A fielding stat against Melky

The man who just won't retire
Twins want offers to start with Cano

Let’s be clear: I’m not trying to bury Melky Cabrera. I simply think he’s vastly overrated (and, incidentally, think that if any GM overrates him so, we should see what we can get for him). His arm is valuable in center, but as I’ve continually noted, he often takes poor routes to balls, resulting in him making fewer plays than he should given his range. Dave Pinto’s Probabilistic Model of Range agrees with me. It actually rates Melky below Johnny Damon in center.

Now, this clearly isn’t a flawed metric. I think we can all see, on the whole, that Melky is better defensively in center than Damon at this point in his career. However, that’s heavily considering Melky’s arm. When it comes to ability to get to batted balls, they’re on more even ground. If there’s a gap shot to right center, I’d actually feel more comfortable with Damon running it down than Melky (though that’s just one man’s opinion). But on a medium fly ball with a runner on third and less than two outs, you and I would both rather have Melky there.

Anyway, I just wanted to use PMR to illustrate that point. Johnny Damon is by no means a poor center fielder. He just has Berniearm. And yes, in many ways that can hurt us over the course of a season. But if we were to get a quality offer for Melky, I would be totally comfortable with Damon starting the year in center field. Check that: as long as Matsui isn’t in left. I understand how poor that would make our outfield defense.

The man who just won't retire
Twins want offers to start with Cano
  • Batty

    Considering how young Melky is won’t that just get better with experience? I remember a play Bernie made with a fly ball to center in Fenway where that triangle is, Sterling said (and I agree with him) that there’s where the power of a veteran comes into play – most others wouldn’t have been able to track it like that. Melky’s faster and has a better arm than Damon – tracking will only get better.

    I’d rather have Damon in left. Matsui while I like him is so slow out there and to bump someone up to play left while he and Giambi share DH is a bit of a waste of resources IMO.

  • http://riveravenuewatch.blogspot.com Mike NYY

    who plays left-field then?

    • Batty

      I hear Bernie is looking for a position.

  • brxbmrs

    If Melky has to be part of a deal to get Miggy C or Santana I’ve got no problem – although I think he will be missed defensively – even if they get Hunter who is tremendously overrated at this point in his career.

    Here’s the cold reality though, Melk was 3rd in mlb in RF – here’s the stats:

    Crisp 3.07
    Granderson 3.04
    Melk 3.02

    below them and some other guys

    Ichiro and Matthews 2.90
    Hunter 2.68
    Jones 2.67

    More importantly ZR, Melk was 6th

    Sizemore .916
    Wells and Crisp .911
    Grnderson and Beltran .908
    Melk 9.03

    Ichiro 8.67
    Matthews 8.31 – next to last
    Hunter 8.94
    Jones 8.63

    Look how close to the top Melk is and how much better he is rated – especially ZF since RF is not as telling – its PO’s + assists and its more dependent on the type of pitchers you have – but in this case valuable to us b\c we don
    t have K guys.

    Now to address your observation of Melk taking bad routes to balls as tactfully as I can – It’s complete Bullshit – he’s got two statues next to him most of the time in Matsui and Wall boy (Abreu) – and while I’ve seen Melk flub a couple – everyone does b\c no one is fucking perfect.

    I’ve seen Hunter mangle balls near the wall and pull up short in the alleys, I’ve seen the great Granderson leap and have a ball go right between is hands.

    My point is, I’ve seen every Yanks centerfielder since Mikey Rivers in 1976, and alot of other great guys – Melk is very good and overall defensively he’s better than Bernie was in his prime – b\c of the arm. Bernie had better speed but no instincts and it didn’t matter when he was younger b\c he was a gazelle out there.

    Remember, Hunter or Jones is gonna cost upwards of 15 mil – you guys just can’t realize what value Melk has – its alot, and that’s why you are seeing his name as a significant part of a deal for Cabrera or Santana.

    So lets cut the crap about the bad routes to balls and just say you want a guy who’s gonna hit HR’s in CF even if the Yanks have to give a 5 year 90 mil deal to a guy like Jones who probalbyu K’s 150 times in the AL and bats .240 or a shrinking violet like Torii Hunter who Beckett or Carmona will K four times in a row (just like Rocket did) in a big game.

    Other than that, I found your analysis very objective

  • Ivan

    I like Melky Cabrera, I really do but if you can get something great for him then You might have to do it.

    You do know that Austin Jackson is chugging fast, and unless there is some problems in the 08 minor league season, he’s coming to make the bronx soon. Not to mention Jose Tabata.

  • Batty

    I just don’t trust Santana. I know he’s great but will he implode here like so many before him? Our FA pitcher selections the last few years have been far from stellar.

  • brxbmrs

    Compare Melk’s RF and ZR (especially) with Ichiro, Hunter and Jones and let me know who’s vastly overrated.

    Then consider how much those guys make\will make and how much wear and tear are on all of them.

    The bad route to balls stuff is just BS – none of these guys are perfect and I’ve seen guys like Wells, Hunter and Granderson botch plays as badly as anyone.

