Coming off the first batting Triple Crown in 45 years, Miguel Cabrera is making a bid to be the first hitter to do so in consecutive seasons. He currently leads the American League in batting average (.391), RBI (55) and is one home run off the pace at 14. In a recent piece here at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan commented on Cabrera’s impressive all fields hitting and ability to cover the full strike zone with power. I have put together some imagery to highlight this ability and show a bit of why Cabrera is such a threat.
This composite clip shows six pitches of varied location that Cabrera not only hit with power, but for home runs. The footage has been synchronized to the time of contact and stabilized at home plate to represent the end location of each pitch as accurately as possible. The pitches are taken from the last year, with the furthest off the plate over nine inches inside.
These are the same six pitches, but separated for a clear look at Cabrera’s swing and any adjustments made for location. His mechanics have remained extremely consistent, the lone aberration among this selection an altered toe tap during a Spring Training game (upper right). To my eye Cabrera remains exceptionally controlled, hitting for contact and relying on his strength to drive the ball rather than particularly violent swings or lunges. However, I am admittedly not an expert in hitting mechanics, so I invite readers to make their own observations.
While we have seen Cabrera cover the outside edge well, he has specialized on turning on pitches off the inside of the plate, slugging over .800 on belt high inside pitches over the past two seasons. To take a closer look at this type of swing, I have selected three replays and added an approximate strike zone for reference.
The first pitch is a Lucas Harrell 92 mph two-seam fastball for a 395 foot home run according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, the second a 96 mph Tanner Scheppers two-seam fastball launched 423 feet to center field, and finally a 93 mph fastball from Tommy Hunter (included in the composite clip as well) for another 412 feet. The first and third in particular look like quality pitcher’s pitches, remarkable. It’s a tall task even for a player as talented as Miguel Cabrera, but I will be hoping to witness some history this season.
Drew Sheppard is a writer for FanGraphs, graphic artist and GIF enthusiast. If you have a topic you would like Drew to take a look at in the future using overlay GIFs, please let him know in the comments here or on Twitter @DShep25.