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Miguel Cabrera’s Best

The 2009 season ended poorly for Miguel Cabrera. An arrest and the Tigers’ collapse coincided with the worst month of his season which wasn’t all that poor by anyone else’s standards. The dialect associated with the 27 year old was unkind and the offseason carried with it rumors of a potential trade for budgetary concerns. Those passed and as such Cabrera has spent the 2010 season changing the language like Babylon.

As far as pitchers are concerned, Cabrera’s play is in Brail since encountering him includes feeling a few bumps along the way. Here he is, the same guy who broke into the league as a 20 year old with an above average wOBA; the same guy that has recorded a wOBA over .400 in three of the past four seasons; that same guy, posting inflated numbers even when compared solely to his career.

How’s he doing it? By walking more and striking out less than he’s ever done as a resident in the American League. A career best ISO of .291 (previous best: .245) is fueled in part by a career high home run per flyball percentage; a measure that Cabrera is generally consistent in:

2004: 20.1%
2005: 17.9%
2006: 15.6%
2007: 18.5%
2008: 18.9%
2009: 18.3%

He’s not doing it with an inflated batting average on balls in play as a .349 mark is one point above his 2009 total and only three points above his career average. He’s not hitting too many more liners or grounders than usual either and he’s making contact at the same rate. This next level performance is driven solely by the aforementioned improvements which could be a degree of luck as well as Cabrera moving into the expected statistical prime of his career.

ZiPS updated projection has him finishing with a .424 wOBA which would simply annihilate his previous best, and that’s saying something, since Cabrera produced five wins with his bat alone in 2006. He probably won’t crack six, but he’s going to come close.