Miguel Cabrera is the greatest Tiger hitter of the post World War II era. He has already compiled Hall of Fame numbers with several years left in his career. The two-time MVP, three time batting champion, and 2012 Triple Crown winner led Detroit to four consecutive division titles. The only thing missing in his Tiger career is a world championship. Cabrera is a once in-a-generation talent that may never be seen again.
The Florida Marlins signed Miguel Cabrera as a amateur free agent in 1999. Four years later, he debuted for Florida and performed respectably. In the World Series, he homered off Roger Clemens after a knock down pitch. The homer set the Major Leagues on notice. Cabrera developed into one of the best players in the National League with four consecutive All Star seasons from 2004-07. Over this period, he hit .318 with 126 home runs, 461 RBI, and .947 OPS. As is their custom, Florida management decided to save payroll. As a result, they shipped the two-time Silver Slugger and pitcher Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for five players. Cabrera became a legend while the other players involved fizzled.
An excited Tiger manager Jim Leyland switched Cabrera to first and moved All Star shortstop Carlos Guillen to third. The new addition homered in his third Tiger at bat and won player of the month for July 2008. In his first season in Detroit, Cabrera led the league in home runs (37) and total bases (331). Additionally, he knocked 180 hits, had 36 doubles, drove in 127, and finished with a .887 OPS. The Tiger first baseman finished 13th in the 2008 MVP race. In 2009, Cabrera leaped ahead nine spots to fourth. His production increased for runs scored (96), hits (198), average (.324), OBP (.396), slugging (.547), total bases (334), and OPS (.942). He also hit 34 home runs, drove in 103, and had 34 doubles.
Cabrera was already an All Star quality player entering 2010. In that campaign, the infielder evolved into a Hall of Famer. The first baseman won his first AL Silver Slugger, appeared in his first All Star game as a Tiger, and finished second in the MVP race. He led the league in RBI (126), OBP (.420), and had a three-homer game against Oakland. On top of this, the Tiger scored 111 runs, had 180 hits, slugged 45 doubles, hit 38 home runs, raised his average to .328, and finished with a 1.042 OPS.
The Tiger legend continued his dominance in 2011. He won his first of three consecutive batting titles with a .344 average. Also, Cabrera led the league in games (161), doubles (48), and OBP (.448). Additionally, he scored 111 times, had 197 hits, 30 home runs, 105 RBI, a 1.033 OPS, and set a career best with 108 walks. Detroit made its first postseason since 2006. He batted just .200 in the ALDS against New York, but hammered Texas pitching in the ALCS. The Tigers lost the pennant to the Rangers while Cabrera finished fifth in the MVP vote.
The Tigers made the World Series in 2012 and Cabrera won his first MVP. In fact, the Tiger won the first Triple Crown since 1967 with 44 home runs, 139 RBI, and .330 average. He also led the league in slugging (.606), OPS (.999), and total bases (377). Cabrera added 109 runs, 205 hits, 40 doubles, and .393 OBP. Cabrera did all this while playing third base. Detroit signed Prince Fielder and shifted Cabrera back to third. On April 27, he tallied his 1,000th RBI joining Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, and Albert Pujols as the only players to do so before reaching 30. He joined Alan Trammell as the only Tiger players to win player of the month more than once. In August, he became the first Tiger with 30 home runs in five straight seasons. Unfortunately, Detroit lost the World Series with Cabrera hitting just .231.
Cabrera repeated as AL MVP in 2013. In both MVP seasons, some stat geeks complained that Mike Trout should have won the MVP. They cited advanced stats, some dubious, to make their argument. In the end, Cabrera rightfully won the award each season. In 2013, Cabrera led the league in average for the third straight year (.348) as well as OBP (.442), slugging (.636), and OPS (1.078). He also hit 44 home runs and drove in 137 runs. Once again, the Tigers lost in the postseason. This time, Detroit fell to an overachieving Boston in the ALCS.
By 2014, Cabrera was clearly the best in the game. Barry Bonds and Al Kaline both praised him generously. The Tigers dispatched Fielder to Texas and moved Cabrera back to first. He led the league in doubles with 52 and finished ninth in the MVP race. Trout finally broke through with the his first MVP. Meanwhile, Cabrera hit .313 with 25 home runs, 109 RBI, and .895 OPS. Also, he drove in 100 runs for the 11th straight year. He joined Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Alex Rodriguez, and Al Simmons as the only players to do so. A bone spur hampered Cabrera in 2014. Despite this, he batted .364 in the ALDS against Baltimore, but displayed no power. Detroit fell in three straight.
Miguel Cabrera is the greatest Tiger hitter since Hank Greenberg. As of July 2015, he is a .327 career Tiger hitter with 267 home runs, 900 RBI, 1,441hits, 759 runs, and .984 OPS. Overall, he has over 400 home runs, 1,400 RBI, and .963 OPS. On top of this, Cabrera has won the Triple Crown, three batting titles, two home run crowns, two MVPs, and led Detroit to four straight postseason appearances. Amazingly, he still has several years left in his career.