Miguel Cabrera and the 3,000-hit club: Where the Detroit Tigers slugger ranks all-time

Detroit Free Press

Miguel Cabrera joined an exclusive club nearly 130 years in the making, with his single in the first inning Saturday at Comerica Park.

Cabrera became the 33rd major leaguer with at least 3,000 hits. It’s a group that began in the late 1890s with Cap Anson, and has inducted some of MLB’s most hallowed names in the years since, from Ty Cobb (1921) to Hank Aaron (1970) to Al Kaline (1974) to Tony Gwynn (1999) to … well, you get the idea.

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How does Cabrera stack up against the 32 other members of the 3,000-hit club? Here’s a look at the chart-toppers in several key hitting stats, and where Cabrera ranks:

Games: 26th

AT THE TOP: Pete Rose has a 254-game edge on No. 2, Carl Yastrzemski, which we’re sure is in no way related to Rose’s 365-game stint as a player/manager, in which he wrote himself into the lineup 217 times despite a .694 OPS in his final stint with the Reds. Yastrzemski, meanwhile, appeared in at least 119 games in 21 of his 23 seasons.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIGGY? Cabrera played at least 148 games 12 times over his first 13 full seasons. But since 2017, he has topped out at 136 games; that was in 2019, when he slashed .282/.346/.398.

Singles: 31st

AT THE TOP: Befitting their status as the only MLB hitters with 4,000 hits, Rose and Ty Cobb are also the only ones to reach 3,000 hits on singles alone. Though, for what it’s worth, Ichiro Suzuki had 926 singles as part of his 1,278 hits while playing in Japan from 1992-2000, which aren’t included in these totals.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIGGY? Cabrera’s top season for one-baggers was 2009, when he had 130 (to go with 34 doubles and 34 home runs). It’s one of just four seasons for him with at least 120 singles. The others? 2005 with the Marlins and 2012 and 2013, his MVP campaigns in Detroit. (Rose is tops in MLB history with 19 120-single seasons.)

Doubles: 16th

AT THE TOP: Tris Speaker, Cobb’s greatest rival, led the American League in doubles eight times, spanning the deadball era of the 1910s and the gopherball era of the late 1920s. That includes a 52-double season at age 38, with Cleveland in 1926 — one of five seasons with at least 50 two-baggers, two more than any other major leaguer.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIGGY? Cabrera had at least 21 doubles in each of his first 15 seasons, a streak snapped only by his ruptured biceps tendon in 2018, which limited him to 38 games (though he already had 11 doubles). That run included 50 doubles in 2006, an MLB-high 48 doubles in 2011 and an AL-topping 52 in 2014.

Triples: 32nd

AT THE TOP: Three-baggers have virtually withered away in MLB’s offensive attack, like a vestigial tail. Two players have hit 20 triples in a season over the past 10 years; Cobb did it four times from 1908-17, though he was probably helped by the ridiculous center field dimensions at Navin Field (renamed Tiger Stadium in 1961) – 467 feet to dead center. Cobb’s triple total is as many as the bottom eight players on the list — Albert Pujols, Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Adrian Beltre, Cal Ripken and Craig Biggio —combined.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIGGY? Cabrera had wheels as a youngster, but even then, his ambitions seemed to stop at second base; his career high for three-baggers was three, set in his 87-game rookie season of 2003. His last triple was in 2016, with 17 for his career.

Home runs: 7th

AT THE TOP: Hank Aaron hit at least 20 homers for 20 consecutive seasons (1955-74), though he topped 45 just once, with 47 as a 37-year-old in 1971 (trailing NL leader Willie Stargell by one). That included four seasons (1957, 1963, 1966, 1967) leading the NL and four seasons (1957, 1963, 1966, 1969) with exactly 44 homers.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIGGY? Cabrera can’t quite match that streak, with 11 seasons of at least 20 homers. He also has never hit 45 or more, topping out at 44 in 2012 and 2013. That first season, he led the majors in home runs and RBIs (139), and led the AL in batting average (.330) to win the Triple Crown. (Cabrera also led the AL with 37 homers in 2008, his first year with the Tigers.)

Strikeouts: 2nd

AT THE TOP: Consider this evidence of baseball’s transformation into a “Three True Outcomes” model, with four of the top five in strikeouts all spending the majority of their careers in the 2000s. And yet, Rodriguez, the 3,000-hit club’s K leader, never finished higher than third (139 in 2005) in strikeouts in a single season.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIGGY? Cabrera’s strikeout totals peaked when he was 22, as he finished seventh in the NL with 148. Last season’s 118 strikeouts (in 472 at-bats) was his highest total since registering 126 (in 616 at-bats) in 2008; seven of his 15 seasons with the Tigers have featured fewer than 100 strikeouts.

OPS: 7th

AT THE TOP: There are plenty of advanced metrics we could turn to in determining the most successful all-around hitter in the 3,000-hit club, but we’ll go with a basic one: On-base percentage Plus Slugging percentage, or OPS. And that gives us The Man, or, more accurately, Stan “The Man” Musial; his .417 OBP ranks fourth, while his .559 SLG is tops in the club. Over 22 seasons with the Cardinals, Musial posted nine with an OPS of 1.000 or better.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIGGY? Cabrera is virtually tied with the other great righty of his generation, Pujols. Cabrera wins the OBP battle, .387 to .375, while Pujols is ahead in SLG, .544 to .532. It’s a fitting connection for two sluggers who have combined for 21 All-Star Game nods, 13 Silver Slugger awards and five MVPs.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.  

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