    The bottom line for you guys (as I see it) is you hate Melk b\c he doesn’t hit HR’s – that’s ok, lets get Andruw Jones in here and watch him K 150 times and break down and we will see who is overrated – or Hunter come up small against good pitching.

    If Melky is a part in bringing us back Miggy C or Santana, that’s great and maybe we are selling him high, but lets stop with Melky being an overrated defensive player – he’s not and he’s gonna get better.

    If we need to talk about overrated lets talk about the # of pitches Phil Hughes needs to get out of an inning.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      The one thing I don’t like about ZR for outfielders is that it doesn’t properly measure balls you get to out of your “zone.” A great defender in center field should be making plenty of plays outside his zone. I’m not sure PRM accurately depicts that, either.

      I believe PMR had Melky as the top LF in the majors last year. Just for full disclosure.

      • brxbmrs


        Defensive stats are more nebulous than offensive no doubt – the one I think is very relevant here is RF – he’s a few points from the best in mlb – and I think that counteracts any inferences from anyone that he takes bad routes – the stats show he covers alot of ground and again, to put it tactfully Matsui and Abreu suck and our pitching gave up alot of hard hit flies – especially Wang at the end of the year.

        I actually said early this year that Melk was even more valuable in LF at YS b\c it is cavernous and he and Damon worked well together.

        One last OPINION – Melk’s bad routes to fly balls manifested itself later in the year (Again IMHO – and I don;t think it was chronic ) – I believe it was b\c he was spent and wasn’t getting a break – although I think Damon was real good in LF.

        Consider Melk’s play in the ALDS – two assists – if Joba didn’t get attacked by bugs he made a two run difference in the Carmona game when no one else did anything.

        I really think he could be a .290/.370/.450 guy. Power is grossly overrated – especially when you have to pay 15 mil a year for it. He’s gonna spray the ball and hopefully get more than his share of 2b’s and 3b’s with his legs and base running.

        Yanks need to beef up the corners of the infield offensively – if they do, you can carry a good defensive CF who is young and cheap.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

          If Melky does turn out to be a .290/.370/.450 hitter, I’d be ecstatic. I just don’t see it. His swing bothers me.

          The only thing that RF factors is assists and putouts. I’m not sure it’s a very viable measure of outfielders. It does, however, highlight Melky’s arm. No one is going to discredit him on that front. It’s actually why I think he’d fit better defensively at a corner. Yet he projects to hit like a CFer.

  • brxbmrs

    Couple more quick ones – Damon probably isn’t going to stay healthy enough to play CF on a daily basis in 08 – don’t care what he says about coming into ST in shape, whatever – he’s 33 and what we are seeing thanks to stricter PE testing is that these guys are “suddenly” showing their age once they start to enter their mid 30’s.

    Melk wore down in September – he was playing every game b\c the Yanks had 41 mil worth of aging ofers who either weren’t at full strength (and may never be again) or were lousy to begin with – Abreu who can’t cover any ground, shies away from the wall and who exibited a decline in arm strength.

    THe other issue is we did not have a backup ofer that Torre trusted to give Melk a blow – other than Damon near the end of the year once we had a comfortable WC lead – just remember that it wasn;t that long ago when the Yanks were playing Lofton and Womack in CF – remember that when you say it should be easy to replace Melky.

    Melk had two corner ofers for the most part (other than when Damon was in lf) that covered very little ground and he still was 6th in RF – and very close to the top .903 vs .911.

    If Melk and IPK or Hughes bring us Miggy C and a prospect, that’s great, but lets not think that you guys know more than the other GM’s who consider Melky to have more value than you can understand.

  • Batty

    This was a trade you would made in a minute and you see how well that pitcher worked out for Boston.

    • brxbmrs


      The boys here were also saying in April that Melk’s trade value had declined and they should have pulled the trigger on the Mike Gonzalez deal.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      For the record, I was never for a Melky-for-Gagne trade. You can browse the archives. I might not have written it off quickly, but I never said “we should trade Melky for Gagne.”

  • oh please

    i hate to say it, but how this is a top Yankee site is beyond me. yet another embarassing opinion expressed by the authors for no other reason than having something to write. you guys aren’t Pete Abraham, so you have no news to break. what value do you actually have to readership? yeah……minor league stats. that’s it. stick to that from now on, because you rarely have anything else to say.

    • barry

      Speculation is the key to knowledge. I guess. Go read something else if you don’t enjoy what RAB offers.

    • Count Zero

      Perhaps if you actually put something behind that argument??? What part of the opinion do you find embarassing? Melky being overrated? That he takes bad routes to balls sometimes? Honestly, if you can’t make a coherent argument, why do you think your opinion is superior?

      Facts of the matter:

      Melky DOES take bad routes at times. I am with Batty though on the opinion that he is still young and could get better at it.

      Melky’s career SLG% is pathetic, he swings at a lot of bad pitches, and he tends to be a slap hitter. Again, he is young, but…

      All in all, I am happy with Melky in CF. However, I’m not of the deluded opinion that he is indispensable with two guys like Gardner and Ajax climbing the ladder. I actually see him as potentially a better corner OF than a CF, but he has to hit for more power to even consider that a possibility. He is definitely someone I would trade for the right player.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

        You pretty much summed up my opinion. It shouldn’t be hard. I spelled it out pretty clearly. I’ve never been a Melky fan. I have my reasons. I’ve expressed them clearly.

