Stats & Info: Miguel Cabrera

Top stats to know: Yankees at Tigers

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
ESPN Stats & InformationMiguel Cabrera is not as good against the inner-half fastball as he was in 2013.
The Detroit Tigers host the New York Yankees in the second game of their three-game series on “Wednesday Night Baseball” (7 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN). The Tigers took the first game of the series Tuesday as Rick Porcello earned his 15th win of the season, tied for the most in Major League Baseball.

Price changing pace

David Price will make his fifth start for the Tigers since being acquired from the Rays on July 31, and so far, his changeup has keyed his success in the Motor City (see chart).

Hitters have combined to bat .089 (4-for-45) against Price with just one extra-base hit in at-bats ending in a changeup since the trade. That’s the lowest opponent batting average against changeups by any pitcher since Aug. 1 (min. 20 batters faced).

It’s been quite a turnaround for Price as opponents hit .300 (36-for-120) against his changeup in 23 starts with Tampa Bay this season.

Cabrera’s power outage

Miguel Cabrera is on pace to hit .300 or better for the sixth straight season, but he’s not doing it with the power he has in years past. Consider the following:

• Cabrera hasn’t homered since Aug. 2 and ranks sixth on his team in slugging since hitting that home run (.350).

• Since the All-Star break, Cabrera has just 10 extra-base hits -- 3 HRs and 7 doubles -- which works out to an extra-base hit every 17 plate appearances. Cabrera recorded an extra-base hit every nine plate appearances in 2013.

• Cabrera has four homers and is slugging .525 with runners in scoring position this season. Last season, Cabrera hit 18 homers and slugged .782 in the same situations.

The biggest reason for the decline has been Cabrera’s inconsistency against pitches on the inner half of the plate, particularly fastballs. Cabrera is slugging .589 against fastballs on the inner half this season with six home runs. In 2013, Cabrera slugged .788 with 18 home runs on such pitches, both of which led the majors.

Another rookie start for Yankees

Rookie right-hander Shane Greene gets the ball for New York on Wednesday, and it would mark the 53rd start this season by a Yankees rookie.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s easily the most in baseball. Perhaps amazingly, the Bombers are 33-19 in games started by rookies this season (.635). Meanwhile, the Yankees are just 35-43 in all other games in 2014 (.449).

In Greene’s only career appearance against the Tigers, the righty earned the win after throwing eight shutout innings with five strikeouts on Aug. 7 at Yankee Stadium. Greene will be on the road Wednesday, but the righty has been even better away from the Bronx, going 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in four road starts this season.

Rays in midst of historic turnaround

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30

Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Tampa Bay Rays have a lot to celebrate during their turnaround.
Following a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on June 10, the Tampa Bay Rays were 18 games under .500 at 24-42, the worst record in Major League Baseball. Since then the Rays are an MLB-best 29-12. Just how rare is a turnaround like this?

Should the Rays win Wednesday (12:10 ET vs Milwaukee Brewers), they’ll reach .500 for the first time since April 22 when they were 10-10. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three times in MLB history has a team reached .500 after being as many as 18 games under .500 in the same season. None of the previous three, however, would go on to make the playoffs.

The 1899 Louisville Colonels were led by a 25-year-old shortstop named Honus Wagner. That ball club started the season 16-38 but rallied to go 57-35 over their next 92 games. They finally returned to .500 baseball on October 3. Unfortunately, it was too late in the season by then and the Colonels finished ninth in the National League, 28 games out of first place.

The Tampa Bay franchise has actually been here before. Then known as the Devil Rays in 2004, the team found itself at 10-28 on May 19 but went 25-7 over its next 32 games to reach .500 on June 25. The turnaround was short-lived, however, and the team posted a 35-56 record the rest of the way. While the comeback fueled a then-franchise record 70 wins, the team still finished fourth in the AL East and 20 and a half games out of playoff position.

The most-recent such comeback came in 2006 by the Florida Marlins. That team was led by 23-year-old Miguel Cabrera and 22-year-old rookie shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The Marlins tumbled to an NL-worst 11-31 record on May 21 before proceeding to go 57-37 to reach .500 on September 3. However, the Marlins went 10-16 the rest of the way and finished fourth in the NL East, again with no playoffs to show for it.

So what's fueling the Tampa turnaround this season?

The Rays have been one of the most disciplined teams at the plate since June 10. Prior to that date the Rays ranked 17th with a .317 OBP as a team. From June 11 on the Rays have a .346 OBP as a team, the best mark in baseball over that time span.

Ben Zobrist has tallied 27 walks from June 11 on, second in MLB behind only Paul Goldschmidt's 36 walks.

And finally, the Rays have chased only 25 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone from June 11 on, again the best mark in baseball over that time span.

While trade rumors have quieted for their ace David Price, the Rays could make a run at history and become the first team ever to make the playoffs after being 18 games below .500 in the same season.

Top stats to know: Blue Jays at Red Sox

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28

Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesKnuckleballer R.A. Dickey looks to improve to 3-0 this year vs. the Red Sox.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox open a three-game series tonight at Fenway Park (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). The Blue Jays have won seven of the 10 matchups so far this season, including three of four last week in Toronto.

