Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cabrera's Triple Crown chances hurt by lack of protection, mounting walk total

    Miguel Cabrera walked three times over the weekend. He has been walked nine times on this homestand.
    Rookie Brennan Boesch's second-half return to reality, coupled with the loss of Magglio Ordonez, have left Cabrera more or less all alone in the middle of the Tigers' lineup.
    As a result, Cabrera, who leads the American League in RBI with 93, is third in hitting at .343, and third in home runs with 26, also leads the league in intentional walks with 15 and is fourth in walks overall with 62.
    Opposing pitchers know Cabrera is now the one guy in the Tigers' lineup who is most likely to beat them. And they feel free to pitch to him very carefully if, indeed, they don't outright walk him.
    And that cuts into his chances for base hits, HRs and RBI -- in other words, the Triple Crown.
    Cabrera's  last home run came on July 31. His last RBI came on Aug. 1. His batting average has dropped eight points (from .351) this month.
    "When Boesch was hitting, we had a legitimate guy hitting behind him. Right now, we don't have a guy hitting behind him who can protect him," Jim Leyland admitted.
    "Of course, Cabrera is so good, the only guy who can really protect Miguel Cabrera is Miguel Cabrera."
    And the Tigers only have one of those.
    "For the most part, they really haven't done a whole lot of pitching around him," Leyland insisted. "Sometimes that becomes a head game. 'Are they going to pitch to me? Are they not going to pitch to me?'
    "When a guy is as good as he is, he can expand the strike zone sometimes. But he can't expand it too much. If you start swinging at bad pitches, you're going to make outs."
    Cabrera was walked 68 times all last season. His career high is 86 bases on balls, with Florida in 2006.
    But the Tigers' team record for walks is safe. Surprisingly, that was set by Roy Cullenbine, who was hardly a slugger, in 1947 when he walked 137 times.


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