Melky returns, but for what purpose?

Yanks notes for this Friday afternoon
'I'll kick you out of this house if you don't cut that hair'

For the last four days, the Yankee lineup has been Melky Cabrera-free. The benching of Melky was a move a long time in the making and well overdue. But later tonight, in the O.C., the center fielder, three days shy of his 24th birthday, will resume his duties in the starting lineup, and I have to wonder to what end?

First, a history lesson: Since May 6, Melky Cabrera is hitting .225/.275/.281 over his last 309 plate appearances. As Mike pointed out a few days, those totals rank him as one of — if not, the — worst every-day player in the Majors.

Now, we’ve been fairly critical of Melky over the last two years. We want him to succeed, but right now, he just isn’t getting the job done. With three years of Big League experience under his belt, Melky should be showing improvement. Instead, his numbers are getting worse each year. That .260 batting average with a low-.300s OBP and little power since the start of 2007 is about what you can expect from Melky right now, and that just doesn’t cut it on the Yankees.

When the team benched Melky earlier this week, they did so under the guise of giving him a rest. Melky Cabrera, the man who has played, on average, 150 games per season in his pro career, needed a break. The Yanks intended to give Melky just two days off, but Joe Girardi decided to add on an extra pair of days to that non-benching benching.

But here is where things get a bit ugly. According to that Ed Price notebook, Joe Girardi still views Melky as his everyday center fielder. “I think Melky’s a better offensive player than he’s displayed. And I think that Melky can have a strong last 50 games for us, I really do,” Girardi said. “The important thing is that he gets on base, and that’s what we need him to do more of.”

Now, I know and you know that Joe Girardi isn’t going to come out and say that they’re benching Melky for good. We know he isn’t going to throw Melky under the bus. That would completely negate whatever residual trade value Cabrera has. But I’m beginning to fear that Girardi isn’t seeing the forest for the trees.

Everyone loves Melky Cabrera’s supposed enthusiasm and love for the game. They love his energy, his center field prowess and his cannon arm. But it’s laughable to think that his presence in the starting lineup helps the team. For Girardi to say that “we need him to do more of” getting on base ignores reality. Melky, for the better part of four months, has gotten on base at a .275 clip. For the last two seasons, he has an OBP of .315. That’s not a sample size issue; that’s a full-blown trend.

What you see if what you get. If the Yanks choose to see boundless energy and youthful enthusiasm, they should know that those traits won’t win games. If they see Melky as a fourth outfielder capable of giving Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or Bobby Abreu a night off but don’t want to damage a young player’s psyche or trade value, then so be it. But as Melky returns to the starting lineup tonight, I worry that the Yanks will use him everyday, and that does not a playoff team make.

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Yanks notes for this Friday afternoon
'I'll kick you out of this house if you don't cut that hair'
  • http://knickerbockerchatter.blogspot.com Bruno

    What did Cristian do wrong?

  • steve (different one)

    I worry that the Yanks will use him everyday, and that does not a playoff team make.

    except for, you know, last year.

    don’t get me wrong, i agree with what you are saying.

    but if everyone else were simply meeting, not even exceeding, expectations, they are easily a playoff team with Melky Cabrera in CF.

    • Setty

      Yea, I agree with both you and Ben, Steve. If everyone else plays to their capabilities, Melky is alright as a 9 hitter (I guess), and reaching the playoffs is something they easily can do (and have in the past). However, that shouldn’t give the Yankees an excuse to throw a putrid hitter out there everyday just bc the rest of the lineup is good. Melky’s defense is also vastly overrated by the Melky bandwagon, as most of his running, circus catches are created by the terrible routes he takes to the ball. Does he have a strong arm? No doubt about it, but a throwing arm alone should not produce an everyday MLB player.

      • jsbrendog

        make him a pitcher. he does absolutely nothing good except throw. turn him into a puitcher and in two years maybe he’s an allstar

        • jsbrendog

          after rereading this i laughed. a lot.

