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Sunday, June 7, 2009
Updated: June 9, 1:01 AM ET
Cabrera remains largely unnoticed despite big numbers

ESPN.com

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Miguel Cabrera is the key offensive cog for the Tigers, who are in first place in the AL Central.

By Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

Miguel Cabrera has distinguished himself as one of the best players in the game since he joined the major leagues in 2003. Take a look at what he's done this year for the Tigers: he has a .352 batting average, 10 home runs and 38 RBIs. On Sunday, he was lifted for a pinch-runner because of an ailing hamstring he injured earlier in the week. Still, he walked twice and scored a run in a 9-6 win against the Angels. Even though Detroit's resurgence is built much more on their pitching and defense, the Tigers are still partly where they are because they can hit, and Cabrera is the best hitter on the team.

It doesn't appear many people have really paid attention to exactly how good Cabrera has been since he got to the major leagues. In 2003, Cabrera hit cleanup in the World Series as a 20-year-old. He and Ty Cobb are the only 20-year-olds to hit cleanup in a World Series game, which puts him in pretty good company. He hit a walk-off home run in his first regular-season game, which was quite appropriate given how great a hitter he has become.

To put it in perspective, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has compared Cabrera to Frank Thomas, noting that he has a strong chance to be even better than Thomas. And let's not forget how great a hitter Thomas was his first 10 years in the major leagues. So we're talking about a really special player here in Cabrera, a guy whose lifetime batting average is .311, close to 200 homers and almost 700 RBIs -- and he just turned 26. We're talking about a guy who's going to go to the Hall of Fame some day as one of the better players we've seen and a guy who's had a lot to do with the Tigers' turning things around.

Now, the only concern with Cabrera right now is that hamstring. Needless to say, they can't afford to lose him.

Ultimately, the Tigers will do fine. They have played well this year. It's amazing how the Tigers have basically rebuilt their team and remade their pitching staff in front of our eyes. In 2008, Detroit didn't pitch very well, but they have added some people, including calling up Rick Porcello from the minor leagues. They also have redone their bullpen to some degree, and they have finally gotten healthy.

Overall the Tigers have done a great job rebuilding their defense, too. Adam Everett moved in at shortstop, and Brandon Inge back to third and that's made a huge difference for their pitching staff. Detroit is certainly the team to beat in the AL Central with no other team in the division above .500. If Miguel Cabrera can continue to be a force -- and remain healthy -- along with a mix of solid pitching and defense, it seems Detroit may have finally found the recipe for success.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 4 | June 3 | June 2 | June 1 | May 31

WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Touch 'Em AllThis season, "Baseball Tonight" will be tracking Web Gems. We'll publish a leaderboard on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page each Monday. In addition to listing the leaders in appearances (both players and teams) on "Baseball Tonight," we'll offer up the leaders in Web Gem points.

Web Gem points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.

Web Gem points leaderboard
Brandon Inge 22
Ryan Sweeney 19
Nick Punto 17
David Wright 17
Carlos Gomez 17

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
David Wright New York Mets Third base 8
Brandon Inge Detroit Third base 7
Ryan Sweeney Oakland Center field 5
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Third base 5
Nick Punto Infield Minnesota 4
Michael Bourn Houston Center field 4
Orlando Hudson Second base L.A. Dodgers 4

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
Washington 17
Texas 14
New York Mets 14
Philadelphia 13
Tampa Bay 13
Cincinnati 13
Pittsburgh 13

ON DECK: MONDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

Andy Sonnanstine (4-5, 7.07 ERA) has been difficult to figure out the past month or so. He's sprinkled in some great outings, as he did with a solid 6 2/3 innings in a victory against the Royals in his most recent start. But he also had two outings in which he didn't make it out of the fourth inning.

Tigers at White Sox, 2:05 p.m. and 8:11 p.m. ET

The second game of the doubleheader presents an interesting pitching matchup. Jeremy Bonderman makes his first start of the season and Jose Contreras makes his first start since he lost his fifth start of the season on May 8 to fall to 0-5.

Blue Jays at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. ET

Scott Feldman (5-0, 3.79 ERA) continues to roll along. He has won his past three starts and has not allowed more than three runs in a start since he first outing of the year back on April 9 against Cleveland. The Rangers have won in each of Feldman's past six starts.

For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.

BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Chris Singleton

12:30 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Chris Singleton

BBTN MINUTE: RAYS-YANKEES PREVIEW

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Insider Who went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
C. Figgins, LAA1DetPorcelloTop 1: 3-2, 0 Outs. None on.
R. Theriot, ChC6CinArroyoTop 1: 0-0, 1 Outs. None on.
J. Rivera, LAA6DetPorcelloTop 1: 2-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.
L. Overbay, Tor7KCDaviesBot 2: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
M. Young, Tex8BosMatsuzakaTop 1: 2-2, 1 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Sunday's homers

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he takes a look at the first three games of the Rockies' series with the Cardinals. It hasn't gone well so far for the Cardinals. The series wraps up Monday:

Inside The Series
Rockies lead Cardinals 3-0
Colorado St. Louis
BA .295 .200
HR 6 4

WEB GEMS

SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Roy HalladayRyan Braun and Chipper Jones both homered twice Sunday, but Roy Halladay's latest complete-game shutout was the day's best effort. Halladay scattered seven hits in a 4-0 win against the Royals. He did not issue a walk in an economical 97-pitch effort for his 10th win of the season.
WORST
Mike Lincoln• The Reds' pitching staff went 11 innings without giving up a run before the bullpen caved in the 14th inning of a 6-3 loss against the Cubs. Mike Lincoln was the culprit. In his only inning of work, he gave up four hits, three runs and two walks for his first loss of the season.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Mike Lincoln Padres ace Jake Peavy is just 5-6 on the season, and the key is the first pitch during at-bats. In Peavy's wins, the right-hander has gotten batters to chase bad pitches, swinging and missing at his first offering. That has set him up well for the rest of the at-bat.

In losses, hitters are hitting .270 overall off of Peavy, compared with .213 in his wins. His first pitch has a lot to do with that.

Peavy, first pitch of at-bat

In Peavy wins In Peavy losses
BA against .294 .421
Chase pct. 20.0 9.5
Swing-miss pct. 30.2 12.8

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES

Adam Madison examines the nine games on Monday's slate.

Fantasy Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes