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Miguel Cabrera

Posted by Andy on February 17, 2011

Miguel Cabrera has been charged with drunk driving. This is not the first alcohol-related problem for Cabrera, and it makes me fear that he's not getting the help he needs.

Should Cabrera's career trajectory continue, he'll end up as one of the greatest players of all time.

Check out his similarity scores through Age 27:

Similar Batters through 27
  1. Frank Robinson (930) *
  2. Hank Aaron (928) *
  3. Ken Griffey (922)
  4. Hal Trosky (891)
  5. Mickey Mantle (884) *
  6. Albert Pujols (883)
  7. Orlando Cepeda (879) *
  8. Al Kaline (870) *
  9. Andruw Jones (862)
  10. Joe Medwick (861) *

That's a pretty impressive list.

I was just chatting with Neil and said that I fear Cabrera's career will not continue as it has if his issues with alcohol co untreated. Neil said it's like Darryl Strawberry 2.0.

It's a good point, but Strawberry was never as good as Cabrera. Strawberry's top OPS+ came in his last exceptional season: 165 OPS+ in 1988, his Age 26 season. Although he had a couple of very good years in 1990 and 1991, they weren't quite as good as his 1988, and he only played more than 63 games in a season once after that. After 1988, Strawberry's most similar player through Age 26 was Jose Canseco.

Cabrera just had his best season, a 179 OPS+ at Age 27. He's comparing favorably to Aaron, Robinson, Mantle, and Pujols. If he doesn't get control of his alcohol issues, will they affect his play on the field, and how far might he fall?

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 17th, 2011 at 9:12 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

40 Responses to “Miguel Cabrera”

  1. Check this out, though:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/strawda01.shtml#1983-1989-sum:batting_standard

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/cabremi01.shtml#2004-2010-sum:batting_standard

    Over the same ages (21-27), Strawberry is actually not that much worse by OPS+ (146 vs. Cabrera's 148). Use our neutralized stats to put them both in a neutral park and era (4.42 R/G), and you get these numbers over ages 21-27:

    Player Years G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS RC Gact
    Cabrera 2004-2010 1103 4719 4138 701 1299 275 10 234 814 27 504 836 0.314 0.389 0.555 0.944 891 1103
    Strawberry 1983-1989 957 4057 3443 632 957 184 30 235 695 192 557 850 0.278 0.379 0.554 0.932 726 957
  2. I'd just like to be clear that I have a lot of sympathy for Cabrera and anybody else suffering from addictions. While drunk driving is not OK and Cabrera needs to take steps to get help for his problems, addictions are incredibly tough, and people get through them only with the help and support of others around them.

  3. "[A]ddictions are incredibly though, and people get through them only with the help and support of others around them." Andy, I'm sure that is true, but nothing happens for an addict until he recognizes that he is responsible for himself. Up until then all the sympathy in the world is simply another crutch for the addict to take advantage of.
    As you said, drunk driving is not OK. I have never met someone who was arrested the first time he drove drunk. Of course Cabrera is entitled to the best defense that his money can buy, but I really wish we would wake up in this country and enact zero tolerance drunk driving laws -- one time, you loose your license.
    If I recall correctly Cabrera was in jail last season or the year before on suspicion of spousal abuse, and that makes it pretty impossible for me to squeeze out any sympathy for the guy, whatever his addiction to alcohol may be. It will be interesting to see how far this all goes and whether the Tigers will eventually be moved to exercise the character clause that I suspect is part of all major league contracts.
    Naturally I wish better health and times for Cabrera and his family and all the people his behavior puts at risk. Here is hoping that he quickly does too.

  4. I'd like to make the point that alcohol, while it can be bad (drinking and driving and such) isn't really in the same league as cocaine. Plenty of guys around the league drink, and I'm sure heavily, they just know better then to drive.

    Again, not downplaying it at all.... and I'm not suggesting that Cabrera doesn't need help, or that careers can't be ruined by alcohol abuse. But coke is pretty devastating to and drastically addictive. I can't fathom that Cabrera is so bad off a drunk that he needs to drink before a game so as to get him through it....

  5. MClark, I agree, hence my comment that "Cabrera needs to take steps to get help for his problems", by which I implicitly mean he has to recognize that he has a problem. (I am guessing here that he has a problem since, as you say, it's unlikely this arrest is the first time he drove drunk.)

  6. Spartan Bill Says:

    This is more than just a DUI. That's bad enough, but resisting arrest is a second chare. Since Cabrera is (I presume) not a US citizen, he is here on work permit, which can be revoked.

    This may be a career ender for him. Sure Josh Hamilton is a success story, but he was a substance abuser; not a violent one.