        • A.D.

          he’s been a decent bat for a pitcher this year

    • austinNYfan

      My question: Is Melky’s defense able to keep him in the lineup? Maybe he does take some bad routes. He plays the wall well, the Stadium’s centerfield is cavernous, and he does have a plus arm. He is a good defender. I wouldn’t want Christian or Damon in CF in the ninth.

      I think the problem with a lot of Yankee fans, myself included, is they think every position player needs to hit .300 with 30 HRs, and 100 RBIs. Many teams have players that are just good defenders at CF, SS, 2B, or C. Is Melky good enough to bat ninth? I think yes. Is there room for improvement, definitely, but not within the organization. Ajax will be along in a year or two. Melky would make a good fourth OF, late inning defensive/speed substitution.

      • Count Zero

        I’m not asking for .300 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs — a .270/.330/.380 line would get me to quit bitching about him at this point.

        But .225/.275/.281 is frickin’ light years away from what you’re talking about and shouldn’t even be in the majors. I mean really — .281 slugging?!? Just to put that in perspective for a moment, dig this: Bronson Arroyo has a .341 slugging percentage.

        So I guess Melky might be good enough to bat 9th in the majors…if he were a NL pitcher.

      • The Scout

        If you want Melky in center in the 9th, fine. Make him a late-inning defensive replacement to use his strenght to its best advantage. He’s become a black hole in the line-up.

        Girardi is only saying what he has to say, to put the best public face on a bad situation. It’s a basic rule of business — don’t disparage any asset you have.

      • Ed

        Melky in the lineup is fine if the rest of the lineup is producing. The Melky hatred peaked though when we had Melky, Gardner, Molina, and Betemit in the lineup everyday. One guy like that, sure. Two, maybe. Three’s pushing it, and four was brutal.

        And don’t forget that Abreu and Jeter are producing well below their career norms. Cano, while hot for the past month or two, was another Melky for the first two months.

        A-Rod, Damon, and Giambi can’t carry the team by themselves…

  • A.D.

    I mean the Yankees can go to the playoffs with Melky, however chances are they’re going to have to slug it out a bit more with the injuries to the pitching staff, so going offensive, and just using Melk as a defensive replacement might not be the worst idea.

  • scott

    if the yankees are so concerned with defense then how in the world is molina not getting the start tonite. It is no accident that mussina is having the best year of his life with jose as his catcher. Kennedy would be much better off throwing to him tonite in his first start back.

    • A.D.

      IPK doesn’t have groove with either catcher, so he might as well get the offensive upgrade.

      Plus Molina is better when he gets rest, back to back games in the Texas heat, followed by a flight, better to give it to a rested catcher

    • steve (different one)

      maybe.

      but Molina was on the team last year and caught some of Mussina’s poor starts. he has also caught some of his poor starts (both Baltimore disasters) this year.

      Posada caught Moose primarily in 2006, when he also had an excellent season.

      i am not saying it doesn’t have some truth to it, but i don’t think you can say that Molina is definitely the reason for Mussina’s season.

      plus, it’s not like Kennedy wasn’t throwing to Molina early in the year when he stunk.

    • Kyle D.

      I’m hesitant to believe in a catchers ability to have a real effect on the game when its ultimately up to the pitcher what he throws and if you watched yesterday, Moose started shaking off Jose frequently as the game progressed. I’m not saying Jose has no effect, but I think its more of a comfort thing that Moose feels with him and that helps.

      I remember I used to hear all this same stuff about Varitek and I hated listening to it then.

      • Old Ranger

        Andy is one of those pitchers that doesn’t want to think, give him the sign and he will throw it. That can hurt him in one respect; if the guy calling the signs has not gotten his confidence…Andy has to think way to much. Andy thinking, can exacerbate and already tenuous pitching situation, we need all the guys pitching their best. 27/08??

  • blah

    Melky needs to go back to AAA to get his head together and retool his approach to hitting. There is no good reason to keep him on the big league team at this point.

