Is Miguel Cabrera one of the best all-around hitters of this generation? Now that he’s joined the 3,000-hit club, the answer to that question is yes (although that was the answer before, too). Reaching that particular milestone over the weekend was the second one he’s achieved in the past two seasons. In August of 2021, he punched a ticket into the 500-homer club (you can stroll through his milestone home runs here), but doing both has him on an even more exclusive home run list.
According to Baseball-Reference’s Stathead Newsletter on Sunday, Cabrera is one of seven MLB hitters to rack up at least 3,000 hits with 500 of them being home runs. The other six? Well, that list is full of Hall of Famers, soon-to-be Hall of Famers, and a couple that would’ve been shoo-ins if it weren’t for their involvement in performance-enhancing drugs: Henry Aaron, Albert Pujols, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, and Eddie Murray.
That’s pretty awesome, but there’s a club even more exclusive than that one. If we also want these players to have a lifetime batting average of at least .300, that group of seven gets cut down to three:
Only three players in MLB history have 500 homers, 3,000 hits, and a .300+ career batting average.
— MLB (@MLB) April 23, 2022
Wow. That’s just insane to think about. Let’s put it into perspective, shall we?
There are a little more than 20,000 players in baseball history to ever appear in an MLB game. If we use the round number of 20,000, that means Miggy is part of a club that makes up the top 0.015% of players.
Again, that is absolutely insane.
Most Exclusive Home Run List Ever?
How did Cabrera get himself in this situation? As one can imagine, he did it by consistently being at the top of his game for the majority of his big-league career. Although the last six seasons (including 2022) haven’t included the kind of performances we’ve come to expect from Miggy, what he did from 2003-16 was more than enough.
From the perspective of home runs, Cabrera has only led the league in this category twice. He hit 37 in 2008 (his first year with the Detroit Tigers) to take home the crown for the first time. The second time took place in 2012 when he slugged 44 en route to winning his first of two straight AL MVP awards and a Triple Crown (it’s also on the Tigers’ single-season home run leaderboard). For someone with 500-plus career home runs, though, he provided plenty of power between all the other times he didn’t lead the league in dingers.
Cabrera’s first full season in the big leagues came in 2004. He slugged 33 homers that year and proceeded to slug at least 30 dingers another nine times, including a career-high 44 in back-t0-back seasons (2012 and 2013).
After collecting 177 hits in 2004, Miggy recorded at least 180 hits the next 10 seasons in a row and again in 2016. His career-high mark came during his Triple Crown performance in 2012 when he enjoyed his only 200-hit season (205, to be exact). When looking at his batting average, Cabrera finished a year hitting at least .300 on 11 different occasions. Between 2005 and 2016, he failed to reach that benchmark just once (he hit .292 in ’08). During that period of time, he owned a cumulative triple slash of .326/.405/.571, which also included four AL batting titles.
The Other Members on This Home Run List
Sure, this article is about how ridiculously good Miguel Cabrera has been throughout his career, but when there are just three members in a certain club, you need to spill some digital ink about everyone. Especially when Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are included.
We’ve talked about both of these men quite a bit here at MLB Daily Dingers. Aaron’s 755 dingers are among the most home runs all time, and he’s atop the Atlanta Braves’ all-time home run list rather easily, but we haven’t necessarily talked about how good of a hitter he was overall. I mean, you know he was a good hitter because if we took away his 755 homers like they never happened, he’d still have 3,000 hits. They did happen, though, and his 3,771 hits are third all-time in MLB history. He finished with a .300 average in 14 of his 23 big-league seasons, with 10 of them coming between 1955 and 1965. During that time, Aaron slashed .323/.380/.575 while winning two batting titles.
As for Mays, he’s obviously among MLB’s career home run leaders with his iconic 660 dingers, and he owns the majority of the San Francisco Giants’ single-season home run leaderboard. His 3,293 hits are the 13th-most all-time and with a lifetime .301 average, he just squeaked himself into this club. Mays finished with a .300-plus batting average 10 times during his career, and they all came between 1954 and 1965. His triple slash during this time was .318/.392/.605, which included one batting title and two seasons with an average of at least .345.
Making His Own Mark
Miggy won’t be catching Mays or Aaron in career hits or homers, but one area in which he can distinguish himself among this small and elite group of ballplayers is with his batting average. Between these three, his .310 batting average is the highest. Since the other two categories are not within reach at this point in his career, having this one to himself would provide a nice feather in his cap.
It will really depend on how the next couple of seasons unfold, though. While he hasn’t shown much power thus far in 2022 (.362 slugging percentage), he is hitting .319, so that’s good for the purposes of this conversation. Cabrera’s contract also guarantees the 2023 season before he has options for 2024 and 2025, which will vest if he finishes with the top 10 of AL MVP voting the year prior, according to Spotrac.
Even before reaching these milestones, Miguel Cabrera had been one of the best right-handed hitters this game has seen since the turn of the century, with a trip to Cooperstown all but a certainty. Getting to 500 homers and 3,000 hits just solidifies exactly how special of a hitter he’s been.