The Tigers’ dynamic duo of 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, on newsstands now. 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.” (PAGE 32)
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.” (PAGE 32)
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.” (PAGE 37) 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.” (PAGE 37)
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.” (PAGE 34)
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.” (PAGES 34-35)
“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.” (PAGE 37)
Baseball Preview Features 42 pages of Scouting Reports; Stephen Strasburg, David Price,
Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, James Shields, and Clayton Kershaw on Six Regional Covers
Sports Illustrated predicts that the Washington Nationals will defeat the Tampa Rays for the 2013 World Series in the April 1, 2013 issue of SI, on newsstands Wednesday. The SI Baseball preview, which has six regional covers including one of Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg, features 42 pages of scouting reports with standings and playoff predictions, stat projections from rotowire.com and takes on every team from rival scouts.
In a profile on why the Nationals will win the World Series, senior writer Tom Verducci says that the they look a lot like manager Davey Johnson’s 1986 Mets team—and that the similarities will extend through October.
Verducci writes: “Like the ’86 Mets, the 2013 Nationals are the best team on paper at the start of the season. And like that championship team, Washington has young power pitching, a deep bullpen with multiple closers, a blend of power and speed, and an unmistakable swagger.” (PAGES 59-60)
The consensus from expert analysis in the SI Baseball Preview is that pitching, and strikeouts in particular, rule today’s game. In “Generation K”, Verducci writes on how swings and misses, which have increased in the major leagues for seven consecutive seasons, are changing the game: “As hitters accept strikeouts as a necessary cost of their search for power, pitchers are better equipped than ever to exploit that concession.” (PAGE 46)
Verducci finds that there has been a change in philosophy, as teams are less worried about their players striking out, as long as they produce power and runs. This coincides in an era that features pitchers who throw harder and with more movement, pitchers who have increased access to analytics and video that helps them exploit hitters’ weaknesses and teams that utilize power bullpen arms more frequently.
“More pitchers, more velocity, more movement, more strikes…Night after night, game after game, pitchers are asserting their power, three strikes at a time,” writes Verducci (PAGE 49).
Along with Strasburg (2nd SI cover), five additional star pitchers known for strikeouts are featured on regional covers of this week’s SI: David Price (2nd SI cover), Justin Verlander (3rd SI cover), C.C. Sabathia (2nd SI cover), James Shields (1st SI cover), and Clayton Kershaw (1st SI cover).
Miguel Cabrera may be the best hitter in baseball, but the Detroit Tigers are in the World Series because he’s an unselfish gamer who understands the team comes first. After winning the American League Triple Crown and leading his team to the American League pennant, third baseman Miguel Cabrera appears on this week’s regional cover. It marks the first time the Tigers have appeared on the cover since Justin Verlander on September 17, 2011.
He moved from first base to third base so the Tigers could sign Prince Fielder in January; he sprained his right ankle in mid-August, but waited a week to tell Detroit trainers and missed one game. While he is quick to highlight team accomplishments over his own, Cabrera’s Triple Crown season and lighter attitude have helped him shed the image he made after two alcohol-related arrests in 2009 and 2011.
Michael Rosenberg writes of Cabrera’s stretch run that was more than a Triple Crown clincher – it was a man and his bat making a mockery of the sport.
This week’s Oct. 10 issue offers a celebration of sports in Detroit. The national cover featuring Calvin Johnson marks the first time in nearly nine years that the Lions have landed on the cover. In addition, senior writer Tom Verducci recognizes Tigers G.M. Dave Dombrowski for his role in the 2009 trade that has shaped this year’s postseason.
This is hardly the first time that Sports Illustrated has covered the sports pulse of the Motor City. Between January 2009 and March 2010, SI contributed six stories to Time Inc.’s Assignment Detroit Project—each of which drew a strong parallel to the struggles of the city and how sports offered both an analogy for those struggles and a sense of hope.
There are three covers for this week’s Sept. 19, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands tomorrow. The national cover features Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. It is Sanchez’s third appearance with the Jets — he previously appeared on the Jan. 26 and Sept. 6, 2010 covers — and his fourth overall. (He appeared on a regional cover of the 2008 College Football Preview [dated Aug. 15, 2008] while at USC.)
Appearing on the two regional covers are Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice (available in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia) and Tigers ace Justin Verlander (available in Michigan and Ohio). Below is a rundown of the cover history for all three teams featured this week:
- Jets: Sept. 5, 2011 (regional cover for the 2011 NFL Preview featuring Calvin Pace); 23rd appearance
- Ravens: Nov. 13, 2006 (“The Gospel According to Ray Lewis”); fifth appearance
- Tigers: Sept. 28, 2009 (“The Righteous Franchise”); 23rd appearance (Verlander’s second appearance following the Aug. 28, 2006, cover)