Is Miguel Cabrera’s Production with Runners in Scoring Position the Tigers Biggest Offensive Problem?


Miguel Cabrera’s tongue is green, but his stats with RISP is making Tigers’ fans’ faces turn green with sickness.

I was on Twitter last night after the Tigers game and noticed a couple tweets from Pat Caputo that piqued my interest.  If you don’t know who Pat Caputo is then shame on you.  He is a big named journalist in Detroit for The Oakland Press, radio talk show host on 97.1 The Ticket, and, most importantly, follows Detroit4lyfe on Twitter.

Here is a little conversation that ensued on twitter between Mr. Caputo and myself.  (Unlike conversations on Twitter timelines, it reads top to bottom)

convo on twitter

Mr Caputo had this to add in his Random Thoughts on his blog:

– I don’t care if the Tigers get another bat for their lineup or not, they aren’t going anywhere if Miguel Cabrera doesn’t start hitting the clutch. He killed them again last night. He hasn’t driven in a run on the road with a runner in scoring position since May 25 – a span of 29 at bats. If he had just run into a ball at a key time now and then, the Tigers would be running away with the A.L. Central. Sixty-two major league players have more RBI than Cabrera. SIXTY-TWO!!!!!!
Cabrera has been the Tigers’ biggest problem and concern offensively. It is only masked by his overly-inflated and hallow batting average.
Carlos Guillen has more clutch hits in less than a week than Miggy has had the last three months. And, oh by the way, he is hitting behind Cabrera, who is capable of doing so much more when it matters.

**For my response, click READ MORE**

First of all, Miguel can’t really control other players playing out of their minds, having career seasons, and more opportunities with RISP.  The names that are right above him in the MLB RBI rankings have had nearly a dozen, or more, extra opportunities with RISP — Zobrist, Blake, and Choo to name a few.  (Hey, that rhymed).  8 measly RBIs separate Cabrera from being in the Top 30.  I don’t believe that Cabrera will end the season outside of the Top 30 and behind guys like Choo and Yunel Escobar.

While I don’t deny that Cabrera needs to get it going with RISP, I feel like another bat, like Josh Willingham or Adam Dunn, could help Miguel and the team more than anything else as hitters usually hit better when they have quality bats protecting them in the lineup.  A tweet from Mr. Caputo that I did not put above, that he alludes to in his random thoughts, mentioned that the Tigers “added” Guillen and he has helped the team immensely.  That kind of negates my argument that “a new” bat could help Cabrera get going as he has failed to bring runners home since Guillen’s return, although it’s a small sample size of just four games (Guillen sat one game).  My response to that, which wouldn’t fit in a 140 character limit twitter post, is that Guillen is not the Carlos Guillen of old.  He’s hitting just .226 (that’s including his .375 BA since his return) and pitchers are probably not pitching to him like the Guillen of old, yet, either.  Therefore, Cabrera continues to be the lone focus for opposing pitchers.

Putting the Tigers hitting problems on Miguel Cabrera first and foremost just doesn’t make sense to me.  I don’t disagree that he hasn’t pulled his weight with RISP in the past couple months.  I also believe he should be sporting a much better average with RISP than .267.  He only has 20 RBI’s dating back to May 25 and could definitely have twice as many if he’d get hits with runners on the pond, but that doesn’t mean the biggest issue right now rests on his shoulders.  The Tigers can actively address the problem with the rest of the lineup, while Cabrera is the only one who can really fix his clutch-ness.  When you can help the rest of the lineup, and even potentially somehow help Cabrera break out of his RISP funk, with another bat, why not get one?

Let’s put the numbers all into a little persepctive.  Right now, taking the entire season into account, Cabrera’s on pace to have 87 RBIs, which for him would still be a significant drop off compared to his five straight seasons with at least 110 RBIs.  I can’t say that wouldn’t be disappointing.  The Tigers offense as a whole is on pace to score 743 runs this season, the lowest total since the 2005 season when they scored 723.  The RBI leader that year was Craig Monroe with 89 in a break out year.  Obviously the expectations for Cabrera far exceed those for a Craig Monroe (Monroe was making just $400,000 in 2005 while Cabrera is making $15 million), but I bring up Monroe to show you what we’re really expecting of Cabrera. We’re expecting Cabrera to have freak-like numbers, although his past seasons have certainly warranted these expectations, and carry the team?

Cabrera is still hitting .326 and nobody honestly believes he’ll end the season with just 87 RBIs, do they?  In his career, he tears it up in the second half of the season and there are still two months left.  I realize July is over in a few days, but the last time Miguel had a crummy July in terms of RBI production (12 in July 2006), he followed it up with 32 RBIs and a .379 BA in August.

In addition to that, Cabrera is not getting the type of RISP opportunities he has seen throughout his career.  He’s currently on pace to have 162 total plate appearances with RISP, nearly 30 less than his previous career low.  In 2005 he had his fewest opportunities (188), but hit an absurd .378 with RISP.   Are we really expecting those numbers from him to get to an adequate RBI total?  (By the way, .267 is not his career worst BA with RISP.  In 2004, he hit .237 with RISP, but had the luxury of having a career high 227 plate appearances with RISP).

The number that jumps out to me, more than Miguel’s lack of production with RISP this year, is that Miguel is hitting 60 (!) points higher than anyone else on the team.  Nobody, outside of Miggy, is hitting higher than .265!  How come we’re not tabbing his production with RISP (or lack thereof) as a combination of tough luck and an indication that hitters before him are not getting on.  His BA is what it is, it’s not inflated at all. Perhaps the luck will change and some of those hits will translate to while runners are on base, but you can’t control the luck aspect.  What the Tigers can control is adding a bat from outside the organization to help take the pressure off of Cabrera and help boost the entire lineup. To nitpick and place the Tigers offensive woes on their best hitter is silly in my opinion.

Yes, he needs to start producing with runners in scoring position, but there are players in the lineup who are not getting on for him on a more consistent basis.  In other words, there are bigger fish to fry.

With the deadline looming, I say the Tigers go out and get a bat to improve the Tigers’ chances in the Central Division and if Cabrera’s totals with RISP is still uncharacteristicly low in a month, then we can re-direct the brunt of our criticisms.  Until then, the focus should be addressing the lineup concerns as a whole, something that Dave Dombrowski can directly control by adding some help.

Mr. Caputo probably still disagrees with me:

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About Bob Biscigliano

Bob is a writer of s(p)orts