Happy birthday Miguel Cabrera: Hall of Famer & career projections


Miguel Cabrera turns 29 years old today.

It’s hard to believe that he’s so young, given that he’s already had 8 seasons where he’s qualified for the batting title with an OPS+ of at least 129.

Check out who has the most such seasons through their Age 28 season:

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Mel Ott 10 1928 1937 19-28 Ind. Seasons
2 Ty Cobb 10 1906 1915 19-28 Ind. Seasons
3 Mickey Mantle 9 1952 1960 20-28 Ind. Seasons
4 Jimmie Foxx 9 1928 1936 20-28 Ind. Seasons
5 Rogers Hornsby 9 1916 1924 20-28 Ind. Seasons
6 Miguel Cabrera 8 2004 2011 21-28 Ind. Seasons
7 Albert Pujols 8 2001 2008 21-28 Ind. Seasons
8 Alex Rodriguez 8 1996 2004 20-28 Ind. Seasons
9 Ken Griffey 8 1990 1998 20-28 Ind. Seasons
10 Frank Robinson 8 1956 1964 20-28 Ind. Seasons
11 Hank Aaron 8 1955 1962 21-28 Ind. Seasons
12 Tris Speaker 8 1909 1916 21-28 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/18/2012.

These guys all started in the majors at a young age and not a single one of them flamed out early. In fact, as you probably noticed, every player on that list who is eligible for the Hall of Fame is in the Hall of Fame, and it would seem that Griffey, Pujols, and A-Rod are pretty much locks already.

I have no doubt that if we look at raw numbers, Cabrera will rank toward the top in homers and RBI thanks to the era in which he has played. It would be fun, though, to project how Cabrera will end up.

Here are the players to post an OPS+ of at least 140 in a minimum of 5000 PAs through their Age 28 season:

Rk OPS+ PA From To Age
1 Arky Vaughan 141 5744 1932 1940 20-28
2 Tris Speaker 168 5198 1907 1916 19-28
3 Alex Rodriguez 143 6385 1994 2004 18-28
4 Frank Robinson 149 5734 1956 1964 20-28
5 Albert Pujols 170 5382 2001 2008 21-28
6 Mel Ott 155 6646 1926 1937 17-28
7 Eddie Murray 143 5160 1977 1984 21-28
8 Joe Medwick 142 5323 1932 1940 20-28
9 Eddie Mathews 153 5809 1952 1960 20-28
10 Mickey Mantle 171 6051 1951 1960 19-28
11 Sherry Magee 140 5698 1904 1913 19-28
12 Rogers Hornsby 180 5410 1915 1924 19-28
13 Ken Griffey 150 5982 1989 1998 19-28
14 Jimmie Foxx 172 5934 1925 1936 17-28
15 Ty Cobb 183 5954 1905 1915 18-28
16 Miguel Cabrera 149 5777 2003 2011 20-28
17 Hank Aaron 155 5868 1954 1962 20-28
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/18/2012.

Nice company. Among the players on that list who are now retired, here’s what they did from their Age 29 season onward:

Rk OPS+ From To Age G PA
1 Arky Vaughan 119 1941 1948 29-36 512 1978
2 Tris Speaker 150 1917 1928 29-40 1575 6789
3 Frank Robinson 158 1965 1976 29-40 1462 6008
4 Mel Ott 154 1938 1947 29-38 1141 4702
5 Eddie Murray 119 1985 1997 29-41 1820 7657
6 Joe Medwick 118 1941 1948 29-36 757 2820
7 Eddie Mathews 129 1961 1968 29-36 1061 4291
8 Mickey Mantle 172 1961 1968 29-36 1002 3856
9 Sherry Magee 128 1914 1919 29-34 712 2847
10 Rogers Hornsby 169 1925 1937 29-41 997 4071
11 Ken Griffey 120 1999 2010 29-40 1296 5322
12 Jimmie Foxx 148 1937 1945 29-37 906 3740
13 Ty Cobb 156 1916 1928 29-41 1637 7123
14 Hank Aaron 155 1963 1976 29-42 1948 8073
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/18/2012.

First of all, WTF Hank Aaron. All he did after that great start was post a 155 OPS+ over 8,000 more plate appearances. Holy cow.

The weighted average performance of this group is an OPS+ of 144 over 4,948 additional plate appearances from their Age 29 season onward.