After beating the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6, the Blue Jays led the AL East by six games over the second-place New York Yankees and by 6½ games over the third-place Baltimore Orioles.

However, since June 7, the Blue Jays are 18-26 -- the third-worst record in the American League in that span -- and are now three games behind the Orioles for first place in the division.

Toronto hasn’t been to the playoffs since it won the World Series in 1993. Only the Kansas City Royals have gone longer without a postseason appearance.

One player who can help the Blue Jays break their postseason drought is José Bautista. In 2010, Bautista had a breakout year, hitting a major league-best 54 home runs.

Since the start of that year, Bautista’s 172 home runs are tied with Miguel Cabrera for the most in baseball.

Another player who has been a key cog in the Blue Jays' success is José Reyes, who has been aggressive this season, swinging at 47 percent of the pitches he sees. That’s his highest swing rate in the past six seasons.

Reyes is a tough batter to put away, even in an 0-2 count. From the start of the 2012 season on his .302 batting average in such a count over that time span is the highest in MLB.

As for the defending world champion Red Sox, they are in last place in the AL East. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1998 Florida Marlins are the only team to finish last in the division or the league the year after winning the World Series.

Boston also finished last in the AL East in 2012. No team has ever finished in last place one year, won the World Series the next year, and then finished last the next year.

Dustin Pedroia has been struggling for the Red Sox; his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all at career-worst levels.

Meanwhile, teams have used an infield shift on more than 8,800 balls in play this season, already more than all of last season (8,134), and David Ortiz has seen his fair share of shifts. The shift has certainly had an effect on him this season.

•  He’s hitting .157 on ground balls and soft line drives against the shift this season.
•  He’s hitting .333 on similar batted balls when there is no shift.
•  Only three hitters (minimum 125 PAs against the shift) have a larger difference in batting average on grounders and soft liners without the shift vs. against the shift.
•  His BABIP is .241 this season (his BABIP was .318 overall the previous four seasons).

Pitching Notes
• R.A. Dickey went 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA against the Red Sox last season. This year, he’s 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA.

•  Dustin Pedroia is hitting .167 (3-for-18) in his career against Dickey, including 1-for-his-past-12.

•  Clay Buchholz has allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his past 10 starts. Of course, in the middle of that, he threw a three-hit shutout against the Houston Astros with 12 strikeouts and no walks.

Trout, Jeter enjoy day of statistical bonds

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
Mike Trout grew up in New Jersey, watching and admiring Derek Jeter.

Little did he know that, in 2014, he’d not only share the field with Jeter, but share some statistical synergy in that year’s All-Star Game.

Trout was the most valuable player of Jeter’s final All-Star Game, and both played an integral role in the American League’s 5-3 win over the National League.

Jeter and Trout were the only two players with two hits for the American League. Trout claimed an MVP honor that Jeter won in 2000, the same year he won the last of three straight World Series titles.

Trout became the third player to have multiple extra-base hits in an All-Star Game before turning 23. The others were Ted Williams (1941) and Ken Griffey Jr (1992).

Griffey is the only player younger than the 22-year-old Trout to win MVP honors, having won that award as a 22-year-old (106 days younger than Trout) in 1992.

Trout also became the second player in All-Star Game history with a double, triple and two RBIs in an All-Star Game, joining Earl Averill of the 1934 Cleveland Indians.

The 40-year-old Jeter became the oldest player with multiple hits in an All-Star Game, passing Carl Yastrzemski (age 39 in 1979). The oldest Yankees player prior to Jeter was the third-oldest with multiple hits all-time, Babe Ruth (age 38 in 1933).

Jeter finished 13-for-27 in his All-Star career. His .481 batting average is second-best in All-Star Game history (perhaps appropriate for a player who wears No. 2). The all-time leader among those with at least 15 plate appearances is second baseman Charlie Gehringer, who hit .500.

Trout may surpass them both someday. In three All-Star Games, he’s 4-for-7 (.571) with two singles, a double and a triple.

Coincidentally, Jeter also had four hits in his first seven All-Star Game at-bats.

One player Trout beat out for MVP honors was two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera became the first Tigers player to homer in an All-Star Game since fan-favorite Lou Whitaker did in 1986.

It was a day for retro-Tigers celebration. Max Scherzer won with a scoreless inning of relief, the first Tigers pitcher to win an All-Star Game since Jim Bunning in 1957.

Twins reliever Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native, became the third pitcher to earn an All-Star Game save in his home ballpark, joining Mickey Lolich (1971 Tigers) and Kaz Sasaki (2001 Mariners).

The losing pitcher would have a Minnesota connection too -- former Twins reliever Pat Neshek, who grew up in Minnesota. He became the first Cardinals pitcher to lose an All-Star Game since Mort Cooper in 1943.

The stats behind the ESPY candidates

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
Adam Pretty/Getty ImagesThis is what they hope to win.
With the ESPY Awards almost upon us, let's take a look at three of the top categories to provide statistical insight into who may walk away with the trophy as Best Male Athlete, Best Female Athlete and Best Team.

