Justifying my position: Melky CabreraBy
Lots of disagreeing in Yankeeland nowadays; streaks of poor hitting and pitching down the stretch tends to do that to us. Everyone is going to have a different opinion on each individual player, but it seems we’re to the point of thinking less of one another because of our various opinions. For instance, one commenter suggest that the only bad thing about this site is our collective view on Melky. Well, let’s take a look at Mr. Cabrera month to month:
April: .200/.237/.213 in 75 AB
People were coming to Melky’s defense in April, saying that he needed regular playing time to get in a groove. Yeah, that’s all fine and good, but he had one more at bat than Jorge Posada in April, so he can’t be complaining too much about limited playing time.
May: .254/.338/.424 in 59 AB
So the “he needs more consistent playing time” crew was proven wrong this month. Not a terrible line, and I appreciate the eight walks and five XBH over his 59 AB. You’d like to see more than a .254 BA from a slap hitter, though.
June: .298/.364/.447 in 94 AB
If this was normal Melky, I’d have no problem whatsoever with him starting in center. So you chalk up April to a poor streak, May is a slight recover, and June is the real Melky. However, we just don’t know if this is the real Melky. July will provide a case in this favor, however.
July: .368/.410/.528 in 106 AB
Clearly an outlier for Melk, but we’ll take it. Once again, if he has one month like this, one month like May, and the rest of the months like June over the course of the season, he’s a winner.
August: .306/.350/.468 in 111 AB
Perfect. Just like June.
September: .186/.234/.221 in 86 AB — and that counts last Saturday, when you all were calling us out on being harsh on Melky
So what are we to believe now? He had two torrid months, two solid months, and two horrid months. That’s not what you’re looking for out of a starting center fielder. Yes, he’s young, and could certainly adapt better in coming years. Part of our problem with Melky, though, is his approach, which is not seen in the results.
It’s hard to define approach, but the gist of Melky’s is that he swings at everything. Clearly an exaggeration, it speaks to Melky’s tendencies to think he has to swing at every pitch that is near the zone, regardless of the count. A good hitter in those situations might take a strike if it’s not a particularly good one (low and outside, for example). After all, it’s not like his at bat will be over if the ump calls a strike. But Melky swings at a lot of those pitches, and many of them go for easy outs.
I wish there was a month-by-month breakdown of this data, but check out Melky’s Baseball Reference page. Click on the Pitch Data option. Now you can see a breakdown of what Melky did at the plate, pitch by pitch.
All his numbers are moving in the wrong direction from last year. The ones I want to note are his percentages of strikes looking, his percentage of pitches swung at, and the percentage of times he’s swung at the first pitch — plus some count data.
Percentage of strikes looking: 26%, down from 29% last year. To me, that says that he’s swinging at more pitches that are near the zone, rather than holding back and hoping for a better pitch. Yeah, you have to swing with two strikes, but it’s not like Melky strolls up to the plate already in an 0-2 hole (though it may seem that way sometimes).
Percentage of pitches swung at: 48%, up from 43% last year. This not insignificant. This is Melky swinging at 5% more pitches than last year — in a year he’s already seen nearly 250 more pitches. So that’s 823 pitches he swung at last year, vs. 1037 this year. If Melky is going to be consistent, he’s going to have to take more pitches, strikes or not.
Percentage of times swung at the first pitch: 28% up from 23% last year. Yet again, another 5% gain on last year. This is not good. That means he has swung at the first pitch in 166 of his 596 plate appearances. And Joe Torre has the audacity to put this guy in the leadoff spot? By contrast, Johnny Damon — who everyone has ripped on this year — has swung at 11% of the first pitches in his 587 plate appearances: just 64 times. That’s a leadoff hitter. Also by contrast, Damon has seen 34% of his strikes in the looking fashion, and has swung at just 41% of all pitches.
As for count data, he’s seen 3-0 counts just 4% of the time (down from 6 last year), 2-0 counts 13% of the time (down from 15 last year), and 3-1 counts 8% of the time (down from 9 last year).
I know this is long already, but indulge me as I post Melky’s month-by-month numbers from last year:
So we’ve seen Melky go from fairly consistent in 2006 to hot and cold, hot and cold in 2007. I don’t think we’re at all in the wrong for criticizing Melky. He had a couple of good months, but his September is putting a real blemish on his season. Not to mention that he’s hit .213/.266/.248 since August 15. Not a good line for over a quarter of your season’s at bats (141 AB since 8/15, 531 overall).
Next up: Hideki Matsui