    Dombrowski was generous to give Cabrera a 2nd chance after the 09 playoffs incident; at this point they would be wise to release him, and determine whether Don kelly can handle the everyday 1B job, or if they need to make a trade.

  7. More likely that he's not accepting the help that's available.

  8. MLB needs a team like the Raiders or the Bengals where players like this can go.

  9. Projecting the future, looking at those comps (and I agree that with era-park adjustments that Strawberry is a great comp), it could go either way.

    Trosky (migraines) and Strawberry (substance abuse) had their careers flame out too soon which cost them a chance at the HOF. But other guys on the list like Medwick (beanball), Mantle (drinking, knees), Griffey (injuries), Cepeda (knee) had their careers fall apart after age 30 and they made the HOF anyways.

  10. The thing that kills me the most is these guys make $20 million a year and they can't pay someone to drive them around if they go out drinking? It is ridiciulous. Miguel Cabrera is a great player, however, he is an idiot. Is it going to take him injuring himself in an accident, or worse, killing someone else in an accident before he realizes it?

  11. JR @ #10 and MClark @ #3,

    I hate to hijack this into a discussion on DUI (or DWI), but its hard not to chime in once on this one. I agree with JR, that its absurd that a highly paid player can't pay someone to drive them around. And as for suspending or revoking a driver's license, while, I love the idea, you then have to make it a major criminal offense to drive without a license. All you have to do is read the newspapers regarding fatal traffic accidents to see how often a driver kills someone while driving with a suspended or even without a drivers license.

    That's it. My two cents on this topic.

  12. @3

    Amen to that. A friend's grandparents were both run down (they were pedestrians) on Christmas Eve by a twentysomething guy who was loaded. Loss of license for life is only the beginning of how such criminality should be addressed, IMHO.

  13. Is that his mug shot? Not a lot of remorese in that photo.

  14. Yeah, that's his mug shot, courtesy of the AP.

  15. Andy -- Though the Strawberry comparison is not the focus of your post, I can't let the claim that "Strawberry was never as good as Cabrera" go unchallenged.

    Take a closer look at Straw's career. His raw numbers were suppressed by Shea Stadium and the 1980s NL context. But if you compare Straw's and Cabrera's OPS+ through age 27 (taking in Cabrera's entire career to date), Darryl has a tiny edge, 146-145. Through age 27, each had led his league once in OPS+ and once in HRs.

    If you extend the Strawberry side of the comparison through age 29, giving him 9 seasons to Miggy's 8 but only slightly more games and PAs, their OPS+ marks are still virtually identical, 144 (DS) to 145 (MC).

    If you measure by WAR, through age 27 it's Cabrera 33.1, Strawberry 31.2.

    You're also undervaluing Strawberry's 1990 season. Not his best offensively, but still strong, and he played 152 games, a relatively high total for him; most surprisingly, he's credited with 1.8 dWAR (after 1.7 the year before), for a total WAR value of 6.5 -- the 2nd-highest of his career.

  16. I think it's hard not to make it a discussion on DUI ... in a sense, that's the point of the story anyway. (Well, to be more accurate, it's dependence on alcohol, and this DUI is a symptom of that.)

    I would guess that Cabrera either doesn't think he has a problem or thinks he's in control. If this past offseason is his first trip through counseling, it's not surprising that he's had a relapse so soon into spring training (it makes you wonder if one of the triggers is something baseball-related), but if each relapse is going to be like this, it's not something that either MLB or the Tigers can afford to dismiss.

    It's difficult enough to manage any kind of alcohol dependence ... I think that as a professional athlete, it would be even more difficult, primarily because that strikes me as an environment least likely to be conducive toward properly recognizing and addressing types of addiction.

    I think that without question, Cabrera's problems will curtail his career if they aren't treated properly: of course subsequent relapses may not turn out like this one, but it won't take much more to have something end his career abruptly. I feel like there is a player farther back than Strawberry (I have to confess that my friends and I did serenade him at Victory Field with "Daaaaarryl, Daaaaarryl" during his comeback) who is a better match for Cabrera's situation, but I can't think of him.

    I do hope that he is willing to accept the help he needs.

  17. JA, fair enough. As is often the case in our disagreements, I was a bit lazy in my wording and your very cogent argument correctly rips apart my sloppy work. (I wish I had more time to blog...)
    What I mean to say is that other than in his first couple of big years, I don't think there were common expectations that Strawberry would be one of the very best players to play the game, in terms of final career numbers. Strawberry was dynamic and multitalented in terms of power, speed, etc, but didn't play enough games in order to threaten the big counting-stat career totals such as HR and RBI in a meaningful way. Cabrera is, on the other hand, at least in the conversation for numbers like 600 career HR, 2000 RBI, etc.
    As usual, I oversimplified what I was trying to say, took a shortcut, and made a sweeping statement that isn't backed up.