Best Male Athlete
Miguel Cabrera – MLB
Cabrera led the majors in batting average (.348) and finished second in home runs (44) and runs batted in (137). His 9.0 offensive wins above replacement was second in MLB. Cabrera became the first player to win consecutive MVP awards in the AL since Frank Thomas in 1993-94 and just the seventh man in AL history.

Kevin Durant – NBA
Durant was the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 to lead the NBA in points per game (32.0), player efficiency rating (29.9) and win shares (19.2). Durant also made history this season by becoming the fourth player to average at least 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, joining Hall of Fame players Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.

Peyton Manning – NFL
Manning set the NFL single-season records for passing TDs (55) and passing yards (5,477). Manning had a Total QBR of 95.8 in the red zone as well as an overall Total QBR of 82.9, which ranked second in the league. Manning was spectacular in his first two playoff games, putting up QBR numbers of 91.1 and 88.8 to get to his second Super Bowl.

Floyd Mayweather – Boxing
Mayweather defeated Saul “Canelo” Álvarez by landing almost double the punches (232 to 117) en route to a majority decision victory. That fight also set the record for largest gate in Nevada State Boxing history at over $20 million. Mayweather then defeated Marcos Maidana by majority decision in May. Mayweather landed 54 percent of total punches and 65 percent of power punches. He earned $105 million for the two fights.

Best Female Athlete
Maya Moore – WNBA
Moore was named the 2013 WNBA Finals MVP for the Minnesota Lynx, averaging 20 points per game in a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Dream. Moore was the top three-point shooter in the regular season at 45.3 percent and scored 18.8 points per game, third in the league.

Ronda Rousey – MMA
Rousey moved her MMA record to 10-0 over the past year, recording the first two knockouts of her career in wins over Sara McMann and Alexis Davis. In December, Rousey won her eighth fight by armbar when she defeated Miesha Tate at UFC 168. In her last three fights, Rousey has landed 77 percent of her takedowns.

Mikaela Shiffrin – Alpine Skiing
Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist when she won in Sochi at age 18. She ended the 2014 season as the reigning Olympic, World Cup and world champion in slalom. In the 2014 season, Shiffrin won five times and had six podiums in slalom.

Breanna Stewart – WCBB
Stewart led the UConn women’s basketball team to their second national title in a row and in doing so won her second consecutive Final Four Most Outstanding Player award. Stewart led the team in points per game (19.4) and rebounds per game (8.1) and in the national title game scored 21 points (18 in the paint) to lead the Huskies.

Best Team
Boston Red Sox – MLB
The Boston Red Sox won their third World Series in 10 years by leading the majors in runs scored, slugging and OPS. David Ortiz led the charge for the Red Sox, hitting .688 (11-for-16) with two home runs and six RBIs in the World Series while Jon Lester went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA.

Los Angeles Kings – NHL
The Los Angeles won their second Stanley Cup in three years with Jonathan Quick in net. Quick won 43 games (regular season and playoffs) and posted a 2.07 GAA (fifth-lowest). In the playoffs, Justin Williams took home the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP, scoring nine goals with 16 assists, including the OT winner in Game 1. The Kings had a plus-17 goal differential in the 3rd period/OT (plus-1 in first two periods).

San Antonio Spurs – NBA
The San Antonio Spurs were sixth in both points per game (105.4) and fewest points allowed (97.6) which helped them lead the NBA in wins with 62. The Spurs set the NBA Finals record in the three-point era (since 1979-80) for effective field goal percentage (60.4 percent) and offensive rating (118.5). Tim Duncan became the all-time leader in playoff double-doubles, but Kawhi Leonard was the star. Leonard averaged 17.8 points on 61 percent shooting in the Finals, becoming the second-youngest Finals MVP.

Seattle Seahawks – NFL
The Seattle Seahawks defense ranked first in points per game allowed, receiving yards allowed and total yards allowed. In the Super Bowl, the Seahawks shut the Broncos high-scoring offense down, winning by 35 points which was the third-largest win in Super Bowl history. Russell Wilson threw 26 touchdowns in the regular season and in the Super Bowl put up a Total QBR of 88.1. Richard Sherman led the NFL with eight interceptions and caused the interception that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

UConn Women’s Basketball – WCBB
The Connecticut Huskies are one of eight teams to finish the season undefeated after their 40-0 season. The Huskies finished the season outscoring opponents by 34.3 points per game while holding opponents to just 47.8 points per game. Along with Breanna Stewart, Bria Hartley was second on the team with 16.2 points per game and center Stephanie Dolson scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the Huskies national title win over Notre Dame.

Florida State Football – CFB
Florida State won the national championship and completed at 14-0 undefeated season by averaging 51.6 points per game. On defense, FSU led college football in both interceptions (26) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (5). Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston had an 88.5 adjusted QBR and threw for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the national title game to Kelvin Benjamin, who was second on the team in receiving yards (1,011) and led the team with 15 touchdowns.

Top stats to know: Red Sox at Tigers

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
"Sunday Night Baseball" features a rematch of the 2013 American League Championship Series with the Detroit Tigers hosting the Boston Red Sox and trying to finish a sweep.

