DENVER–Miguel Cabrera has established himself as one of the premiere players in the game, and he can build on his impressive resume this year.
A righthanded hitter has not won three consecutive batting titles since Rogers Hornsby of the Cardinals won six in a row from 1920-25.
Since then, six righthanded hitters, other than Cabrera, have won two in a row: Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox (1999-2000), Bill Madlock of the Cubs (1975-76), Roberto Clemente of the Pirates (1964-65), Tommy Davis of the Dodgers (1962-63), Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees (1939-40) and Al Simmons of the Philadelphia A’s (1930-31).
Cabrera, who has finished in top five in AL MVP voting each of last four years, has put to rest the initial fears that Comerica Park wasn’t conducive to offensive numbers. He has hit .323 with 183 home runs in his five years with the Tigers.
Big Changes In Houston
To go along with their move into the AL West, the Astros have gone full speed ahead in a revamping of the organization.
Only seven players who appeared in a game in 2011 were on the Opening Day roster, including only two position players considered regulars that year: first baseman Brett Wallace and second baseman Jose Altuve. The only other position player is J.D. Martinez, and he wasn’t added until the day before the season opened when Fernando Martinez went on the disabled list.
Bud Norris, the Opening Day starter, is the only remaining member from the rotation. The three relievers are Wesley Wright, Xavier Cedeno, who made three appearances in 2011, and Lucas Harrell, who had six appearances.
The Astros are coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons, including 107 losses last year. They had suffered 100 losses only once in their first 50 years. The Astros and Cubs were the only teams to lose 100 games last year. It was only the third 100-loss season in Cubs history, too.
The Rockies and Angels are only franchises to never have lost 100 games in a season. The Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland As have lost 100 games in 16 seasons, the most of any franchise.
Around The Majors
• The Brewers and Rockies both failed to have a pitcher with a complete game in 2012, only the fifth and sixth major league teams to ever do that. All six have come in the last six seasons. San Diego didn’t have a complete game in 2011, and Washington, Florida and Texas didn’t have one in 2007.
It didn’t used to be this way. In 1968, for example, Bob Gibson made 34 starts, pitching 28 complete games and being removed for a pinch-hitter six other times, including in the 11th inning of one game. He also was hit for in the seventh inning twice and eighth inning three times.
Last season, the Reds and Tigers both had nine complete games, tops in the majors. Since the turn of the century, just two pitchers have more than nine complete games in a season: C.C. Sabathia (10 in 2008) and James Shields (11 in 2011).
In the 1990s, 27 pitchers had more than nine complete games, with 382 in the ’70s and 313 in the ’60s.
• Lefthander Scott Kazmir was one of 16 players on Cleveland’s Opening Day roster who wasn’t on the roster for last year’s opener, and one of the 11 who wasn’t even in the Indians organization.
Kazmir was the under-the-radar addition for an Indians team that made a major statement by adding the likes of outfielders Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Drew Stubbs.
Kazmir has battled injuries in recent seasons and last year pitched with the independent Sugarland Skeeters, in suburban Houston.
Cleveland saw enough this spring to give Kazmir a rotation spot. He struck out 13 and walked one in 13 innings of spring games.
• The Nationals are the consensus favorite to win the National League East this year after winning it last year. Big deal? It is if you have been an Expos/Nationals fan for any length of time.
Last year was just the second postseason appearance in the 44-year history of the franchise, which came into existence as an expansion team with the Padres in 1969. The 98 regular-season wins last year was a franchise best, and the franchise has had just 15 winning seasons ever. It had a losing record in its first seven years after moving to Washington.
With the Nationals returning to the playoffs last year, the longest postseason droughts now belong to the Royals, who made their last appearance in 1985, when they beat St. Louis in the World Series; and the Pirates, who ran off three consecutive NL East titles from 1990-92, but haven’t even had a winning season since Sid Bream’s slide to beat them in the 1992 NL Championship Series.