Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera hit the 500th home run of his illustrious career on Sunday. To pay homage to Cabrera, we sorted through every single home run he has hit, including the 13 he hit in the postseason that don’t count toward his official number. Let’s run through the biggest ones.
We’ll go in chronological order. It was originally going to be a top-10 list, but I didn’t want to cut anything below, so this one goes to 11.
No. 1 was a walk-off
Cabrera was a highly-touted prospect coming up. He played in the Futures Game in both 2001 and 2002 and Baseball America ranked him as the 12th-best prospect in baseball before the 2003 season. Still, you never quite know how it’s going to turn out until it starts to happen on the big-league diamond. It didn’t take long for Cabrera. The 20-year-old phenom hit a walk-off home run in his first career game, as if to show us that not only was he legit but he also had a flare for the dramatic.
2003 NLCS, Game 7 three-run shot
Just a few months later, Cabrera was showing a huge, national audience just how much talent he had. Remember, the Marlins were facing the Cubs. At the time, that would be the still-“cursed” Cubs. There’s no need to rehash Game 6. We’ll just say the Cubs desperately needed a good start to Game 7. Instead, Cabrera got the scoring started with a three-run homer.
It wasn’t even a bad pitch from Kerry Wood, sitting low and in. Just an amazing piece of hitting from the phenom.
2003 World Series, opens Game 4 scoring
Given that the opponent was the Yankees and that it was the World Series, this was again in front of a giant audience. The Yankees brough a two-games-to-one lead into Game 4 with Roger Clemens on the mound. Cabrera hit a two-run homer off the Rocket in the first inning.
Sure, the Marlins needed 11 innings in this one, but they didn’t lose another game that year.
2012: Go-ahead, ninth inning shot
In 2012, Cabrera won the first Triple Crown since 1967 and the first of his two AL MVPs. One of the bigger home runs during his historic run came on May 27. The Tigers were trailing the Twins, 3-2, and were facing former All-Star closer Matt Capps. Cabrera came to the plate with a runner on and one out. Down 0-2 in the count, he delivered a two-run shot to give them a lead that they would hold in the bottom of the ninth.
2012: 10th inning walk-off against All-Star closer
On August 5 of that same season, the Tigers won a wild one. The Tigers tied the Indians, 3-3, in the fourth. Cleveland would score one in the fifth, but the Tigers matched. In the seventh, same thing: Cleveland scored one and then the Tigers scored one to tie it. It would go to the 10th inning, when Cleveland got homers from Travis Hafner and Ezequiel Carrera before a Lou Marson RBI double later in the inning.
On came All-Star closer Chris Perez for Cleveland. With two outs, the Tigers rallied. Alex Avila and Andy Dirks walked. Austin Jackson doubled and Omar Infante then came through with a two-RBI double to tie the game. And then Miggy did the rest.
2012 ALCS clincher: Some breathing room
Cabrera was part of two pennant winners in his career, at least to this point. The 2012 Tigers were the second one after the aforementioned 2003 Marlins team. The 2012 Tigers actually swept the Yankees. Cabrera had a big homer in Game 4. The Tigers already had a 2-0 lead heading to the fourth against CC Sabathia. Cabrera would go yard for a two-run shot that gave Max Scherzer some breathing room and paved the way for a relatively easy Game 4 win. By win probability added, the Cabrera homer was the biggest play of the game.
2013: Game-tying blast off Rivera
The 2013 season marked the second of Cabrera’s back-to-back MVP wins. On Aug. 9, he showed how he could get the job done against the best of the best. The Yankees had a 3-1 lead heading to the ninth and went to Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. Jackson doubled to give Cabrera the shot as the game-tying run and Miggy would come through with the game-tying blast. Even in the loss, this was the top play of the game by win probability added.
2013 ALDS clincher: Gives Verlander all he needs
Remember the Sonny Gray vs. Justin Verlander duel we were promised heading to Game 5 of the 2013 ALDS? We started to get it. It was 0-0 through three innings and, in fact, each ace had only faced the minimum nine hitters. Cabrera would follow a Torii Hunter single with a home run, though, in the fourth.
Verlander would cruise with eight scoreless innings and the Tigers would again eliminate the A’s for the second straight year. The Cabrera homer, again, was the top play of the game via win probability added.
2014: Highest WPA homer of his career
I’ve mentioned win probability added several times and it’s because it’s a handy little way to throw a number on how big a deal a certain play was in a game. Simply, it takes the percentage chance a team has to win a game at any given moment and how much that changed based upon one play. The easiest way to explain it is to use the David Bote walk-off grand slam for the Cubs in 2018. It was 3-0 Nationals with two outs in the ninth, so the Nats had a 90 percent chance to win. With one crack of the bat, the Cubs won. So Bote’s win probability added for that play was 0.90. That’s as big as it can get, really.
Cabrera on May 13, 2014 had a home run that was worth 0.779 win probability added.
The Tigers were trailing the Orioles, 1-0, with two outs in the ninth. Cabrera came to the plate with two on and hit a three-run homer. Talk about swinging the odds, right?
No. 400 makes Venezuelan history
The 400-homer mark isn’t held as near-and-dear in the baseball world as 500, but it’s still incredibly difficult to get there. In MLB history, only 57 players have clubbed 400 homers. Cabrera got there May 16, 2015.
As a bonus, the previous record for home runs by a player born in Venezuela was 399 (Andrés Galarraga). That means not only did Cabrera join the relatively exclusive club, but he also made history for his native country. That was a big one. Not nearly as big as what we saw Sunday, though …
Easy pick here. On Sunday Cabrera became the 28th player ever to get to 500 home runs in Major League Baseball. Congratulations to Cabrera, but for many die-hard baseball fans, the pleasure has all been ours. Thank you, Miguel.