, he’s getting paid only $16M as a DH, and that’s why the Cabrera contract is an overpay.

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    • pft says:

      Manny was better than he looked. Good arm and quick release caught a lot of runners and he played the wall well. UZR/DRS docked him for not catching balls 20 ft off the wall, which created the perception of his awfulness. Not to say he was very good, just not as awful as people think who did not watch him much

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      • MGL says:

        UZR does not dock him for not catching balls 20 feet off the wall, whatever that even means. No balls that hit the wall that would not be caught are included in UZR, and UZR has an aggressive PF for Fenway which assumes that LF’ers play much closer than in other stadiums. In any case, Manny played long enough for you to use his road UZR as a proxy for his total defense, with some adjustment for defensive HFA.

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  10. stormhit says:

    Given Jeff Sullivan’s post on the contract, it seems like you should read the blog you’re appearing on before declaring that something has been universally declared totally indefensible.

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    • LK says:

      Did you take Jeff’s article to be a defense of the contract? I didn’t read it that way at all. I thought it was more “this isn’t the largest contract of all time once you adjust for context” as opposed to “this contract might not be a terrible idea.”

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  11. Max says:

    Thanks for doing this — I was particularly interested in the Frank Robinson comp, which I see as the most realistic.

    An open question is modern fitness training and its impact on aging. There is, of course, not a lot of good data on this, particularly with PED noise screwing up the “typical” aging curve.


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  12. jim fetterolf says:

    Evaluation of Mantle is distorted by “The Last Boy”. In spite of actual injuries beginning with Osteomyelitis in high school and a likely torn ACL his first season with the Yankees, Mantle put up incredible numbers over an 18 year career. Carlos Beltran and Mike Trout are the only similar players I’ve seen. Mantle’s last seven seasons beginning after his age 30 season in 1961 put up 27.1 fW, and that with the junk defensive numbers assigned to him.

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  13. Chad says:

    What do the players who have similar 3 year peaks show as a trend for the years following the peak? All of those guys are HoF material(maybe excluding Bonds due to politics), but when did the descent occur and how quickly?

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  14. Phantom Stranger says:

    I had not realized Miggy’s numbers hold up this well with the all-time greats under comparison, though it appears we are in an era where the deflated offensive numbers are masking easy comparisons. I really don’t compare his production to Frank Thomas’s late-career numbers. While their bodies may be similar, their swings are completely different. Miggy has incredible hands for a big guy, whereas Thomas was always looking for a walk if the ball was not in his hitting zone.

    I tend to think of Miggy as Edgar Martinez with more raw power.

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  15. Joshua_C says:

    ‘Clear two best players in the game’ . . . McCutchen says hi. :)

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  16. purebull says:

    executives from 29 other teams get hairballs stuck in their throats when this kind of thing happens for a simple reason: they haven’t done it, yet.

    they will, and we’ll all realize it’s just the new landscape of seas of money in major league baseball. the numbers are huger, but hey, owners have been paying big bucks for past performace forever…

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  17. Golfrocks says:

    Any article that leads with Trout as a 5 tool player removes any doubt about the author’s credibility. Trout is and will be paid for his offense, just as Miggy is. His defense can be replaced by about 100 guys in the majors and minors. Get over the ESPN hype feast.

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  18. herbsmith says:

    For years, scout-types have argued that the “6th tool” should be Plate Discipline/Good Eye. And that is one of Trout’s greatest strengths, no?

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  19. dose17 says:

    I loved this piece, as I do with all of Tony’s that I write. I’m happy he is a part of Fangraphs.

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  20. tz says:

    Well, you wouldn’t be the first person to write here under someone else’s name.

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  21. Mabry says:

    You’re basing your entire analysis on the assumption that Cabrera peaked at 30. He’s still 30. There’s not enough data yet to say that he is peaking or has peaked.

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  22. Gibbyson says:

    Analysts continue to completely miss the point of this deal. Dave Dombrowski and Mike Ilitch aren’t stupid. They employ analysts who can run these numbers just like you and have undoubtedly come to the same conclusions regarding future production. That’s not why they did this deal.

    A player like Cabrera comes to a team like the Tigers once in a lifetime — maybe once in 2 or 3 lifetimes. When he does, you don’t let him go. Cabrera is worth much more to the Tigers than just the numbers. He’s a true superstar. He sells tickets. He sells merchandise. The fans love him. The Tigers are going to get a ridiculous amount of TV revenue in a few years when their Fox Sports contract is up. They had the highest ratings of any team in baseball last year in their home market. Cabrera is a big part of the reason for that.

    Cabrera is going to climb the charts, break records, and ultimately enter the hall of fame. The Tigers want to make sure he’s wearing the Olde English D when he does. And that makes perfect sense.

    Beyond that, as a few people who actually understand economics have pointed out, if the Tigers can afford to pay him, and still field a good team around him, then why not? Other than “anonymous” execs from other teams who profess their outrage at the deal, why shouldn’t Ilitch spend his money as he wishes? The Tigers are still paying other big salaries and will continue to do so — they were willing to ink Scherzer to a huge deal at the same time as Miggy after all.

    I’m a mathematician and I understand the numbers and the projections. I believe in advanced stats. But there are other “intangibles” here (they’re actually not intangibles, they’re perfectly rational economic factors) that play into a deal like this. Ilitch and Dombroski aren’t about to do something that bankrupts the team or ruins its future.

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