Miguel Cabrera had a 144 OPS+ in 2009, a season that produced 34 HR, 103 RBI, and 34 2B in 685 PAs.

Through his Age 28 season, his totals were 277 HR, 984 RBI, and 346 2B.

Using the above data to project his Age 29 onward, he’d have an additional 245 HR, 744 RBI, and 245 doubles.

That would project Cabrera’s final career totals to 522 HR, 1728 RBI, and 591 doubles. That would put him 18th career in homers, 22nd in RBI, and 16th in doubles. That seems about right.

28 thoughts on “Happy birthday Miguel Cabrera: Hall of Famer & career projections

  1. 1
    Timmy Pea says:

    You are leaving one key factor out of your career calculations for Cabrera and that is his off the field problems. I always hope every player does well, breaks records, and hits milestones. I hope Cabrera does as well. I enjoy drinking quite a bit myself and I know from experience that it causes me to run out of cat food once in a while, or forget to file my income tax returns.

    • 5
      Artie Z says:

      There are a few guys on the list who had off the field “issues”, be they alcohol related or otherwise – Foxx, Mantle, and Cobb are the ones that jump out and from what I’ve read Hornsby was not the greatest guy in the world. Looking at Hornsby, Mantle, and Foxx they all had around 4000 more PAs afterwards. I think that might be the best estimate for Cabrera if we are trying to compare personality traits at this level (all of these guys are outliers in terms of baseball talent). Still, another 4000 PAs puts him around 450 HRs.

      • 12
        Timmy Pea says:

        The most tragic case of off the field problems might be Hack Wilson. He was a damn good player but was a heavy drinker at an early age. http://hack191.com/obit.html

        • 15
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          Hack Wilson would be far from the only MLB great who drank a lot. Chronologically, there’s King Kelly, Ed Delahanty, Pete Alexander, Rabbit Maranville, Ed Delahanty, Jimmy Foxx, Paul Waner, Mickey Mantle, and Dennis Eckersley for starters. Wilson, Foxx, and Mantle seem to be the players whose career was shortened the most by drinking.

          And it’s not limited to players – HOF manager Joe McCarthy was infamous for his periodic benders. There is vastly less tolerance for this nowadays, though. In the 19th century, it would probably be easier to list the players who _didn’t_ drink at all.

          • 16
            Timmy Pea says:

            In the 19th century, it would probably be easier to list the players who _didn’t_ drink at all. Ha! That’s awesome and why I should have lived in the 19th century!

          • 23
            Timmy Pea says:

            Eckersly got a handle on his drinking during his career, and loot at what he accomplished after.

          • 26
            vivaeljason says:

            To be fair, Mantle’s problems also involved being hurt often — which is really what shortened his career. I’m sure drinking did him no favors, but Mantle was never really healthy for a full season.

  2. 2
    deal says:

    Agree with Timmy Pea above – His off the field issues don’t appear to be isolated incidence.

    My fear for Miguel Cabrera is that his post career winds up like Lenny Dykstra.

    • 3
      Andy says:

      I think Cabrera has done a reasonable job of recovering from those issues–although I agree he’s a higher risk than a player whose never had the problems.

      I think the bigger concern for him is his weight—heavy players don’t often play well into their late 30s.

      • 10
        Mike L says:

        i wonder if he’s going to age a little like Manny has although he’s taller. Still retained his hitting ability, but to a diminishing degree and with more injuries.

      • 11
        Timmy Pea says:

        Great point about heavy players, think Cecil Fielder, Greg Luzinski, Bob Hamlin, or Steve Balboni. Compared to those guys though, Cabrera is in good shape. I feel bad about bringing up a guys off the field problems on his birthday, but drinking too much can cause trouble. Look at Josh Hamilton. His claim to fame might end up being the best player talent wise not to end up in the HoF because he missed so much time and got such a late start. Not to mention he might not have such a good handle on things because his problem was drugs and booze.

        • 13
          Big Daddy V says:

          Look at Cabrera and Prince Fielder standing next to each other, and you’ll forget about Cabrera’s weight in a second. Prince is just massive (although he moves very well for his size).

          • 14
            Andy says:

            True. Cabrera next to Prince looks like those photos of Prince next to Cecil from when Cecil played for the Tigers.

  3. 4
    Ed says:

    I know Cabrera’s playing 3rd this year…but WOW is the AL stacked at 1st base. Of course, they “stole” quite few of them from the NL – Gonzalez, Pujols, Fielder/Cabrera.

