After resting in season finale, Tigers slugger finishes with .348 average
MIAMI -- On the day the Tigers suffered their first no-hitter since 2010, Miguel Cabrera officially slugged his way into company with Rogers Hornsby.
Not since Hornsby's reign in the 1920s had a right-handed hitter won three consecutive batting titles. Not since Ty Cobb from 1917 to 1919 had a Tiger won three in a row. With the regular season complete, Cabrera officially joined their company.
He couldn't pull off the Triple Crown, falling nine home runs and one RBI shy of Baltimore's Chris Davis. If not for Cabrera's nagging abdominal and groin injuries, he might have had a chance. Even so, he couldn't be disappointed.
"No, no," Cabrera said. "I still had a good season. I mean, I even have the same numbers."
Cabrera's .348 average not only topped his league-leading .330 clip from 2012, but it marked the highest average of his 11-year Major League career. It easily outpaced the next-highest average in the Majors, a .331 average from Colorado's Michael Cuddyer. Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who didn't play after Aug. 19 due to concussion symptoms, owned the next-highest AL average at .324.
The difference, Cabrera said, was avoiding a long slump. He had hitless skids of 22 at-bats in April 2012 and 17 at-bats in the summer. This season, he didn't go more than two games without a hit. His longest hitless streak was nine at-bats, and that came this week.
"I was more consistent," he said.
His 44 home runs tied last year's career best total in 13 fewer games, while his 137 RBIs were two shy.
Hornsby won six straight National League batting titles from 1920-25, a streak that ended at age 30. By contrast, the 30-year-old Cabrera appears capable of continuing his run for the foreseeable future.
"He's the best hitter in baseball, there's no question about it," manager Jim Leyland said. "To me, just stop the conversation. He's the best hitter in baseball. He gets no infield hits. He doesn't get any breaks because he's not able to leg any [hits] out. And he hits the ball over the fence to all fields, and he drives in big runs.
"To accomplish what he's done goes along with being the best."
His injuries further hampered his ability to leg out hits. His string of maladies began with a hip flexor injury suffered diving for a ball at Tampa Bay near the end of June. From that point to season's end, he managed to hit .323 with 22 homers and 59 RBIs in 71 games.
The real difference the injuries made might have been in his doubles total. His 26 two-baggers marked the first full season in his career in which he didn't hit at least 30.
Cabrera didn't step to the plate in Sunday's 1-0 loss, though Leyland said he considered it. This was the day Leyland and Cabrera agreed he would take a long-awaited rest and prepare for the postseason.