2014 Player Capsule: 1B Miguel Cabrera

TigsTown continues its look at the key contributors from the 2014 season and what their 2015 outlook is. Getting out into the field, where the Tigers moved star slugger Miguel Cabrera back across the diamond to first base, but saw him struggle at times and have injury concerns once again.

Miguel Cabrera 2014 Year in Review

2014 Projections and Performance
Perf/Proj PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 648 5.3 .317 .324 .404 .581 .403 -4
Steamer 661 6.3 .325 .335 .418 .594 .426 -16
Oliver 600 6.5 .326 .333 .414 .594 .427 -7
Actual 685 5.4 .313 .346 .371 .524 .384 -9.2

Entering the season, we knew Cabrera was coming off of off-season core muscle repair surgery, and that he might be hobbled a bit coming out of the gate. He actually started off strong in his typical Cabrera fashion, only to see a couple extreme valleys over the course of the year. The sort of struggle Tigers fans just aren’t used to seeing out of Cabrera.

With a move to first base, it was hoped that he’d be able to stay healthy, which would keep him more productive offensively and off-set any losses from having such a premium offensive player at a tough defensive position, even if he was below average. The projections for Cabrera to be roughly a 6-win player were fair, but Tigers fans hoped he’d give them more. Instead, injury issues persisted (new and old) and his offensive productivity while still good, was nowhere near the herculean performances of the past few years.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad year from Cabrera. Despite the ankle issues and the slow recovery from last year’s surgery, he was still more than a 5 win player, with a .384 wOBA, which was good for 7th in the AL. But his teammate Victor Martinez led the way with a .411 wOBA, and quite frankly, that’s the sort of season many expect out of Cabrera right now in his prime, fair or not.

Miguel Cabrera 2015 Outlook

Contract Status: Signed 9-year, $270 million extension prior to 2014 season
Free Agent ETA: 2024

The Tigers signed Cabrera to a massive extension just prior to the 2014 season getting under way, all but assuring that Cabrera will retire as a Tiger, barring an unforeseen or at this point unimaginable trade. Cabrera is arguably the best hitter of his era, and how has a contract in tow that will make him virtually untradeable.

That doesn’t mean there still isn’t risk or concern, however. Cabrera once again ran into injury issues this season, and just had surgery to address bone spurs in his ankle and a stress fracture. That’s in addition to the core muscle repair surgery he had last off-season, and a myriad of other minor things in prior years. In isolation, no big deal, but at 31, Cabrera is a big guy, who is owed a lot of money, and whose body does not appear to be holding up very well.

All that being said, Cabrera has missed very little actual playing time due to injury (even if he’s been limited while on the field or at the plate), having appeared in less than 150 games only once in his big league career, and that was 2013 when the groin issues limited him to “only” 148 games played. He may be hurt, but he’s tough enough to play through it, and good enough that he can do so and still be effective. The question then becomes, how long can that continue? The Tigers are still going to have a very good player in 2015; the question is really whether or not they’ll have that player for much of the next decade.

2014 Projections came from three different sources; ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver, all publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers, and Oliver Projections from Brian Cartwright.

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