Both teams have some positives and lots of issues to discuss, as each has had trouble meeting expectations in 2014. Here are some of the topics our broadcast crew will be talking about tonight.

Star watch: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera has ripped Red Sox pitching this season, with 11 hits in 19 at-bats, including four doubles and a home run, along with three walks. He has more doubles against them than he has swings and misses.

Cabrera has 376 home runs, 1,311 RBIs and a .321 batting average in his career. Only five other players have ever amassed those numbers, with all five being in the Hall of Fame.

Matchup to watch: David Ortiz vs. Anibal Sanchez
Red Sox DH Ortiz enters today 4-for-10 in his career against Tigers starter Sanchez, combining regular-season and postseason play. Ortiz hit two home runs and a double against Sanchez in 2006 but is 1-for-7 with two strikeouts and two walks against him since then.

Left-handed hitters are 15-for-106 (.142 batting average) with zero home runs and 29 strikeouts against Sanchez this season and 4-for-44 against him in his last three starts. One reason is that Sanchez has four options that he can throw for strikes to a lefty. His strike rates with his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider are all 60 percent or better against left-handed batters.

Rookie watch: Xander Bogaerts
Each team’s third baseman is worth keeping an eye on. We wrote up Nick Castellanos’ recent success Saturday night.

But Red Sox infielder Bogaerts has him beat.

Through May 13, Bogaerts was hitting .252 with a .705 OPS. On May 14, he would go 2-for-4, and it’s been smooth sailing since. Bogaerts is hitting .362 with a .596 slugging percentage in his last 23 games, with four home runs and 10 doubles.

Bogaerts has improved the most against pitches on the outer half, as noted in the chart on the right.

What’s going on with the Red Sox offense?
The Red Sox are tied for 11th in the American League with 4.07 runs per game. Their .246 batting average and .375 slugging percentage are down 31 and 71 points from last season, respectively.

Boston has particularly been hurting at the bottom of the lineup. Its Nos. 6 through 9 hitters are batting .220 with a .628 OPS and 241 strikeouts. Each of those ranks worst in the American League.

What’s going on with Torii Hunter’s defense?
For much of his career, Hunter has been one of baseball’s top defensive outfielders, both via advanced defensive metrics and the eye test.

But Hunter’s best days appear to be behind him. Over the past two seasons as the Tigers right fielder, he has -23 Defensive Runs Saved (had 24 in the positive column in 2011 and 2012), with his -13 this season ranking last at that position in the major leagues.

Hunter’s Web Gem potential this season has been minimal. In 2011, he was credited with 36 Good Fielding Plays (think Web Gem nominee-type plays) by video scouts from Baseball Info Solutions. This season, in about one-third as many innings, he has only three such plays.

Encarnacion, Stanton powerful in May

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
May was a memorable month when it came to home-run hitting, particularly for a couple of players, one who couldn’t stop hitting home runs and the other, who couldn’t stop hitting long home runs. Here are our honorees for this month.

HR Hitter of the Month: Edwin Encarnacion
Edwin Encarnación hit 16 home runs in May, joining Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Mark McGwire as the only players in major-league history to hit at least 16 May homers.

After only going deep twice in April, Encarnación had five multi-homer games in May, tied for the most in a calendar month in MLB history.

Encarnación’s May homers traveled a total distance of 6,639 feet, over 1,300 feet further than the next closest hitter (Nelson Cruz, 5,321 feet).

Encarnación pulled all but one of his home runs in May and has pulled 72 home runs over the last three seasons – the most in baseball.

Trevor Ebaugh

Road Warrior of the Month: Nelson Cruz
Cruz warranted recognition in May as well and he gets it from us in this regard.

Cruz plays in homer-friendly Camden Yards, but showed he can hit home runs anywhere at any time. He had the most road homers of anyone in May with nine.

He averaged 414.4 feet per road homer, almost 17 feet longer than his average home run at home.

Long Drive Champion of the Month: Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton led the majors in average home run distance in May (minimum five home runs), averaging 437.1 feet per homer. Stanton hit eight home runs in May; the shortest of which was 412 feet (the average home run distance in baseball this season is 396.8 feet).

Stanton leads the majors in 450-foot home runs this year and crushed two in May to up his season total to five.

Stanton has more 450-foot homers than every other team in baseball.

On May 23, Stanton hit two homers calculated at 463 and 444 feet. The 907 total feet is the second-furthest total distance in a game this season, falling short by one foot to Michael Morse, who hit a combined 908 feet of home runs on April 23.

Longest homer of the month: Paul Goldschmidt

On May 28, Paul Goldschmidt drove a Troy Patton fastball 470 feet to center at Chase Field in Arizona for the longest home run of the month. The 470-foot home run is a career long for Goldschmidt.

Shortest Home Run of the Month: Miguel Cabrera
On May 17, Miguel Cabrera wrapped a home run around the Pesky Pole at Fenway Park that was calculated at 329 feet, the shortest home run of the season (not including inside-the-park homers). It is the shortest home run Cabrera has hit since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006.

Short home runs in Boston are nothing new. Since, 2006, the 10 shortest home runs in the majors have all been hit at Fenway Park (excluding inside-the-park home runs).

