Let’s Watch Miguel Cabrera Make a Run Happen

In the past, I’ve done a few Let’s Watch posts about Billy Hamilton’s baserunning. This is because Billy Hamilton is probably the best baserunner in baseball, so some of the things he’s able to do are extraordinary. I know we’ve all gotten used to it — one of the great shames of existence is how quickly we get used to certain things — but Hamilton is legitimately amazing, regardless of whether he ever hits. Mike Trout is the Mike Trout of baseball, but Billy Hamilton is the Mike Trout of the running-the-bases part.

At the suggestion of Ryan Tinetti, this is going to be a Let’s Watch post about Miguel Cabrera’s baserunning. Hamilton, again, is probably the very best baserunner. Cabrera has been nearly the very worst baserunner. That doesn’t have to be about his instincts; people love to compliment Cabrera’s baserunning instincts. But he’s just, you know, not so physically capable. Hamilton could probably outrun a Mazda. Cabrera moves like a lawnmower falling out of a pickup truck. And yet, in part specifically because Cabrera isn’t great at running the bases, Tuesday night he made a run happen. As the Tigers try to make a charge to the playoffs, Cabrera is pushing himself beyond his own limits. Let’s watch, in detail, his 360-foot tour around the diamond.

Tigers, Twins, fourth inning, Cabrera hits a double the other way. Nothing so weird. Cabrera has lots of doubles, including a dozen the other way. And the Twins have given up lots of doubles, as a side effect of being a bad baseball team. But this wasn’t quite an ordinary double. Perhaps it would’ve been an ordinary double for, I don’t know, Jake Marisnick, but for Cabrera, it turned into a hustle double. He had to earn that extra base.

The play at second almost couldn’t have been closer. As a matter of fact, Cabrera might’ve even been out had the defender stuck with the tag:

But the glove did come off, shortly before Cabrera came off. That spared us one of the most annoying replay reversals in modern baseball. Now, for Cabrera, he wasn’t necessarily thinking two bases right away. Out of the box, he was moving like regular Miguel Cabrera, instinctively content to maybe settle for a long single. But here you can see Cabrera get going:

Cameras caught the instant when Cabrera made up his mind to push himself. As he rounded first, he might not have been sure:


But then something came over him. Maybe it was the leverage. Maybe it was considering the element of surprise. Maybe his brain just checked out and went back to the hotel. But Cabrera turned on the jets Bunsen burners:


We can enhance:


With the hustle double, Cabrera got himself into scoring position, or, as Miguel Cabrera calls it, not scoring position. He’s been on second base this year 17 times when a single has been hit, and just five times has he scored. So Cabrera knew he could stand to do more, and then the next hitter subsequently lifted a sky-high fly ball to straightaway center. As the ball fell into the glove of Byron Buxton, Tigers announcer Rod Allen said, quote, “Don’t do it, Miggy.”

(Miggy did it.)

Here’s the thing about Byron Buxton: Even if he’s still trying to translate all his tools into performance, he has more tools than anyone needs, and among them is a strong throwing arm. Now, in fairness, the Tigers had been running on Buxton pretty aggressively, but I don’t know how to explain that. Here’s Buxton throwing out Mike Trout at 99 miles per hour. Buxton is part of a small handful of outfielders who’ve reached 100 miles per hour on throws. When Buxton really gets behind the ball, few can make it fly faster. But Cabrera took a chance that Buxton wouldn’t really get behind the baseball. And that’s because even someone as young as Byron Buxton knows Miguel Cabrera isn’t likely to tag up from second on a fly to dead center.

Buxton did get a throw off quickly. But, as is very clear, it wasn’t his best throw, and you have to figure Cabrera took him by surprise. There was no other reason for Cabrera to be able to get in safe:


That’s one of the world’s worst jumps, probably. Not that there’s really such thing as jumping a sac fly, by rule. But that’s Cabrera with ~85 feet to go, and Buxton is just short of release. An exchange on the Tigers broadcast:

Allen: Did you think that ball was deep enough for Miggy to tag up?
Impemba: No.
Allen: I sure didn’t.

Third base, one out. Even Miguel Cabrera can score from third base on a single. But what if the next batter didn’t hit a single? I want to cut away for a second to one of the most memorable moments from last year’s World Series. You remember the one — I’m referring to Eric Hosmer’s mad dash.

Hosmer took a chance, and he took off after he was looked back, counting on a slow or bad throw by the first baseman. Sure enough, the Mets were surprised, and Hosmer scored the tying run in incredible fashion. Here’s where Hosmer was as the ball was about to go to first:


Hosmer was praised for his instincts. The Royals were praised for their aggressiveness. It was part of the Royals’ style, after all. It’s difficult to imagine a team more different from the Royals than the Tigers. They are essentially opposites in many ways, but perhaps it was just that very quality that opened the door for Cabrera when Justin Upton rolled over on a pitch and produced a modest grounder.

Aw, nuts. But wait!

Cabrera was barely safe at second, and he was barely safe at home, but he was safe at second, and he was safe at home. This is perhaps what might’ve happened with Hosmer had there been a better throw, and that would’ve produced a very different sort of drama. But Cabrera was sufficiently safe upon review that the initial call was overturned, and it’s worth reviewing now where Cabrera was as the ball was about to go to first:


Hosmer, at least, had some momentum. He was looked back, and then he immediately started running. Cabrera bluffed, and then his bluff bluffed, and I’m not sure he was even ever looked back at all. I mean, why would he have been? Why would Miguel Cabrera take this opportunity to run? That’s precisely why Miguel Cabrera took this opportunity to run. Not that he quite knew exactly what he was doing, aside from just going balls to the wall. From Jason Beck:

“I forgot [Eduardo] Escobar has a good arm,” Cabrera said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god.'”

Cabrera got going like a runaway freight train, and instincts and luck were whipped together to form a positive result. It took a little while to sort out, and as Cabrera sat on the bench with the play under review, I’m sure his teammates were questioning his judgment. That was a big run, after all. But ballplayer opinions are nothing if not results-based, and as soon as the call was reversed, Cabrera was mobbed in the dugout, applauded for his hustle. Miguel Cabrera is no stranger to creating runs, but he doesn’t usually create them with his legs. In this case, he saw possibility in the improbable, and he took advantage of the Twins’ defenders. One of the least-productive baserunners in the game formed a whole run out of a single.

Cabrera, it would seem, has been infected by a bad case of pennant fever. This is a clip from just this past Sunday:

I guess Miguel Cabrera is running now. And he might just keep on running until opponents start expecting him to run. There’s not a lot of season left for which Cabrera should save his body. You can rest up when it’s over. You can also rest up a little bit when you create runs the more familiar way.

Miguel Cabrera is a run-producer. As such, there’s nothing uncommon about his producing multiple runs in one game. But, well, yeah.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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6 years ago

I didn’t finish reading the article yet. But Miguel Cabrera and Jeff Sullivan inspired me to post this comment. YOLO