Real or Not? Miggy might never dominate at the plate again

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Miguel Cabrera is an all-time great, one of the most lethal right-handed batters ever with four batting titles, two home run championships and a Triple Crown season. You have to wonder, however, if we’ll ever see Super Scary Miggy again.

Cabrera ruptured a biceps tendon on a swing in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to the Twins and he’ll require season-ending surgery. His season is over after 38 games and only three home runs. Once one of the iron men of the game, Cabrera averaged 157 games per season from 2004 to 2014 without landing on the DL. But check out his list of injuries since 2014:

• 2014: Played 159 games and hit .313 with 25 home runs but had surgery after the season to repair a stress fracture in his foot and bone spurs in his ankle.

• 2015: Landed on the DL for the first time, missing six weeks because of a calf strain and playing only 119 games (he still hit .338 to win his fourth batting title, although he hit only 18 home runs).

• 2017: Bothered by back problems all season and played 130 games, hitting .249 with 16 home runs.

• 2018: Missed time earlier because of a hamstring issue and now he’s out for the season. While he managed to hit .301 while in the lineup, he never did find his power stroke.

Cabrera is now 35 years old — turning 36 next April — with a body struggling to handle the rigors of playing baseball every day. There is still ability there when healthy, as witnessed by a strong 2016 season when he hit .316 with 38 home runs, but will he be able to tap into that ability in the future? The worrisome aspect for the Tigers? Cabrera’s future salaries: $30 million per season in 2019, 2020 and 2021, then $32 million per year in 2022 and 2023… and then a $30 million vesting option (or an $8 million buyout) for 2024, and a $30 million vesting option for 2025.

That’s a minimum of $162 million owed an aging superstar who probably moves to DH next season. Look, maybe Cabrera bounces back and this won’t end up as bad as the Albert Pujols contract. He’s a better hitter than Pujols, who turned into a one-dimensional slugger in his mid-30s, with declining batting averages and worsening control of the strike zone. Cabrera still had a .397 OBP, so there’s some hope he’ll age better if the body does.

Still, when Cabrera signed the extension back in March 2014 — when he still had two seasons remaining on his contract at the time — it was obviously a risky bet given the deal would, at minimum, go through Cabrera’s age-40 season. The contract was widely criticized in part because there was no need to do the contract when he was still two years away from free agency. If the Tigers had waited even one year, they would have witnessed the first signs of Cabrera’s body breaking down.

That extension came courtesy of an owner now deceased and a GM no longer here. The current regime has to work with the ramifications.

Super Nola: Aaron Nola‘s ERA has been below 3.00 all season. After two abbreviated five-inning outings to begin the season, he has pitched at least six innings in each start since, which might not impress the old-timers but qualifies as a workhorse by today’s standard. He has given up more than three runs only once, and that was just four runs. He has given up only five home runs in 91 innings, despite playing his home run games in a great home run park.

Nola improved to 8-2 with a 2.27 ERA after fanning 10 in 6⅔ innings in a 5-4 victory over the Rockies on Tuesday, a game made close when Colorado rallied for three runs in the ninth. The game ended when Seranthony Dominguez fanned Nolan Arenado on a checked swing, a call that Arenado was not happy about.

Here’s Nola fanning Charlie Blackmon with his wipeout curveball:

Nola has always had the curve, but the continued improvement of his changeup has taken him to a new level. Talking about the changeup after the game on MLB Network, Nola explained it was a pitch he didn’t use much at LSU because he threw his curve so much, but he started focusing on it a lot more in spring training in 2017. Indeed, his confidence in the changeup can be seen through his usage:

2016: 8.6 percent
2017: 15.7 percent
2018: 22.4 percent

Batters are hitting .193/.245/.239 against his changeup. It has turned him into not just an obvious All-Star candidate, but a Cy Young candidate.

Defensive play of the night: Mitch Haniger with the throw, Jean Segura with the tag:

Oh, Haniger had two home runs as the Mariners beat the Angels to overcome Mike Trout‘s two home runs. Although this is a pretty awesome little factoid: Trout became the first player to have consecutive multihomer games at Safeco Field — yes, no Mariner has ever done it.

Mad Max: The Max Muncy show continues as the Dodgers pounded Bartolo Colon and the Rangers:

That’s four games in a row with a home run for Muncy. His OPS is over 1.000. Baseball is amazing.

Braves slam hapless Mets: Ozzie Albies had the big blow with a grand slam to cap a six-run sixth inning as the Braves beat the Mets 8-2. This play kind of sums up the Mets’ season:

That was Johan Camargo with the D and Asdrubal Cabrera with the baserunning as the Mets lost for the ninth time in 10 games.

Keep an eye on Mike Foltynewicz, who was terrific again with five scoreless innings (no walks), but left the game because of triceps tightness. Fingers crossed.

Rest easy, J.D. Martinez, you may start the All-Star Game: The early vote leaders for the American League All-Star starters:

The closest races are at catcher, where Gary Sanchez leads Wilson Ramos, and first base, with Jose Abreu over Mitch Moreland. I thought shortstop might be closer, but Manny Machado has a 110,000-vote lead over Francisco Lindor, with Didi Gregorius and Carlos Correa a couple of thousand votes behind Lindor.

Abreu is the interesting player in a weak crop at first base. He’s really the only deserving starter, based on 2018 performance plus previous track record, unless you want to give a legacy vote to Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols. If he does win the vote, he’d be the first White Sox position player to start since Frank Thomas in 1995.



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