Breakout Performance of the Month: George Springer
Astros rookie outfielder George Springer hit 10 home runs in May, including a seven-game stretch in which he hit seven homers. According to Elias, only one other rookie in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) had a stretch to equal that (Rudy York, 1937).

Trevor Ebaugh

Top stats to know: Tigers at Indians

May, 19, 2014
May 19
The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians begin a three-game series tonight (7 ET on ESPN) at Progressive Field.

The Tigers dominated the Indians last year, winning 15 of 19 games, their most wins against the Indians in a season since 1960.

Can anyone tame the Tigers?
The Tigers once again are atop the AL Central, leading by seven games, the largest division lead in the majors. They have the best record in the AL and only the Oakland Athletics (+95) have a better run differential than the Tigers (+55).

Detroit has reached the ALCS in each of the last three seasons yet has zero World Series wins in that span.

This year they'll try to become just the fourth team to make four consecutive ALCS appearances and the first since the Yankees from 1998-2001.

The Tigers have also been nearly unbeatable on the road this season with a MLB-best 14-4 record and wins in each of their last 11 games away from home, their longest road win streak since 1983-84.

Cabrera rounding into form
Miguel Cabrera started the season cold but has been on a tear over the past month. Through April 21, he was hitting just .206 with one homer. In 23 games since then he has hit six home runs and a .389 batting average in that span.

As you can see in the chart on the right, his numbers for the season are now on par or better than what he did in his first 39 games in 2012, when he won the MVP and Triple Crown.

What are some of the keys to his turnaround so far?

From 2011-13, no AL player had a higher batting average vs. off-speed pitches than Cabrera. Yet he started this season just 4 for 23 (.174) against soft stuff in his first 16 games. Since then he has been crushing those offerings, hitting .533 with three homers in at-bats ending in an off-speed pitch.

Cabrera is also hitting the ball with authority to all fields now. Through April 21, he had just one hit to right field, a double against the Royals on April 19.

In 23 games since then he is 14 for 30 when putting the ball in play to the opposite field, and four of his six homers in that span have gone over the right field fence. Over the last five seasons, only Joey Votto (47) has more opposite field homers than Cabrera (42).

Indians defensive problems
The Indians rank 26th in runs allowed so it’s no surprise that they are arguably the worst defensive team in the majors this year.

They have the fewest Defensive Runs Saved, the most errors, the lowest defensive efficiency, and have allowed the most unearned runs.

The Indians have negative Defensive Runs Saved at every position except pitcher and catcher this season, meaning every other position has cost them at least a run on defense.

The Carlos Santana experiment at third base has not worked well for the Indians on defense this season. He has played the majority of the team's games at the hot corner and has cost the team four runs, the third-most of any third baseman in the majors.

Top stats to know: Tigers at Red Sox

May, 18, 2014
May 18
The Detroit Tigers go for the sweep of the Boston Red Sox as they look to extend their winning streak to six games on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 p.m., ESPN).

The Tigers have outscored the Red Sox 7-1 in the series and have the 2013 American League ERA champ returning to the mound tonight. Here are some of the storylines Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Buster Olney will be talking about on our telecast.

Inside the Pitching Matchup: Sanchez vs. Peavy
Anibal Sanchez has gone from a solid midrotation starter with the Marlins to front-line caliber with the Tigers. His ERA, which was 3.70 from 2010 to 2012, dropped to 2.63 combining 2013 and 2014, with a strikeout rate that increased from 21 percent to 27 percent of hitters faced.

What has changed about Sanchez’s profile? He is throwing his devastating changeup more often than he used to, increasing its use from 15 times per 100 pitches (2010 to 2012) to 23 times per 100 pitches (2013 and 2014).

Red Sox starter Jake Peavy has had his share of struggles this season, and the primary reason for this has been something uncharacteristic -- wildness. Peavy leads AL starting pitchers with a 13 percent walk rate this season.

Star Watch: Ortiz vs. Cabrera
What should we be watching out for from two of the game’s premier power hitters in David Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera this evening?

With Ortiz, watch how Sanchez pitches him. If Sanchez throws him a pitch on the outer half of the plate, he’s living dangerously. Ortiz has a .364 batting average (best in the majors) over the past three seasons in at-bats that end with an outer-half pitch.

With Cabrera in the middle of a potent Tigers lineup, see how the Red Sox approach the situation should they face him with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Over the past three seasons, Cabrera is hitting .444 (56-for-126) with 15 homers in that scenario. Even when opponents try to avoid him, they can’t. He is 19-for-49 in those situations when the at-bat ends with a pitch out of the strike zone.

Red-Hot: Victor Martinez
Tigers DH Martinez got off to a slow start last season but has been one of the best hitters in the game over the past 11 months. Martinez’s .357 batting average since July 1 is the best in the majors over that span.

Martinez has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, with six home runs in 74 at-bats. He is 3-for-9 in this series, but the damage could be far worse. He has recorded six balls that our hit classification system charted as “hard-hit.”

What makes Martinez so challenging is that he is extraordinarily difficult to strike out. He has fanned in only 6 percent of his plate appearances this season, the lowest rate among any hitter currently qualified for the batting title.