  • Chris

    The problem with Melky is that he has gotten worse each year. At 21 in 2006 he posted a 95 OPS+. Not great, but certainly more than adequate for an above average CF. The normal progression for a career would be to improve from there, but that hasn’t happened yet. He has shown periods of good performance (last year in May though August he had an 842 OPS, and this year in April he was at 864), so I’m not ready to completely give up on him, but right now he’s just sucking

    • nmc

      you do realize that a 95 OPS+ defines being blow average, right? i’m assuming you meant above-average fielding CF, which, to be honest, i’m not really convinced that he is.

      • steve (different one)

        you do realize that a 95 OPS+ defines being blow average, right?

        is this true for CF? probably not.

      • dan

        The way I read it, it meant that his 95 OPS+ was good enough because he is above average in the field.

        • Steve H

          And because he was 21, so there was expected improvement.

  • zs190

    I don’t get to see Yanks game on TV, how was Damon in CF the last couple nights? Offensively, Damon has been a great leadoff guy for us, if he can play CF fairly consistently and be just a tad below average defensively, that in itself would be a great boost for the lineup I think.

    Melky has just been brutal the last couple years, I think he’s better as a 4th OF for a contending team. He’s still young enough. I hope he plays well as a 4th OF that spells out the veterans and when he builds up some trade value, we can maybe trade him to a team that views him as a starter.

  • http://highlandermadness.blogspot.com Rayblay

    Wait, he was 19 when he made his debut?!? I didn’t even realize he was that young… No wonder he wasn’t very good!

  • Bo

    The guy just can’t hit. He doesn’t deserve to play.

    Maybe the “uninspiring” AJ will be ready next year.

  • Rob_in_CT

    One thing does come to mind: IPK is a fly ball pitcher. Melky is a good defensive CFer… I guess the question is who is playing LF? If it’s Damon, it makes some sense b/c that’s a pretty good defensive alignment. If it’s Nady, with Damon DHing or somesuch… err, no.

    I’m terribly disappointed in Melky. I really thought he could be a .280/.350/.400 sort of player, with an outside chance of being better.

    All of this is rather academic if IPK pitches like he did earlier this year.

  • radnom

    The only reason I disagree with this is because Matsui is on the DL. Who is Melky in the lineup at the expense of…Sexson? Bettimet?

    Listen, I think that Bettimet is better than he has shown, and has potential to be a much better hitter than Melky but he has not proven it since he has been with the team. If Girarde thinks that the team is better off with Melky in center and one of Damon/Nady/Abreu DHing as opposed to Damon in center and Bettimet DHing…..I can understand that I really can.

    When/if Matsui comes back, different story.

    • Rob_in_CT

      That’s a good point. Betemit’s rocking a ~.270 OBP, if I recall correctly. Sexson is awful. Now, if Giambino needs some rest, then Betemit playing 1B makes it worthwhile to sit Melky, I think. If Giambi is playing 1st, it’s a choice between two terrible hitters (melky and betemit), but at least Melky plays defense well.

      • radnom

        I agree. Like I said above, I personally would like Betemit to get a bit more playing time, but not necessarily against running teams where Melky’s D would be an asset (as in, not the Angels).

        The thing a lot of the people complaining about Melky don’t think about is who the other options are for that lineup spot. As frustrating as it is to watch him at the plate these days, its in the best interest of the team to having him playing on at least a semi-regular basis given our injuries.

      • A.D.

        Yeah but Betemit does have a better avg and slugging, which I’ll take after Melks weak hacks

        • radnom

          They have practically the same avg, Betemit does have better slugging but Melky has a much higher obp.

          I agree I would rather see Betemit at the plate, but either way, the number 9 spot in the lineup is going to be a week spot. It is a tossup but at least when Melky is the weak man in the lineup you don’t have Johnny Damon in center field.

  • steve

    the angels are going to be running all over that noodle arm of damons if hes in center.

    hopefully the benching for the past three years was the swift kick in the ass melky needed.

    if not, let’s all pray ajax has a hell of a spring training.

  • Bill N.

    Way way way off topic but did anyone just here Kay on espn radio ? He’s on with VanPelt and said (kay) said he has never had an egg,bannana,pickel,fish or any condiment. How in the fuck is that even possible ? What an asshole.