  18. #16 and others--no problem, let's make this a discussion about alcohol and professional athletes. No reason not to.

  19. Anyone who thinks Darryl Strawberry "flamed out" due to substance abuse is no more than half right.

    Yes, Strawberry had some behavioral issues during his Mets years, which may well have been linked to drinking or drugs. And yes, he was twice suspended from baseball for drug offenses.

    But you're ignoring the timeline: Whatever his habits, Strawberry was quite productive through age 29, 1991. What first derailed his career was lower-back injuries that began in 1992; he played just 75 games combined in 1992-93 and hit poorly. Arguably, Straw was never fully healthy from that point on.

    Meanwhile, it was not until the spring of 1994 (age 32) that he missed time due to substance abuse. His first suspension came in 1994. You can fairly say that the addiction cost him the better part of the 1994-96 seasons. In the latter half of '96, he was back with the Yanks and fairly productive. But knee problems wiped out his '97 season. In '98, age 36, he had a fine year in a platoon role (24 HRs in 345 PAs) -- but late in that season, he was diagnosed with colon cancer; he missed the '98 postseason, and played just a handful of games the rest of his career.

  20. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I have the feeling that Cabrera can rise about thios "challenge"; after all, even the Babe had his "moments" {not to mention an entire season, for all intents and purposed} with those alcohol-induced "bellyaches" -- and he did a fair-to-middlin' job of producing.

  21. I very much agree with JA in #19. My recollection was that drugs prevented Strawberry's return from injury, as opposed to causing his absence. Of course alcohol/drug use/abuse may have affected his career prior to the publicly-known problems, but it was his physical injuries that initiated the career interruptions. Then the cancer continued the interruptions that were drug-related.

  22. Cabrera's behavior was selfish, reckless, irresponsible and criminally actionable. But we who are discussing it should keep in mind that, when it comes to alcohol and other addictions, relapses are an almost inevitable part of the recovery process. That's why those in recovery are careful to use the word "recovering" instead of "recovered."

  23. It was generally believed at the time (rightly or wrongly) that Strawberry's relatively poor performance in 1989 was to a lazy attitude that was not long after attributed to hangovers. His extreme 1st-half 2nd-half spits in 1991 also raises a question.

    The earlier player someone above was trying to think of might be Hack Wilson.

  24. Or Jimmy Foxx.

  25. Yes, thanks, I think Wilson is it. Foxx is also a good match, except that he had a really good career anyway, and I think in today's game, Wilson is a more likely match. (Plus Wilson also is the second-highest similarity score career-wise ...) I'm not sure Cabrera can go another 12 seasons if he can't get these problems under some kind of control soon.

    I believe that while socially, drinking and driving is still tolerated (sometimes even tacitly encouraged) far more than it should be, things have changed quite a bit since the days of Foxx, Wilson, and Ruth, particularly in a legal sense. (It's also possible that Ruth didn't really have to do that much driving in those days ...) It's hard to say for sure, because all we know (without insider access) is what people share with us: there could very well be a significant number of MLB players with drinking problems who are still "functioning" players, and all we hear about are the times when they get caught.

    But these don't seem to my amateur eyes like minor relapses ... if there are such things.

  26. It's definitely not the DUI itself that is going to stick out in people's memories, it's the behaviour. Obviously one does not expect a drunk to behave well, but the description does seem to indicate a lack of self-control extending far beyond the drinking itself. He profiles as the dangerous drunk type - drives, acts like an ass, etc. There are undoubtably dozens of guys playing right now who are the quiet drunks and do get someone to drive them, so no one notices or cares. As has been talked about in other places, combining a "work day" that wants you at max alertness at 10-11pm most days, with the absence of anything else to do at 12-2 in the morning aside from going to bars for entertainment, and things do get ugly.

    I've worked in the addiction field in the past, it's messy, and relapses are the rule, not the exception...but...if Cabrera is endangering lives (check), then sympathies go out the door for me.

  27. Trust me, anyone who gets busted and says "Don't you know who I am?" is not one long for success. This guy won't play long enough to put up HOF numbers. He's an idiot of the first order.

  28. Autin, @ 19: I agree with you that Straw's injuries played more of a role in his decline than people realize. But I just wanted to add that it's a lot easier to recover the next day after a night of heavy drinking when you're young. There are a lot of stories, admittedly anecdotal ones, about his drinking habits impacting his playing time and his performance. For example, in The Bad Guys Won, by Jeff Pearlman, which chronicles the mess of a team that was the 1986 Mets, there are a lot of stories about Straw being in no condition to play in day games and either sitting out or going 0-4. Granted, we know that players and managers don't always have the most accurate memories and stories like that can be apocrphyal.