Cabrera's dominant form reemerges

May, 14, 2014
May 14
Pretty soon, you'll forget that Miguel Cabrera had any early-season struggles.

Cabrera’s go-ahead home run in the ninth inning off Tommy Hunter continued his red-hot play of late, as the Tigers snared a comeback win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Though the start to Cabrera’s 2014 season left a lot to be desired, he’s rounding into MVP form over the last three weeks, and is now hitting .298 with an .846 OPS this season, with the second-most RBIs in the American League (33). That’s in large part because he’s hit .372 since April 22.

Let’s dig deeper to found out what’s been the key to his turnaround.

Covering the outer half
The most noteworthy change for Cabrera has been in his ability to get to the pitch on the outer half of the plate -– as he did on the home run against Hunter.

Through April 21, Cabrera was hitting .167 with a .222 slugging percentage against pitches on the outer half. Since then, he’s hitting .371 with a .686 slugging percentage against those pitches.

You can see the difference in the hot zone images below.

This is more like what we're used to from Cabrera, who has ranked in the top 5 in OPS against pitches on the outer half in each season since 2009.

Mr. Clutch
Cabrera has 11 go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning or later since the start of the 2008 season.

No one else in the majors has more than eight such home runs in that same span.

Cabrera has racked up accolades, dollars

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27

Michael Zagaris/Getty ImagesMiguel Cabrera hits almost everything.
The Detroit Tigers have reportedly agreed to a new 10-year deal with Miguel Cabrera that will be worth $292 million. It would be the largest deal in major league history.

Cabrera’s accomplishments

For his career, Cabrera has 365 home runs, 1,260 RBI and a .321 batting average. Only seven other players have ever amassed those numbers over an entire career. Six of them are in the Hall of Fame. The other is Albert Pujols.

Over the past 10 seasons, Cabrera’s average season is a .324 batting average with 35 home runs, 120 RBIs and 191 hits. He’s played 1,573 games in that span, which trails only Ichiro Suzuki's 1,588.

Cabrera has 227 homers and 737 RBIs over the last six seasons, both of which rank as the best in baseball.

Over the past three seasons, Cabrera has totaled a major league-best 22.1 WAR (wins above replacement).

Cabrera has also been clutch: His slash line with runners in scoring position and two outs over the past four seasons is .389/.545/.717.

His ability to drive the ball separates him as well. He hit home runs on 25 percent of his fly balls last season, a rate that trailed only Chris Davis (27.9) in the American League.

Cabrera can hit any pitch. Over the past five seasons, he has 35 home runs on pitches that were inside and out of the strike zone. No one else has more than 25.

The 10-year deal

There are not a lot of completed 10-year deals from which to draw upon. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter had one from 2001 to 2010, during which he accumulated 41.1 WAR and netted $189 million.

Troy Tulowitzki and Pujols are in the midst of 10-year deals. Tulowitzki’s started in 2011, and in the first three seasons, he’s missed 170 games and posted 11.8 WAR.

Pujols also had injury issues that caused him to miss 63 games in 2013, the second year of his 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

Now-suspended Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez had a pair of 10-year deals, the first of which ran from 2001 to 2007 before he opted out. In that seven-year span, he averaged eight WAR per season. In the second iteration of that deal, one that runs until he is 42 years old, he’s averaged 3.6 WAR over six seasons.

Among those starting 10-year deals this season are Cabrera, Joey Votto and Robinson Cano.

What are the chances it’s worth it?

Let’s use Baseball-Reference WAR to take a quick look at the expectations for Cabrera.

If the Tigers hope that Cabrera will be worth 40 WAR over the course of the contract, that wouldn’t be unprecedented. There are 21 instances since 1900 of a player tallying 40 WAR in a span of a maximum of 10 seasons that began with their age-31 season.

These include some of the greatest players of all time: Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Ted Williams.

Only nine players accumulated 50 WAR over that span.

However, Baseball-Reference lists Cabrera as weighing 240 pounds. The most WAR accumulated over a maximum 10-year span by a player listed at 220 pounds or heavier and age 31 or older is Jim Thome’s 32.4.

One potential comparable for Cabrera could be Frank Thomas. Over a 10-year period from 1999 to 2008, starting with his age-31 season, "The Big Hurt" averaged 23 homers and 74 RBI, with a .277/.390/.521 slash line and played an average of 109 games per season.

Another could be Andres Galarraga, who had the advantage of playing in hitter-friendly Colorado. Over the 10 years from 1992 to 2001, Galarraga had a .302/.361/.550 slash line, averaging 27 homers, 91 RBI and 119 games from ages 31 to 40.

Top stats to know: Miguel Cabrera, MVP

November, 14, 2013

Miguel Cabrera crushes the ball regardless of where it is pitched.
Miguel Cabrera won his second straight MVP award on Thursday night, in a season in which he nearly matched the numbers of his 2012 Triple Crown campaign.

That much you know. But here are a few things you might not know about Cabrera as it relates to his second straight MVP.

• Cabrera is the second Tigers player to win the MVP in consecutive seasons. The first to do so was not Ty Cobb or Hank Greenberg or any of the other Tigers all-time greats. Instead, it was future Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser, who dominated in both 1944 and 1945 (a time when many players were fighting in World War II).

