THE MYSTERY CALLED MIGGY

By:  Holly Horning

Let’s face it – there are a lot of things going on with the Tigers this year that we simply don’t understand. Many readers in the social media threads are calling the Tigers a “Jekyll and Hyde” team. I tend to refer to them as Forrest Gump would. The Tigers remind me “of a box of chocolates because you never know what you’re gonna get.”

And no one is a better poster child for this team than Miguel Cabrera. He has been consistently inconsistent in 2016 which is troubling considering that almost everyone still believes he’s the best hitter in baseball.

Miggy’s stats still look decent for a top hitter – a .296 BA and .897 OPS. But if you divide up his stats by series, week or month, they represent a roller coaster of performance. During the last homestand (through Saturday), he’s hitting .174 with only 4 hits and a 25% strikeout rate. Out of 7 games, he went hitless in 3 of them. Two games saw 1 hit in each while only in 1 game did he have 2 hits.

And if we look at the bigger picture, Miggy’s BA and OPS have been in decline this year. More troubling is the jump in strikeouts. They are way up and if he continues this current pace, he’ll set his own career record. In June, his strikeouts were almost equal to the number of hits he got.

But to add to this mystery, Cabrera’s HR rate is up.

So what’s going on? Is there cause for concern or are we, as fans, simply spoiled by expecting him to be great all the time?

I think we can rule out injury as we have yet to see Miggy appear to be bothered in his running and movement. His track record at first base shows excellence and agility with a perfect fielding percentage.

Where we do see the problems is at the plate. More often than not, Miggy appears distracted during his at-bats. He simply doesn’t appear to be present at the plate and the end result is swinging at bad pitches, swinging late and sometimes half-heartedly.

What could be causing this?

The easy answer is vision changes. Last year, Miggy experimented with a number of different outdoor glasses that enhanced clarity depending upon the weather conditions. We haven’t seen him wear them this year.

And while a vision check would appear to be an easy solution, there have been stories about ballplayers who are loath to get them.

However, if it is a vision issue, it still doesn’t explain the increasing signs of disinterest or the lack of focus.

Maybe Miggy is bored. Or maybe he no longer has the support system around him that keeps him focused on the game. Jim Leyland is gone. So is Torii. And VMart has his hands full trying to keep this team playing as a unit. And Anibal Sanchez, Miggy’s best friend on the team, has his own worries which are keeping him busy.

Add to this, Miggy’s increasing schmoozing with opponents, fans and anyone else who is within range. Now, to give him some credit, this interaction is part of the cultural protocol in Venezuelan baseball, but Miggy has taken it to extremes. And with last week’s embarrassing blowing of kisses from the third base line to his teammate trying to score, he’s crossed a line.

Miggy is the extreme example of a team that, more often than not, loses its focus on a regular basis. Too many games where it appears the team has mailed it in. And that falls on the players, coaches, manager and GM – a lack of leadership and systems that other teams have to maintain discipline and focus.

Maybe the Tigers don’t have a system because they don’t recognize the intangibles. Maybe they think the only factors that matter are the ones that appear on stat sheets.

As we’ve seen throughout baseball history, there were many players, like Babe Ruth, with great talent but in need of a structure to keep them focused. It’s been said that one reason why Ted Williams was one of baseball’s greatest hitters was due to his disciplined nature and extreme ability to focus.

Just because a player has an immense amount of talent doesn’t mean he knows how to harness it effectively or perform to his maximum ability.

Are Miggy’s issues this year due solely to his need for a structured system? Or, is he just the most vulnerable and visible example of a team that is lacking in vision and leadership and allowing the players to figure out their own direction?

16 thoughts on “THE MYSTERY CALLED MIGGY

  1. This team is clearly lacking. Is it the managers fault: does he share in the blame, and to what extent. In sports and business, it is often inevitable that when attempting a quick turnaround, the manager is replaced. Ausmus might be a good manager, in time, but not now and not with this group. He needs more experience.

