09/30/08 12:00 AM ET
Cabrera wins AL home run title
Second-half power burst delivers prolific honor to Tigers star
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Though Cabrera seemingly had the American League home run title wrapped up after hitting his 37th home run on Saturday, Monday formally wrapped up the regular season with him in front.
Cabrera's closest competitor, White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin, was out for the tail end of the season. Alex Rodriguez, two homers back, went homerless after Sept. 17. Jermaine Dye, three back, had a single and a walk on Monday, but no homers.
With that, Cabrera became the first Tigers player to lead the league in home runs since Cecil Fielder in 1990. More impressive for Cabrera was the fact that he's the third Venezuelan-born player to earn the honor, joining Tony Armas and national hero Andres Galarraga.
"That feels good," Cabrera said. "That's some big hitters."
As it turns out, so was Cabrera. It just took him some time to get adjusted to a new league.
Twenty-six of Cabrera's 37 homers came in the season's final three months, including 10 in August and eight in September. That correlates with his hitting in general; he batted .303 with a .954 OPS after the All-Star break, compared with .284 and .837 before.
"I feel more comfortable," Cabrera said in the second half. "I'm having better at-bats. I think that's the difference."
The result was a second-half power display that included several tape-measure home runs, not to mention a few clutch ones.
"He's one of the premier players in the game at a very young age," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We're very fortunate to have him. That's pretty impressive from where he came from after a slow start."
The 37 home runs, coincidentally, were the same amount put up by the last slugger to win the crown in his first year in the AL. Dick Allen reached that total with the White Sox in 1972 after coming over in a trade from the Dodgers for Tommy John in the previous offseason.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.