        So sorry I’m not “breaking” any news (clearly not aimed at you, CZ). Just trying to have some fun around here.

  • barry

    I love melky but the truth of the matter is when it comes to him, and Wang for that matter, we have to sell them if we want to retain Joba, Hughes, and IPK. However, if we want to improve and that means giving them up it’s going to be a real pain in the ass filling melky’s spot anyway you look at it. Melky’s not irreplacable but giving him up will need a considerable amount of foresight as to what to replace him with.

  • Batty

    Remember this guy? What if the same happens to Santana?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      Two days ago someone compared Jake Peavy and Victor Zambrano. Now someone’s comparing Johan Santana and Carl Pavano. Please. These situations are nothing alike.

      • Batty

        I’m not comparing them – but my point there is that people were excited for Pavano and we saw him pitch barely seven times in four years. If Santana’s arm blows out (as pitchers often do) we’re left with nothing. I’d rather spend money when he hits FA.

  • Bxgrl1

    I like Melky but he’s one of the few trading cards we really have.

  • brxbmrs


    I have no prob with your take on Melk. Just please keep in mind Melk proved twice he was too good for AAA – and he did it when he was 20-21 and had a slg % of 550+.

    I like Gardner – but he’s a year older and his obp was .343 in AAA – he has hit 1 HR the last two seasons in the minors I believe and his arm is not as good as Melk’s (from what I have read elsewhere – who knows). Imagine the articles here on him next year if he’s our CFer???

    AJax is exciting to think about as well, but he hasn’t even played at AA for any time (although he did have a brief cup of coffee in AAA at the end of the season).

    If Melk in a deal brings us a bona fide young superstar – that’s great, if he doesn’t, I want to see if he can avoid tiring out at the end of the year.

    He was hitting .293/.351/.440+ around Aug 15th – that’s after a lousy start – I wouldn’t mind seeing him get another few years in pinstripes.

    Remember, we traded Bobby Kelly when he was 27 – Melk isn’t going to become a bust overnight – he’s just gonna keep getting better (IMHO)

  • brxbmrs

    We actually have alot of other guys with more value but who says we have to trade? We don’t – we can hope that the big 3 arms are the real thing and take 08 and develop what we have.

  • brxbmrs


    Miggy C to me is the missing piece – or at least 80% of it – we still need a lefty in the pen and an 8th inning guy, but having said that, we don’t have to trade for anyone if the powers that be really think that our rotation for the next several years could be Joba, Hughes, Wang, IPK 1-4.

  • brxbmrs

    900+ innings last 4 years for Johan – that’s what bothers me a bit.

    • barry

      900+ innings should make your mouth water. He’s showed that he can go the distance. Miguel answers one question but the others are more important If you could have Santana, Joba, IPK, and Hughes than Wang doesn’t even matter to that equation, you could potentially fill in the 5th spot with alot of people and my gut says that for the 08 season pettite will be in the mix. Bottomline, Melky is entertaining and has alot of potential but that doesn’t make him essential to the team. I think we could get a big payout by selling melk and wang.

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  • dan

    PMR is slightly flawed,I don’t think it measures speed of the ball…. It’s probably the third best system, although much better than anything below it. Check the BIS +/- stats or UZR if you can find them, those two are the best.

  • Bryan

    I don’t see how Matsui WON’T be in LF next year if we trade Melky away and move Damon back to center. More importantly, Melky can approve in the outfield. I think he has the work ethic to do so.

  • brxbmrs

    Barry, 900+ innings and an increase in era and decline in K’s makes my chest hurt.

    Remember how we kept hearing what a “Horse” Barry Zito was?

    I take my chances that Joba and Hughes give me a good enough 1-2, trade hard only for Miggy Cabrera or nothing at all.

    I’d be happy if the Yanks get Ty Wiggington to give us some help at the corners.

  • brxbmrs


    The Twins won’t take Wang – they don’t want to deal with Arb and he didn’t increase his value in the ALDS.

    Wang definitely could be traded as a part of a 3 way – or in a separate deal for prospects\young talent the Twins would want.

  • Dan

    I realize that a great deal of baseball analysis has to do with looking at players objectively (hence the metric you referenced), but I am baffled that anyone who watched the Yankees last year would be comfortable with Damon in center field.

  • http://skyking162.greenmen.org Sky

    PMR doesn’t have “in-zone” and “out-of-zone” issues. Fielders are judged against every batted ball, which are categorized into a large number of “mini-zones”. That’s not to say there aren’t other issues, however.

    Even accounting for fielding, Matsui was more valuable than either Damon or Melky in 2007. Melky should be prime trade bait, as he’s not as good as a $200 million payroll needs players to be, and his cheapness is a huge benefit to most other teams.

    I’m not really qualified to talk about fielding subjectively (although I don’t think 95% of you all are, either), but Damon’s always looked “uncoordinated” in center. Looking smooth isn’t a requirement to fielding well. You can make up for it with good jumps, smart paths, and speed.

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