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  2. Great topic, Holly! Baseball: 1) Preparation, 2) FOCUS 3) Execution. FOCUS is almost gone. His head is somewhere else. Is it physical, mental, or emotional? Bat speed is slower, too many strikeouts, etc. He had 2 great runs: after returning from injury last year and the 2 week spurt this year. Otherwise noting extraordinary.

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  3. I agree. Miggy’s antics (schmoozing with the other team) to me show a disrespect for his own team and the manager. I think Ausmus should not be the manager and this is another case in point. A respected manager wouldn’t allow this behavior by one of his own players..

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  4. Miggy is one of the best to ever put on the old English D. A center field statue will be cast but he is a human. I think we will see flashes of his past still but honestly my expectations are rooted in the triple crown Miggy. That is unrealistic in a way. It’s not like we’ll trade him to the Met’s at the deadline.

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    • The Tigers should seriously consider trading Cabrera before the deadline. He has 12 years left on his contract, I believe. What a possible burden. Now is the time to get close to maximum value.

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  5. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in, but why is it that to be a Tiger’s fan means we have to tear down the players and management in 80% of the articles and 95% of the comments whatever/wherever we read? As for Cabrera, I agree that his performance is disconcerting. On the other hand, it is nice to see Iglesias hitting the ball again.

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    • Totally agree especially here. So funny cause every single thing is tied into somehow it’s the manager or teams fault for a player performing poorly. This is such a reach. May sound funny but I think boils down to people (especially older) watch too many rah-rah sports movies and think coaches control everything.

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  6. Vision could be the problem. Eyes age. His swing reflexes could be slower too.Miggy hitting to right more. Friend of mine at some games recently said Nick and Ian only ones trying to get the fielding done. Iggy and Miggy too casual fielding, not going for the hard grounders. Management should be on top of this.

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  7. Left TT to read till LAST this AM. Surprisingly, too many What IFS, MAYBE’S and pure guesses (vision) offered up here as was (sic) other journalists. I know Holly, intent is to get readers to “think.” And you accomplished that! The QUESTION is what do TIGER ‘s do RIGHT NOW? Not sell off date. Mr I and Avila on this off day?

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  8. When a player with Miggy’s talent is unfocused & underperforming it hurts the team. It affects morale. It is the manager’s duty to find the cause & initiate corrective measures. Miggy needs managing. Brad’s inexperience renders him incapable of the task. Someone else must step in for the sake of the team. Fantastic post Holly!

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    • Cabrera is not striking out more, this is same level he’s been at last two seasons with a K percentage that was 16.7% in 2014-15 and is at 16.4% this year. The only problem with Miggy is expectations of him are too high for a guy who’s 33 years-old. Fans need to expect the Miggy we seen before is long gone now, that was historic elite levels.

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      • Hi, Wade – For the year so far, Miggy has a 19% SO rate (291 AB with 54 SO) which includes his hot streaks. For the past month, when he’s been noticeably down, his SO rate is 21%. Still a little more than half the season for things to be sorted out to see if things improve. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly

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      • Come on Holly I expected better than this……………You need to look at plate appearances not AB’s, trust me on this. Every single advanced stat site uses PA over AB…..check out site Fangraphs.com it’s right there for all to see. I’ve never heard anyone use AB when doing this and I follow all the analytics sites closely.

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  9. Holly, it could very well be vision problems which could be giving him headaches. This would explain the lack of effort on certain days, or should i say daze. I sometimes get headaches that don’t hurt much but i cannot focus. Also I think they should move him to number 4 in the lineup, he doesn’t have enough speed for 3.

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  10. Miggy has been allowed to be the clown by leyland and Brad. Shows there is no manager. No passion from most, hardly ever see guys near top of dugout rooting. This has been going on to long- get rid of any of these aging players even if you have to eat their paycheck- this attitude will roll over to hungry young guys if not taken care of now

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