There has been at least one back-to-back MVP winner at every position on the diamond, but Newhouser is the only pitcher among them.

• The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Cabrera hit .348 with 44 homers and 137 RBIs in 2013. Over the past 80 years, the only other player with consecutive seasons of a batting average of .325 or higher, with 40 homers and 130 RBIs, is Todd Helton for the 2000 and 2001 Colorado Rockies.

• The Tigers are the first AL team since the 1960-63 Yankees to capture three or more straight MVP awards. The Tigers are also the first team to win five of the six MVP/Cy Young awards in a three-year span in major league history.

• You could make a case that this was the best offensive season by a third baseman in major league history. Cabrera’s .348/.442/.636 slash line was duplicated by only one other third baseman in baseball’s modern era (since 1900). George Brett had a .390/.454/.664 slash line in winning AL MVP for the 1980 Royals.

• What makes Cabrera so much better than the typical major league hitter?

Cabrera had a major league-best nine home runs against pitches outside of the strike zone in 2013. Cabrera hit .263 with a .449 slugging percentage when an at-bat ended with a pitch deemed by pitch F/X to be out of the strike zone. The average major league nonpitcher averages .171 and .230 respectively.

Hand in hand with that, Cabrera hit .245 with a .447 slugging percentage and 14 home runs with two strikes. The average major leaguer hits .182 and .274 respectively. Cabrera’s 14 homers trailed only Chris Davis’ 19 (and Davis saw 114 more two-strike pitches than Cabrera).

Top stats to know: AL MVP candidates

November, 14, 2013
The three finalists for the AL MVP – Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Mike Trout and Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis - all put up gaudy offensive numbers in 2013.

The voters will determine whose were most befitting an MVP when that honor is announced Thursday night.

Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera is trying to win consecutive AL MVPs, which hasn't happened since Frank Thomas won for the White Sox in 1993 and 1994. Thomas is the only player to do that since Roger Maris won consecutive AL MVPs in 1960 and 1961.

A Cabrera win would give the Tigers three straight MVP awards. They’d be the first AL team to have their players win at least three straight since the Yankees won four in a row from 1960 to 1963 (Maris winning in 1960 and 1961, Mickey Mantle in 1962 and Elston Howard in 1963).

Cabrera was actually a better offensive player in 2013 than he was when he won the Triple Crown in 2012, even with the injury that hindered his production in September and the offseason.

He raised his batting average 18 points, his on-base percentage 49 points and his slugging percentage 30 points, finishing with the same number of home runs (44) in 67 fewer at-bats.

MVP or not, his last two seasons have put him in the company of some of the game's elite players.

Mike Trout
Trout is trying to become the third Angels player to win the MVP, joining Don Baylor (1979) and Vladimir Guerrero (2004).

Trout led the majors in Wins Above Replacement for the second straight season. Though his advanced defensive metrics dropped a bit, Trout’s offensive numbers were about as impressive in 2012 as they were in 2013.

Yet he could miss out on the MVP award because of Cabrera’s presence.

Should Trout come in second, he’d be the first player to be a runner-up in the MVP voting in consecutive years since Albert Pujols in 2002 and 2003.

In fact, those two years also marked the last time that the same players finished 1-2 in consecutive seasons. Barry Bonds beat out Pujols for the NL MVP award in each of those seasons.

Chris Davis
Davis is trying to become the Orioles' first MVP winner since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1991. Though his numbers tailed off after the All-Star break, Davis led the majors in both home runs and RBIs, the first Orioles player to have the top mark in both leagues in each of those stats within the same season.

Davis was known for his ability to get big hits. separates situations into high, medium and low leverage based on their importance to a team’s chance of winning the game. Davis thrived in high-leverage spots, hitting .342 with 13 home runs in 114 at-bats that met that classification.

2013 Home Run Tracker: Year in review

November, 1, 2013

Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsThis Evan Gattis swing produced the longest home run of the 2013 season.
With the 2013 season complete, we take a look back at the long, the short and the lucky among home-run hitters this season.

Longest HR of the Year: Evan Gattis

On Sept. 8, Evan Gattis drove a Cole Hamels fastball 486 feet to dead center field at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for what would finish as the longest home run of 2013.

Gattis’ homer is the longest hit by an Atlanta Braves player in the past eight seasons and is tied for the ninth-longest in all of baseball over that same stretch.

That was the longest homer this season by 10 feet. The next-longest was a 476-foot shot by Hunter Pence of the Giants on Aug. 27 against the Rockies

Long Drive Champion: Mike Trout

Mike Trout led the major leagues in average home run distance this season (minimum 20 homers), averaging nearly 420 feet per homer.

Trout hit the longest home run of the season at two different ballparks -- Kauffman Stadium (463 feet) and Tropicana Field (458 feet).

Trout hit 13 homers that traveled at least 430 feet, the most such homers in the majors.

Pedro Alvarez (10) was the only other hitter in double digits.

Shortest Home Run of the Year: Brandon Snyder
On July 29 Red Sox infielder Brandon Snyder hit a ball off of Pesky’s Pole at Fenway Park that was calculated at only 312 feet, the shortest homer hit in 2013 (inside-the-park home runs not included).

