Will Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez Bounce Back in 2018?

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

Throughout the 2017 Detroit Tigers’ baseball season, two of the team’s biggest stars struggled for long stretches of the year. A lot of people said that both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez were too old. Even saying, they were declining stars that would never be the same.

There might be some validity to the argument that their bodies are starting to break down, but if you dig into the stats a little deeper, the story gets interesting.

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According to Peter Gammons, both Miggy and V-Mart were two of the unluckiest hitters in all of baseball last year. Cabrera’s line of .249/.329/.399 was by the far the worst of his Hall of Fame-worthy career. Martinez at .255/.324/.372 was the second worst of his career.

But when looking at advanced metrics, specifically w/OBA (weighted on-base average) and xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average), which measures how balls were hit and their hit predictability, Cabrera was first and Martinez third in all of baseball in the difference between the two. That means they both hit a lot of balls that should have produced better results. Miguel Cabrera was almost twice as unlucky as Victor Martinez.

Player xwOBA wOBA Difference
M. Cabrera .382 .322 -.060
M. Moreland .371 .335 -.036
V. Martinez .344 .311 -.033
A. Avila .401 .368 -.033
A. Pujols .326 .294 -.033
K. Morales .358 .326 -.032
B. Moss .336 .305 -.029
Motter .288 .259 -.029
J.D. Martinez .411 .386 -.025

(250 AB min) Statistical analysis provided by Nate Purinton and Mike Petriello of Statcast.

Only time will tell if both Cabrera and Martinez can bounce back in 2018. It’s going to be a long season for Tiger baseball fans, but Cabrera’s former manager Brad Ausmus seems to think he’s poised for a return to greatness:

“He really wants to prove he is still a premium player.” Says Ausmus. “Miggy cares about being great. It matters. And from what I watched last year and know of him, I think he’ll come back.”

Let’s hope that both Cabrera and Martinez produce like we expect them to this year. The good news is we only have to wait 66 days until Opening Day at Comerica Park!