Who wants to see some milestone Miguel Cabrera home runs? I know I do.
Between him and Albert Pujols, the early 2000s had plenty of power from the right-handed batter’s box. Although he didn’t switch teams for a huge payday in the middle of his career like Pujols, he also signed a huge (and deserved) extension with the Detroit Tigers that pretty much everyone knew wouldn’t be good by the end. We’ve reached that point in Miggy’s career, but he’s also at the point where he’s starting to enter some exclusive clubs to pad his Hall of Fame resume.
The 2021 season saw him enter the 500-homer club, and he follow that by entering the 3,000-hit club in 2022. For now, let’s check out some Miguel Cabrera home runs to fully appreciate how ridiculously good he was earlier in his career, shall we?
Milestone Miguel Cabrera Home Runs
After being in awe of the clutchness he displayed for his first career homer, we’ll check out each dinger that helped him reach a new century mark. Once you’re done, check out other players’ home runs through the years, like Shohei Ohtani.
June 20, 2003: Home Run #1 vs. Rays
Ballplayers have great memories, especially for firsts. Nobody forgets their first win, strikeout, hit, home run, etc. But sometimes, they’re a little more memorable than usual because of the situation. That’s what happened for Miggy because his first career home run ended up being a walk-off winner for the Marlins.
It was his only hit on this night, which just so happened to be his big-league debut, as well. Not a bad way to start a career, right? He was destined to be a stud after that moment as a 20-year-old. Despite racking up just 346 plate appearances, he placed fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting off the strength of a .793 OPS, 12 homers, 62 RBI, 106 wRC+, and 0.8 fWAR.
More importantly, he more than held his own in the postseason, slashing .265/.315/.471 with four homers, 12 RBI, and a 107 wRC+ while helping the Marlins capture their second World Series title.
August 23, 2006: Home Run #100 vs. Nationals
What were you doing as a 23-year-old? Only a select few of us can still be playing competitive baseball at that age, and Cabrera already had eclipsed the century mark as a big leaguer. We’ll soon see that Miggy was very consistent with his milestone home runs – between his first dinger to his 400th, you could pencil him in to re-set the counter every three seasons.
Through his first eight MLB seasons (2003-11), the 6.3 fWAR Cabrera accumulated in 2006 was his career-high mark for a single year. With 26 homers and 114 RBI, it was also his third straight season with at least 25 dingers while collecting 100-plus RBI. To this point in his career, the 153 wRC+ and .998 OPS were both career-high marks for him, and even though he was still very young, it looked like he was coming into his own, and the sky was the limit.
As it turns out, those thoughts were all accurate.
August 23, 2009: Home Run #200 vs. Athletics
Miggy enjoyed three straight years of at least 5.0 fWAR with the Marlins before getting traded to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2008 season. He still had a solid year at the dish while getting his first taste of the Motor City, but his 129 wRC+ and 2.6 fWAR were the lowest they had been since 2004.
While he was pursuing his 200th career homer in 2009, he bounced back and had a typically strong year for himself. This included 5.1 fWAR, a 143 wRC+, 34 home runs, 103 RBI, and a .324/.396/.547 line. While he missed getting a selection to the All-Star Game for the second consecutive year, he continued making a run at his first MVP award, finishing fourth in the voting. It was his third top-five finish since debuting in 2003.
Coincidentally enough, Miggy hit his 200th homer in his 1,000th career MLB game, and hitting this milestone made him just the fourth Venezuelan player to reach it.
July 22, 2012: Home Run #300 vs. White Sox
This season was monumental for several reasons and hitting his 300th career homer is probably toward the bottom of the list. In a very tight race, Cabrera finally earned his first MVP award by narrowly beating Mike Trout in the voting, which was something he’d do again the following year, as well.
Miggy also earned the coveted Triple Crown by leading the American League in batting average (.330), home runs (44), and RBI (139). He also led the league in slugging percentage (.606), OPS (.999), and total bases (377), just for good measure.
Although Trout could’ve easily been a deserving recipient of the MVP award in both 2012 and 2013, Cabrera easily had the two best years of his Hall of Fame career during this stretch. In 1,349 plate appearances, he slashed .338/.417/.620 while averaging 44 homers, 138 RBI, and 106 runs scored…per year. The 15.9 fWAR he combined to produce was easily the highest number over two seasons in his career.
May 16, 2015: Home Run #400 vs. Cardinals
Even though he played in fewer than 148 games for the first time since his rookie season, Cabrera still had himself an All-Star campaign in 2015. With a .338 average, he won his fourth batting title in five years, and he also led the league with a .440 on-base percentage. Obviously, the 18 homers and 75 RBI weren’t at his usual levels, but it was only because he appeared in just 119 games.
But still, it broke a streak of 11 straight years where Miggy produced at least 25 homers with 100-plus RBI in a season. That’s one heck of a streak. He hopped right back on the horse in 2016 by playing 158 games and putting up 153 wRC+ with 38 homers, 108 RBI, and a .316/.393/.563 line.
The decline unfortunately started after that year.
August 22, 2021: Home Run #500 vs. Blue Jays
The last five years have been rough for Cabrera, as he’s been a shell of the hitter he used to be. While he did set a high bar for himself, it still hasn’t been pretty. Through his last 1,992 plate appearances, he’s slashed just .264/.335/.401, averaging 11 home runs and 50 RBI per year. The slugging first baseman has put together 11 different seasons of at least 4.0 fWAR, but he hasn’t reached 1.0 in any of the last five years.
In fact, his cumulative fWAR between 2017 and 2021 stands at -0.2. He’s under contract through 2023 with an average annual value of $31 million, and there are options in 2024 and 2025, but those won’t be exercised unless an unlikely resurgence happens.
At this point, though, Miggy deserves a chance to reach those exclusive clubs he’s been charging towards since debuting with Miami in 2003. The 500-homer club is probably the last one he’ll enter from the category of dingers, but it’ll be great to watch him get that 3,000th hit because he’s been such a pure hitter throughout the duration of his career. Even with the last five years, he’s still a career .310/.387/.532 hitter over the past 19 years.
The dude knows what to do with a bat in his hands, and he’s reminded us of that just about every year for the past two decades.