Snyder’s homer is tied for the second-shortest out-of-the-park homer hit in the past eight seasons (trailing only a 311-foot shot by Jeff Keppinger in 2006). It is a familiar story for Fenway Park as the five shortest home runs in the majors since 2006 have all been hit in Boston.

Luckiest Home Run Hitter of the Year: Coco Crisp

Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp finished 2013 with a career-high 22 home runs. Crisp was able to take advantage of short fences down the lines, not hitting a single homer to left center, center or right center field.

Crisp’s average home run traveled 368.9 feet, the shortest average distance of any hitter in a single season with at least 20 home runs in the past eight seasons. The next-shortest was J.J. Hardy, who averaged 385 feet on his home runs.

Chris Davis Shows Power to All Fields

Chris Davis led MLB with an Orioles-record 53 home runs this season. He showed power to all fields, with 16 of his 53 home runs going to left or left center field, 14 to center field and 23 to right field. Davis’ average homer to center field this season traveled over 422 feet.

Unlikely Home Run of the Year

Miguel Cabrera finished second in MLB with 44 home runs. Yet, if it was not for the glove of Michael Bourn, he would only have 43.

On May 22, Cabrera hit a fly ball to the center-field wall at Progressive Field.

Bourn, a two-time Gold Glove winner, started to backpedal as he approached the fence. He then leaped with the intention of robbing Cabrera of extra-bases. Instead, the ball ricocheted off his glove for a home run.

Had Bourn not made contact, the ball would have traveled only 386 feet and would not have been a home run in any major league park. In fact, it would have been 38 feet shy of the fence in the same location at Comerica Park, Cabrera's home field.

Longest Postseason Home Run of the Year

Mike Napoli’s home run off Anibal Sanchez in Game 5 of the ALCS was calculated at 460 feet, the longest home run of the 2013 postseason. The 460-foot blast is also tied for the second-longest postseason home run since the beginning of ESPN HR Tracker in 2006, trailing only a 479-foot homer by Manny Ramirez in 2007.

Napoli’s 460-foot home run was his fourth home run of 2013 (regular and postseason) calculated at 460 feet or more, the most such home runs this year. No other player even had three such home runs.

Only Matt Holliday has had more home runs calculated at 460 feet or more in a season (five in 2006).

Speaking of Holliday, he had three of the 10 longest home runs in the 2013 postseason. His longest was a 430-foot home run off Ryan Dempster in Game 1 of the World Series.

For more information on home-run distances in 2013, go to

Tigers maneuver through ALCS win

October, 17, 2013
The Detroit Tigers evened the ALCS with the Boston Red Sox with an offensive outburst previously unseen in this series.

It was a game in which the pitcher with a really good breaking ball pitched very well and one in which the pitcher with an uncontrollable breaking ball got hit hard.

The lineup changes work out fine
Tigers manager Jim Leyland juggled his lineup, putting Torii Hunter in the leadoff spot, Miguel Cabrera second, and Austin Jackson eighth.

Each of the three had two RBIs in the win.

Hunter had an RBI as a leadoff hitter for the first time since the 1999 season. It was the first time in his career that he had multiple RBIs when hitting leadoff.

Cabrera broke a tie with Hank Greenberg for sole possession of the Tigers’ postseason RBIs lead (he has 24, two more than Greenberg).

He also had his first stolen base since July 7. It was only the third time in his career that he batted in the No. 2 spot, the first time since June 2004.

Jackson was 2-for-2 with two walks. He was 3-for-33 with two walks in his first eight games this postseason.

This was the fourth time in Tigers history that they had at least three players with multiple RBI in the same postseason game. They previously did so in the 1940 World Series against the Reds, the 1968 World Series against the Cardinals and the 2006 ALDS against the Yankees.

Fister solid again
Tigers starter Doug Fister allowed one run in six innings to earn the win.

This was a game in which Fister had his good 12-to-6 curveball working and that proved to be a difference-maker.

Fister threw 27 pitches with two strikes, 16 of which were curveballs. It was the most often he’s thrown a two-strike curve in any start in his career.

The Red Sox went 1-for-8 against his hook in those situations, with four strikeouts.

Fister’s effort lowered his postseason ERA to 2.06 in seven career starts.

Peavy’s ugly outing
Jake Peavy became the first pitcher in Red Sox postseason history to allow seven runs in three or fewer innings of work.

Peavy had all sorts of trouble throwing strikes. His 54 percent strike rate was his third-worst in any game of his career, his worst since a 33-pitch start while pitching on an injured ankle against the Phillies in 2009.

Peavy’s breaking ball was what did him in. He threw only 10 of 25 curves and sliders for strikes. The Tigers got three hits against his slider, including Hunter’s two-run double.

Peavy has a 10.31 career postseason ERA in four appearances, all starts.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is the highest postseason ERA for a pitcher in his first four appearances (with all of those appearances being starts).

The previous high was 8.15 by Charlie Root, who is best known as the pitcher against whom Babe Ruth hit his "called shot" home run in the 1932 World Series.