It has not been an easy couple of years for Miguel Cabrera. While he played in 130 games in 2017, constantly playing through injuries for years before that — Cabrera averaged 157 games per season from 2004 through 2014 — had caught up to him, and his performance suffered. Cabrera batted just .249/.329/.399 for an OPS+ of 91, the lowest of his career.
He seemed healthier and was definitely more productive in 2018, batting .299/.395/.448 for a 128 OPS+ — not stellar for Cabrera, but certainly a massive step up from last summer’s disaster. That’s all over now, however, as Cabrera ruptured a biceps tendon, and will undergo surgery that ends his 2018.
This is demoralizing in the present, where Cabrera had rebounded to a point where he was still highly productive even if he wasn’t the Cabrera of old, and the Tigers were in second place. They lost Cabrera and the game on Tuesday, were bumped back to third, and will now have to try to climb back up the AL Central ladder without him.
The expectation was the Tigers would be a tanking mess in 2018, but they’ve managed to outperform those spring projections. It’ll be much more difficult to do without their top hitter.
Long-term issues have also come up: Cabrera was healthy, or healthy enough to take the field, for the entirety of his 20s and his early 30s. He’s 35 now, he’ll be 36 by the time he steps on a field again, and his production isn’t likely to climb back to where it used to be. Cabrera, like Albert Pujols before him, is on the way down, both in terms of health and production. Whether Cabrera will sink to Pujols’ levels remains to be seen, but the Tigers have another five seasons to look forward to where they find out if that kind of fall is coming.
The good news is that 2018 is a sign that Cabrera can still hit: the question is what he’ll hit like post-biceps injury when he’s a year older next summer.
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