Ok, maybe I’m jumping the gun, but this is a slow week, and after the All-Star game, I’m ready to talk about a certain outfielder. In case you missed it last night, Melky Cabrera was the star of the show. The ex-Yankee went 2 for 3 with a lead off single and a two run homerun. The Melkman is on the tip of everyone’s tongue now, and he’s creating a distance between his stellar 2011 season/incredible 2012 season, and his dreadful 2010 stint with the Braves. With a vacancy in right field next year, it’s worth the fun to muse on the possibility of signing him in the upcoming offseason.
Following the 2009 World Series victory, Cabrera was traded from the Yankees to the Braves in the Boone Logan deal. It was a low point for the outfielder, who was traded from the world champion Yankees, an organization filled with close friends like Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. There was no doubt that he’d gained weight after showing up to camp with the Braves, and what followed was a 2010 season where he was ranked the worst everyday player in baseball with a -1.0 fWAR.
After being released from the Braves, a strange headline popped up during the 2010-2011 offseason, Alex Rodriguez begged the Yankees to resign Melky. After training with Arod all winter, the Yankees third baseman believed his former teammate made strides in his work ethic. Instead, Cabrera ended up on the Royals in 2011, and produced a strong .305/.339/.470 triple slash. Many doubted that he could continue this sort of hitting, but now with the Giants, Melky has produced .353/.391/.519.
Half a season worth of numbers is hardly a strong sample size, so are there any indications that he’ll regress? I don’t think anyone will assume that he’ll be hitting .353 by the end of the year, but there is certainly optimism in the advanced numbers. While Cabrera’s BABIP is currently .388, that doesn’t simply mean he’s been lucky. If you examine the batted ball ratios, Cabrera is hitting an astounding 22.0% line drives and 52.6% groundballs. Perhaps some extra fly balls are dropping, but with those type of batted ball ratio, you can expect a ridiculous average.
Fortunately, expected BABIP does a much better job calculating that “luck” factor, and his xBABIP is currently .340. While this isn’t incredibly encouraging, xBABIP doesn’t take into account Melky’s slightly above average speed as well. The outfielder should be prepared for some regression, but the numbers are encouraging enough to call a .330 batting average for this season not-so-ridiculous.
So what caused this spike in his numbers? Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long agrees with Arod, in that his improvement in training has brought out his potential.
“He’s a hell of a player. He has totally gotten committed to his career. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t take anything for granted any more. His personal trainer is with him all the time. When you go all in and have talent, this is what happens — and it is evident he has the talent.”
Long said it was clear Cabrera had talent before he was traded to Atlanta, but was “pudgy” and not as diligent about his career.
You’ll see above that his swing in 2012 is nearly identical to his swing in his last season with the Yankees. The big difference is the gut. With Cano and Cabrera finding their true potential in their prime years, it might not be such a bad idea to reunite them next year. Perhaps the better question is whether Cano and Cabrera will repeat their previous problems once they’re brought back together, but I personally think that both players have shown more than enough work ethic and maturity. It’s fair to assume the players wouldn’t mind reuniting, but the money issue could be more prevalent with the budget in 2014.
It’s hard to forget Melky’s walkoffs in 2009, plenty of big plays in the outfield, and a genuine chemistry he brought to the World Series team. He now offers the Yankees with a young potent leadoff bat, something that can’t be overlooked with Jeter’s age, and some decent defense in the outfield. I didn’t believe his comeback story at first, but the more and more I watch, the more and more I want the Yankees to bring back the Melkman.