The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are baseball’s most fearsome power-hitting combo, but the scariest thing about the hitting savants is they’re both in the lineup grinding every day, says senior writer Michael Rosenberg in this week’s Sports Illustrated.
This is the second SI cover appearance for both Cabrera and Fielder.
“Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball and Fielder is the game’s best sidekick,” says Rosenberg. “Years from now, we may look back and decide Cabrera is Mickey Mantle and Fielder is Roger Maris. Or Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. Or Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.”
In an era that has witnessed a decline in power, the Tigers have two power hitters who never miss a game.
Since 2006 Fielder has averaged 160 games per season, and through Sunday has played a league best 404 consecutive games and counting. Cabrera has averaged 158 games per year since 2004. “You write those two names down every night,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland says, “you feel pretty good.”
So why are they so driven to play every game at a high level, when most players are willing to skip games to get extra rest? “Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are very fond of Mr. Ilitch, they’re very respectful of what he’s done for the organization, and the amount of money he’s paid,” Leyland says. “They believe they have an obligation to him.”
Teammate Ramon Santiago says of Cabrera, “It is no secret: He wants to win a championship.”
Fielder says he is motivated partly by people who say he is too big: “If you can play every day, I don’t understand what’s wrong with my body type. It might be the way to go.”
The sluggers also routinely work on their craft. Fielder now takes as much batting practice against southpaws as any player in baseball in an effort to improve upon his .808 OPS against lefties last year (as of Sunday he has a 1.025 OPS vs. lefties).
Cabrera is off to an even better start than his Triple Crown numbers from last season, as he has yet to endure a slump in 2013. This is by design because Cabrera says he addresses his swing flaws “before [they become] a slump.”
The teammates also help each other. Fielder says Cabrera has “helped me a lot going opposite field,” and he has talked to Cabrera about pulling the ball.
Since Fielder joined the Tigers, Cabrera RBIs per game jumped from 0.73 to 0.94. “You can see a difference,” Cabrera says. “They pitch me more…I see a lot of good pitches.”
“The game is both challenging and therapeutic for them,” says Rosenberg. “They embrace the difficulty of beating the pitcher, and the grind of doing it again the next day.”