  4. 6
    John Autin says:

    I keep waiting for the baseball media to officially recognize that Miggy is the best hitter in the game today. Perhaps not the best offensive player, and definitely not the best all-around player, but to me, unquestionably the best hitter.

  5. 7
    John Autin says:

    Seasonal averages through age 28 (9 seasons for each player):

    Aaron – 150 G, .320/.373/.571/.943, 155 OPS+, 33 HRs, 110 RBI
    Miggy – 150 G, .317/.395/.555/.950, 149 OPS+, 31 HRs, 109 RBI

    As a hitter, Cabrera is just a shade below Henry at the same age. I don’t expect him to age as well as Aaron, but that’s still a hell of a ballpark.

    • 21
      Doug says:

      Never would have guessed they would be that close.

      What’s interesting is at age 28, Aaron then and Cabrera now are (apparently) heading into a low offense era. Similar context should make assessment of Cabrera’s continued tracking to Aaron more relevant.

  6. 8
    John Autin says:

    I think the shift to 3B is a great thing for Miggy’s future. He was reported to have lost about 20 lbs. from last year; he certainly looks less jowly in that photo above.

  7. 9

    Odd that 2008 was his worst year (low in ops+), yet that was the only year that he led his league in homers and total bases.

    • 17
      birtelcom says:

      In 2008, Cabrera’s BB% and BABIP were both down dramatically from his career standards, even as his HR rate, his K rate, his extra-base hit rate all stayed at his normal level. Not sure if that reflected some change on his part, but might have just been a run of luck.

  8. 18
    birtelcom says:

    Cabrera, Fielder and Alex Avila all were over 5 WAR last season. They are all off to solid starts this season and if all three repeat at the 5+ WAR level in 2012, they would be only the third catcher/first basemen/third basemen trio for a single team to rack up 5 or more WAR each. Previously: the 1936 Yankees with Dickey, Gehrig and Red Rolfe, and the 1997 Mets with Todd Hundley, John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo.

  9. 19
    birtelcom says:

    Miguel’s personal habits and body shape certainly haven’t hurt his ability to play every day so far. The only major leaguer with more games played from and including 2004 through now is Ichiro, with his slightly different body shape.

    Most Games Played, 2004-2012:
    Ichiro Suzuki 1,288
    Miguel Cabrera 1,275
    Michael Young 1,254
    Bobby Abreu 1,243
    Albert Pujols 1,241

    Note that for Ichiro and Abreu these totals include not a single game played before the age of 30.

    • 20
      John B says:

      And Prince Fielder has played the most games since 2006.

    • 22
      Doug says:

      There have been 152 players (including active players) since 1901 to play 1300 or more games from age 21-30. Of those only 20 played 1300 games after age 30.

      Scanning down the list, the first “ample-bodied” player who jumps off the page is #70, George Scott, with 696 games after age 30. Jimmie Foxx is at #82 with 607 games, Boog Powell is #96, 503 games and Greg Luzinski #109, 428 games.

  10. 24
    John Autin says:

    Cabrera on his birthday, before today (8 games): 14 for 31 (.452 BA, .500 OBP), 10 runs, 6 RBI, 5 doubles, 1 HR (.710 SLG).

    He has a 7-year birthday hitting streak.

  11. 25
    bstar says:

    I’m absolutely thrilled to see Cabrera get his due on this site. What’s really encouraging about Miggy is that he seems to be getting better, posting the two best OPS+ numbers of his career the last two years. This is mainly due to plate discipline: since his career-low BB% in 2008, Cabrera has increased his walk total every year since, boosting his WAR total to 7+ the last two years.

  12. 27
    John Autin says:

    News of the improbable: 1st inning in Seattle tonight, Chone Figgins hit his first HR since Opening Day of last year. Moments later, Ichiro hit his first HR of the year.

    Figgins (0.6%) and Ichiro (1.2%) are in the bottom 15 in active HR%, out of 164 active hitters with at least 3,000 PAs.

    Using their career rates, the odds of Figgins and Ichiro both homering in a given AB is about 1 in 14,000. Somehow, it feels more like one in a million….

  13. 28
    Fireworks says:

    I think Dykstra is a horrible comp for anyone. “Nails” went off the deep end somehow. Heavy drinking or Puckett-esque more suits a poor post-career.

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