Triple Play: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, CC Sabathia

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Triple Play. This week, we are discussing Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout (but not arguing about which one is better), CC Sabathia, D-backs rookie sensation Patrick Corbin and more. Off we go:

MiguelCabrera

Who’s Hot?

Is there anyone else we can put here besides Miguel Cabrera? We should just rename this section after Miggy. When Albert Pujols was at his best, Cabrera’s brilliance was a little underrated. No longer. The Tigers’ third baseman is in a class by himself as the most feared hitter in baseball. Entering Monday’s game against Pittsburgh (in which he went hitless and struck out three times), Cabrera had gone hitless twice in his previous 34 games. In the past week, Cabrera smashed another three home runs, drove in 10, scored seven runs and hit .364/.481/.818. He’s on pace for 47 home runs, 192 RBI (which would break Hack Wilson’s all-time record of 190), 138 runs scored, and a .384 batting average. Two months into the season, Cabrera leads all of baseball with a 3.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement player) rating. In fact, Cabrera is on track to improve in all fantasy categories except steals, where he is a non-factor anyway. Some analysts are already asking whether Cabrera can repeat as the Triple Crown winner, even though two-thirds of the season remains. That’s a topic for another day. For now, all Tigers fans and fantasy owners can do is marvel at the greatness. The torch has been passed. Pujols used to be the game’s greatest hitter. Now it’s Miguel Cabrera’s turn.

Who’s Not?

Lately, CC Sabathia is about as cold as it gets. He has had a history of starting a season slowly, but usually as Memorial Day hits, he eases into a groove. Not this month. Sabathia is winless in his past five starts, and he hasn’t been fooling opposing hitters at all. He has allowed 79 hits in 72 2/3 innings, including 11 home runs. Sabathia told MLB.com that he was hurting the team after his May 26th start against Tampa Bay. Looking closer, he’s right: his ERA and WHIP ratios would be the worst he has posted since 2004, while his H/9 and HR/9 ratios are the worst of his career. But it’s not all bad news. He continues to average over six innings per start, which has him still on pace for 200 strikeouts and 13 wins. But for fantasy owners to see a fair return on their investment, he needs to improve on the ERA and WHIP categories. You really have to ride out this slump, though. Trading Sabathia now would be selling low and you will have a Grade A case of seller’s remorse if he follows his career path and pitches better as the weather gets warmer. If he is still pitching this inconsistently at the All-Star break, it truly will be time to worry.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .385/.460/.677, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 41 runs, 1 SB
Player B: .302/.379/.564, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 39 runs, 12 SB

Player A is Miguel Cabrera. Player B is Mike Trout, who should not be forgotten when discussing players who are red hot. Entering Memorial Day, this is “all” Trout had done this month: eight home runs, four doubles, three triples, while driving in 20 runs, scoring 24 and stealing eight bases. Is it a coincidence that the Angels have won eight straight? I think not. Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Torii Hunter might make most of the cash, but Trout is the player that makes the Angels go. In his transcendent 2012 season, Trout hit 30 home runs and stole 49 bases. He is currently on pace to hit 32 bombs with 38 steals. The biggest difference is that Trout is on pace to drive in 33 more runs than 2012, which would actually make him a more valuable player for fantasy owners. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had a fascinating note about Trout in his most recent column: at age 21, Trout has gotten a hit on 35% of curveballs at which he has swung, making him the best curveball hitter in the game. Tons of young hitters can punish fastballs and remain mystified for years by Uncle Charlie. Yet, in his second season, Trout has leaped that hurdle. Think about what he’ll be able to do by, say, age 25.

Player A: 3-5, 2.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 71 strikeouts
Player B: 8-0, 1.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 56 strikeouts

Player A is Stephen Strasburg. Player B is Diamondbacks’ starter Patrick Corbin. Obviously, Strasburg has pitched very well for Washington, but fantasy owners have been disappointed because the wins haven’t been there (thanks to poor run support and defensive lapses) and they used a high-draft pick or big auction dollars on the Nationals’ ace. Corbin, on the other hand, probably wasn’t drafted in your league unless it is a deep NL-only league. At 23, he is a year younger than Strasburg. He also has been the ace of Arizona’s staff so far in 2013. The secret to his success isn’t difficult: he has allowed only three home runs so far, and opponents are hitting .206 off him. He was particularly impressive on May 20, spinning a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Rockies at Coors Field. He whiffed 10 Rockies that night, and they looked like a Double-A squad flailing away at Randy Johnson in his prime. He is not an overpowering pitcher, so he will not be able to sustain this level of dominance. Hey, just being realistic here. But the kid can flat-out deal. If you did take a flier on him late in your draft, or snapped him up off the waiver wire, then congratulations; your pitching staff is probably doing pretty well. The big question now is: do you keep him and bank on him to continue to be as good as Strasburg, or do you sell high to fill another hole on your team?

Random Thoughts

• Just when you think the Rockies might be turning a corner, they suffer a loss like Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park-home-run this past Saturday. The Rockies have a long history of letting painful losses like this affect them for days and it may be happening again: they dropped the finale of the series against the Giants on Sunday, then lost to the woeful Astros Monday night.
Carlos Gonzalez is doing all he can to prevent a tailspin, though. In the past two weeks, CarGo has tallied 6 homers, 13 RBI, 4 steals, 14 runs scored and a .333/.411/.784 batting line.
• Speaking of tailspins, remember that day – April 26, to be exact – when Yuniesky Betancourt batted cleanup while on a hot hitting streak? Yeah, no one else does either. In news that is sure to be reassuring to baseball fans everywhere (except maybe those who are stuck with Yuni on their fantasy teams), Betancourt has returned to his normal terrible self, wet-noodling his way to a .178 average in May.
• Brewers fans had to know going into 2013 that this would be a rebuilding season, but they couldn’t have expected them to be THIS bad. Without that nine-game winning streak, they would be in Astros/Marlins territory.
Cliff Lee 2012, meet Cole Hamels 2013. Cole, Cliff. You two have a lot in common.
• Just when the Yankees were welcoming Curtis Granderson back into the lineup, he gets injured again and they are forced to recall Brennan Boesch from Triple-A. In related news, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman had to return his Mercedes to the dealership for additional repairs and received a Dodge Neon as a loaner vehicle.
• Wainwright Walk Watch: the Cardinals’ ace pitched 37 innings before walking his first batter and he has walked fewer batters than any other starter in major league baseball. Going into this week (in which he will start twice), he has a 69-6 K-to-BB ratio (11.50), which is far and away the best of any starter in either league.
• At the rate they’re losing starters to injury, the Cardinals may start wanting him to start 3-4 times a week. Rookie John Gast is the latest to visit the trainer’s office. They don’t want to rush prized pitching prospect Michael Wacha, but they may not have a choice.
• At this rate, the Rangers will be printing playoff tickets at the All-Star break. Starter Colby Lewis is on a rehab assignment,
• From the “Apropos of nothing, but still interesting” file: Joe Mauer has broken up three no-hitters in the 9th inning in his career. Could somebody ask Jack Morris if that is considered “hitting to the score?”
• Finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, a sincere thank-you to our men and women who serve our country in the armed forces or as first responders. Freedom is not free and we are able to devote our time and passion for baseball as a result of their actions and sacrifice. I am thankful for each and every one of them.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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