Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good Melky, Bad Melky

While the likely takeaways from yesterday's game were Melky Cabrera's 2 homers, a solo shot in the second, and especially the walk-off in the bottom of the 14th inning...

...Don't forget about this:

In the 7th inning, with the bases loaded and no one out, Melky came to the plate and struck out on four pitches, the last of which was literally at his eyes. Look at what Suzuki had to just to catch that ball. Russ Springer missed his spot by three feet and still got the biggest K of the game. That at-bat would loom large, as the score remained 7-7 until the 14th.

To my eyes, there-in lies the problem with Melky. He goes up to the plate swinging for the fences, and refuses to believe that he's just not a home run hitter. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion, so there are going to be days like yesterday when he gets lucky and jacks one or two. But by and large this approach is killing his value as an everyday player.

Let's go to the numbers, shall we?

These are the three seasons in which Melky appeared in enough games to analyze the results. There are differences in PA's, but even when you factor those in, the trends are still clear. The darker shaded numbers are the most optimal ones.

From ages 21 (in 2006) to 23, his average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and consequently OPS have all been in decline. He age 21 season was what got most Yankee fans excited about him. Homegrown talent with a strong arm and pretty decent production at the plate for a CF.

While his home runs were consistent throughout all three seasons, Melky's doubles declined drastically. Why would that be? When he takes his home run cut, Cabrera ends up hitting a lot of pop ups. It's the downside of his "all or nothing" approach to hitting.

The last column represents in-field fly balls, and as you can see that percentage jumped significantly (at the 90% confidence level) from '07 to '08. As a result of hitting more pop-ups, his Batting Average On Balls In Play has been on the decline as well, because a much higher percentage of pop flies are converted into outs than any other type of batted ball.

It's been a while since Max Kellerman tried to sell everyone on the notion that Melky was the second coming of Bernie Williams based on their minor league track records and early MLB performance. I don't know too many people who think he can be an everyday player, let alone a batting champion or top 10 MVP candidate anymore. Rob, the sponsor of Melky's Baseball-Reference page said it best:
Oh, what you, Leche, could have been. With only 280 ABs in AAA they wasted all your options before your 24th birthday. Bernie got 468 ABs in AAA and almost two full seasons in AA. Hopefully you find a chance to develop as a hitter.
I suppose for the time being that Melky is a pretty decent fourth outfielder. He has marginal defensive value in CF, but is solid in left and right with a strong arm. That makes him a good choice for a late-inning defensive replacement, and as he showed us yesterday, he's got the potential to make an impact offensively as well. I just don't want anyone to get carried away and say they want to see him starting.

1 comment:

  1. love the name of the blog by the way

    With Nady on the DL and assuming they put Matsui on the bench then you’re back to having four outfielders for three spots. Gardner is the obvious choice for center field with his ability to shoot the gaps and cover ground. Melky should then be put into right field since he has arguably one of the best arms in the Majors from the outfield and then Damon and Swisher should duel it out for the best of the worst defensively. The DH spot can then be filled by the remaining left fielder. And since all of them play more than just one outfield position, three with experience in center, they can rotate days off pretty easily.