- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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I mean, other than it's just 16 games. Still, Miguel Cabrera, a three-time reigning batting champion and best hitter on the planet, is struggling along with a .206/.275/.333 line. While even the great hitters have their slumps, it's unusual to see Cabrera go through a prolonged one. On Sunday, he struck out twice looking on 3-2 fastballs and grounded into a double play. He went 0-for-4 Monday with two long outs and a ground ball out against a shift, his sixth 0-for-4 in 16 games. He had only 15 0-for-4s (or worse) all of 2013.
"His first two at-bats were 800 feet worth of outs," manager Brad Ausmus said after Monday's loss. "In a lot of ballparks, that's two home runs. He struck those balls well and really hit the ball up the middle well, it's just the second baseman was shifted over. If we're playing in a lot of parks, he's 3-for-3 with two homers right there."
After going 4-for-5 with a home run in the third game of the season, Cabrera is hitting .157 with no home runs and four RBIs in his past 13 games. That's tied for the ninth-longest homerless streak of his career -- although four of his top eight such stretches came in the past three seasons:
Sept. 5-22, 2011: 16 games (.375/.538/.542)
May 1-8, 2011: 15 games (.250/.406/.333)
Aug. 27-Sept. 16, 2013: 14 games (.250/.377/.273)
April 29-May 14, 2012: 14 games (.311/.323/.377)
When Cabrera slumped last September, he was battling various injuries, of course. In spring training, he declared himself healthy. Then he signed that $292 million contract extension and maybe it's possible even the best hitter on the planet is pressing.
Aside from that speculation, it's clear what he hasn't been doing: Hitting the ball to the opposite field with success. Here are his hit charts from 2013 and 2014:
In 2013, 55 of his 193 hits went to right field, including 12 of his 44 home runs. This year, he has just one hit to right field. Most of his other data is similar to last year -- swing rate, chase percentage and so on. He swing-and-miss rate is actually down a few percent in 2014. His ratio of ground balls to fly balls has increased so far (he has 23 grounders and 12 fly balls whereas that ratio was nearly 1:1 last year), so that partially explains the lack of home runs.
At this point, it just looks like a slump to me. Maybe the longest one of his career and considering his offseason surgery, not one that should be ignored. But if you're Charlie Leesman and making just your second career start Tuesday night for the White Sox be careful. Miggy is due.