On June 20, 2003, a lithe kid from Venezuela stepped to the plate at Florida’s Pro Player Stadium to face (Devil) Rays pitcher Al Levine. Score tied 1-1, bottom of the 11th, runner on second base. The slacking Marlins, one month removed from axing their manager, needed this one. The kid took his crouched, wide-open stance and lashed a line-drive homer to center field that might have short-circuited Stat Cast if the technology existed back then. He coasted around the bases sporting a sly smile, like he was a serial walk-off hero rather than a 20-year-old making his MLB debut.
Nearly 12 years after that epic night, Miguel Cabrera is still achieving baseball feats beyond his years. Miggy’s 400th career home run was a dead ringer for his first shot, a liner that cleared the center field fence at Busch Stadium with room to spare on May 16. Stat Cast did exist for this clout, which jumped off Cabrera’s bat at 105 MPH. Save for a few extra pounds and a more closed stance, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Miggy circa 2003 and the 2015 version, healed from offseason ankle surgery and eviscerating pitchers (184 OPS+) even by his own Hall of Fame standards (career 154 OPS+). With the Tigers star showing no sign of decline, that 400th homer could be the first milestone of many for the game’s most consistently devastating hitter.