Could a move to full-time DH revive Miguel Cabrera’s declining career?

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians
Sep 17, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) hits a single during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Miguel Cabrera has been a fan favorite in Detroit since his arrival in 2008. He has brought us countless memories and has led us to multiple playoff runs over the years. Not to mention the hardware he has racked up offensively while wearing the Old English D: 11-time All-Star, 5-time Silver Slugger, 2-time MVP and recipient of the 2012 Triple Crown honor.

Now we all know that, typically speaking, production declines as players age and deteriorate. And over the years, the majority of major leaguers will dwindle into a shell of their “prime years” former self. With Miguel Cabrera, the outcome seemed different, as he busted into his 30’s he was still putting up All-Star numbers.

However, with age starting to creep up on him, Cabrera has been hampered for the past couple years with nagging injuries. In July of 2015, a left calf strain sidelined him for six weeks. Then later that season in September, he suffered a back injury, something that has continued to bother him to this day.

Miggy ended up coming back and leading the American League in both batting average (.338) and on-base percentage (.440) that season.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays
Apr 20, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) reacts after he stuck out during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The lingering injuries followed Cabrera in 2016, but he managed to play nearly a full season. Even with the injuries, he finished with a .316 BA and a .956 OPS, both of which were top-10 in the sport.

Unfortunately, Miggy has been unable to fully overcome the physical pain through the season. As the year has progressed, we all have held our breath and waited for the Tigers’ slugger to heat up and break out his slump, but to no avail.

With only a month and a half left in the season, Cabrera sits with a .253 batting average and a .743 OPS entering Tuesday’s game against the Texas Rangers, career-lows for the 2-time MVP.

Currently labeled as day-to-day with the back injury that has lingered from 2015, the question is, “how do we get the old Miguel Cabrera back?” The answer is simple: you have to take him off the field.

Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) bats against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Going out and playing every single day is tough, whether it is a 10-year vet or a 22-year old rookie, the grueling season will take its toll on anyone. By moving Cabrera to the DH spot full-time, it will alleviate some of the stress he has to deal with on a day-to-day basis and even help him stay healthier in the years to come. There will be more time for him to focus on his approach offensively, which in turn should provide an increase in offensive productivity. Take these two former sluggers for example.

DAVD ORTIZ:
While he only started 265 games at first base in his career, David Ortiz became a full-time DH in his final years with the Boston Red Sox. After 20 years in the big leagues and at the ripe age of 40 years old, Big Papi produced one of the best seasons of his career at the plate. Starting 139 games as a DH he posted a .315 batting average with an OPS of 1.021 along with 48 doubles, 38 home runs and 127 RBI.

You’d be hard-pressed to find players who had better ‘swan song’ seasons than Ortiz in 2016.

EDGAR MARTINEZ:
After a torn hamstring in 1993, the third baseman for the Seattle Mariners had to hang up the glove and become a full-time DH. It was after that move where his bat took off. In 1995, Martinez won the batting title with an outstanding .356 BA and he never slowed down from there. Martinez went on to play nine more seasons, hitting .311 over that span before calling it a career in 2004.

Martinez set the standard for designated hitters in the game today and the Edgar Martinez award is given away every season to the American League’s best DH. Ortiz was the recipient of this award last season, the eighth time in his career. Current Tigers DH Victor Martinez won it back in 2014, when he was the runner-up for the AL MVP.

Tigers fans grow more nervous by the day as Cabrera’s year-long drought continues. This could be the only way to revive Miguel Cabrera’s Hall of Fame career and to put him back on top as one of the most feared hitters in the game.