The Detroit Tigers have missed a golden opportunity to take over the American League Central. Even with a walk-off victory on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit entered Friday with a 13-17 record over its last 30 games. For comparison, the Minnesota Twins have gone 15-15, while the Cleveland Indians have gone 14-16. A slightly better stretch from the Tigers, and they wouldn’t be four games out and tied for third place with the Kansas City Royals — they’d be, well, perhaps leading the division.
The Tigers have various culprits to blame: a leaky bullpen; an under-performing rotation; and a disappointing lineup. Add Miguel Cabrera‘s injuries to the list. Cabrera, who delivered the walk-off victory via home run Thursday, detailed his physical woes afterward. He’s dealing with back, oblique and groin strains, as well as a newly suffered hip flexor issue. Cabrera refuses to sit, per ESPN:
“No, no, no,” Cabrera said. “I played with a broken foot. If I’m able to go out there and do my job, I’m going to do it.”
Perhaps those injuries explain why Cabrera hasn’t been as productive as his usual self. He entered Friday batting .280/.378/.446 — good for a 122 OPS+ that would be the lowest of his career. Cabrera has previously never finished a full season with an OPS+ below 130. Of course, a banged-up Cabrera is better than most hitters, including almost all his teammates — he ranks third on the Tigers among qualified hitters — he’s just not quite on the level that everyone has come to expect. His power production is down (his .166 ISO is 30 points lower than his previous career-low); his strikeout rate would be his most severe since he was 21 years old and his batting average would represent the first time he’s hit below .300 since 2008 — and the first time he’s hit below .290 since 2003. You get the point.
Obviously Cabrera isn’t the biggest reason the Tigers are where they are — or, rather, aren’t where they could be. His injuries are part of it, however, and shouldn’t be ignored — if only because his raw numbers will deserve some benefit of the doubt at season’s end.