    It is interesting to look at Straw's Day/Night splits though. His tOPS+ (number relative to his own OPS). By season from 1983-1991, his tOPS+ in day games was 88, 96, 122, 75, 90, 98, 120, 101, 74. I know it's not possible to make a definitive conclusion with those numbers, and there are sample size and randomness issues (maybe he played a lot of day games at home and in other pitcher's parks, maybe he faced better pitchers in day games, etc.) and I have no explanation (other than randomness) for why he'd do so well in day games in 1985 and 1989 compared to the other years. But it's still interesting to conisder.

    Also just wanted to thank posts like Autin's at #22 (at no point are addicts considered "recovered" - you can be clean for 20 years and you're still "recovering"), Aweb at #27, Andy, and others for bringing a reasonable and intelligent perspective to the discussion. As a society, it is so disappointing that we are not nearly as educated as we should be on human behavior, the cycle of abuse, basic psychology and addiction. When I saw this post, I was expecting a lot of ignorant comments, but I've been pleasantly surprised to see that this discussion has mostly risen above that.

  29. @Andy (8): LOL
    @Andy(17): I hear you, mam.....only so many hours in the day!!
    @DanW(28): Totally agree.

    One name that I haven't seen mentioned yet, is Steve Howe.....I remember his later comebacks with the Yankees....it's astounding how forgiving the human body is, if you only give it a chance.

  30. oops, Andy. Of course I meant, "man".....:) (Typo)

  31. Not to get on you as you said that you put the blog together quickly, but how exactly has Miggy compared favorably to Pujols? Not to discount his ridiculous start to his career and I agree he compares to Pujols, just not favorably.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=1177&playerid3=1744&playerid4=&playerid5=

  32. Pujols is on his most similar through Age 27 list...they compare favorably if you look at Pujols through Age 27. By "favorably" I don't mean that Cabrera has been better--just that they have been very roughly on par.

  33. OutOfLeftField Says:

    @9. Re: Trosky's migraines. I was looking at his player page and thinking he couldn't get back his form after the war. Except that his slide actually started a year or two before the war. So, I was wondering what really happened.

    Thanks David for clearing that up.

  34. Who's to say Strawberry's injury problems weren't a direct result of being on cocaine?

  35. Mike Felber Says:

    But when you say compare favorably, those words can only mean what you did not intend & is false; better than the other guy. Better to say that Cabrera has put up an offensive performance in the same ballpark as a Pujols or Robinson.

    Ruth was so much more talented than his peers that it is not a useful comparison.
    Plus he got serious with training & with the influence of his 2nd wife, & had no more self created Manager or health related problems after '25.

  36. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    My only question is whether Cabrera will go the way of Ruth {see my post #20}, or the way of Hack wilson, who let alcohol burn him out way too early. Alcohol abuse is a major issue, however; and my hope is that Cabrera can become a shining example of someone who can overcome this demon.

  37. Thomas, @4: "alcohol, while it can be bad (drinking and driving and such) isn't really in the same league as cocaine."
    -- I can't imagine what you mean, since on a purely statistical basis, alcohol abuse is far more damaging to our society -- many times more people abuse alcohol than cocaine, causing many times more deaths (to themselves and others) and many times more emotional harm.

    @35: "Who's to say Strawberry's injury problems weren't a direct result of being on cocaine?"
    -- And who's to say they weren't caused by voodoo? Until you show a connection between cocaine use and lower-back problems, such speculation is pointless.

  38. @29, Randy -- Thanks for the kind words at the end.

    As to Straw's day-night splits, I'm certainly open to seeing some evidence that late night carousing harmed his day-game performance. But what I see there looks random; even if we put aside the sample-size issue, only 2 seasons are significantly below his overall OPS (1986 & '91), and they're offset by 2 years significantly above (1985 & '89).

    I am by no means saying that substance abuse didn't impact Strawberry's career; that would be silly. All I'm saying is that, although we love to see things in black-and-white ("Strawberry should have been a Hall of Famer" / "Booze and drugs destroyed his career"), nine times out of ten the reality is much more nuanced.

    Straw was probably not going to have a HOF career even without the addictions, because he had injury problems from an early stage; from age 22-29, he missed an average of 21 games a year, and once the back problems hit him, he was unlikely ever to be a full-time player again. On the other hand, "destroyed his career" is also too strong, since even after the suspensions, Darryl was able to make important contributions to two championship clubs, the 1996 and '98 Yankees.

  39. Oregon baseball notebook: George Horton expects new bats to bring scores down, put a premium on small-ball.....