  • JohnnyC

    Don’t make fun of Kay’s religious beliefs.

  • Bill N.

    I don’t think its religious. In the words a VanPelt a “freak”. Seriously who’s never had scrambled eggs ? Or ketchup?

  • jsbrendog

    San Diego Padres right fielder Brian Giles officially exercised his veto power and blocked a waiver deal Friday that would have sent him to the Boston Red Sox.

    boo yah

    via espn

    • Jack

      Suck it, Boston.

  • Pedro

    Sure, Melky is pathetic as a hitter, but the offense has been just as bad without Melky. We need to get the big guys going, not Melky.

  • A.D.

    If theyre going to not play Melk in center they should go with a Miranda/Carson platoon, bring them up from AAA, see if their split numbers translate to the majors

    • http://knickerbockerchatter.blogspot.com Bruno

      you do realize Miranda is a 1B?

      • A.D.

        yes, I’m aware, DH him vs righties, play damon in center. Play Carson in cf vs lefties, not a normal platoon, but a platoon none the less

  • Ivan

    Melky is the best defensive CF, if not the whole outfield, the Yankees have right now. However, he kills so many rallies that he might cost this team more runs than anyone can quantify. And I don’t mean just by not getting on base. He is absolutely clueless and horrific when he’s up there with 1 out and a runner on 3rd. People don’t put enough importance on this. You HAVE to get that runner in. The Yankees’ record in 1-run games should be so much better if people like Melky, Abreu, and yes A-Rod would just give themselves up for the one run. In Melky’s case, however, it’s not that he’s not trying, it’s that he is clueless on how to do it. He’ll chase a ball up in the zone and either K or pop up or he will K or hit the ball on the ground on the breaking ball down and in. I don’t know how the coaching staff can just keep trotting him out there under those circumstances. The move the other day to pinch run with Pudge and pinch hit with Melky is beyond stupefying.

  • Serious Jujar

    Melky shoulda followed his buddy Robby back to the Dominican over the All-Star break for some pointers from Cano, Sr.
    On a different note, can there be a moratorium on saying “throw so-and-so under the bus”? It’s really irritating that everyone and their fucking mother is saying it for just about any reason since some fuckface on Sportscenter decided to throw it into the Lexicon. Thanks in advance!

    • RICH

      If you think “throw so-and-so under the bus” is irritating what do you think of people needing to use phrases like fuckface and “fucking mother”? I suppose they can’t think of ways to get their points across in a better way.

  • dan

    Over the past calendar year, spanning 159 games, Melky is hitting .233/.290/.318, and his OBP is third worst in the majors over that span.

    If you like WPA, Melky has been the third most “destructive” offensive player in the majors over the past calendar year, registering -2.62 wins.

    If you like WPA/LI, Melky is THE WORST player in the majors over the past year, at -3.11 wins.

    If you like what BP has to offer, Melky is performing just below replacement level this season

    No amount of defense or arm strength can overcome such a negative offensive contribution.

    • parms

      if you look at win shares, melky’s wsab (win shares above bench) is -3. his overall win shares is only 4.7, mainly because of his fielding, which contributes to 3.1 of that. to put that in perspective, chad moellers is 2 and even latroy hawkins had 1 win share. his WSP (win shares percent), which incorporates the average player and how much playing time you get, is .200. to put that in perspective, coco crisp is sniffing .400.

      you can find all this stuff over at the hardball times if youre interested

      now i know you can bend the stats to make them look however you want, but that is just downright miserable

      • parms

        o yeah and his VORP is lower than justian christians (.8 to .3.5)

  • parms

    sorry, -3.5

  • http://skyking162.com Sky

    Overall (considering offense, position, and fielding) Melky is a league-average player, maybe slightly below. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when you consider his price tag. But the Yankees shouldn’t care as much about the price as the production, with a $200MM payroll. They need to move Damon back to center and find a big bat for left. That could be Matsui, with Giambi DH’ing (for less than $22MM) or Matsui could DH and they could look to sign someone like Pat Burrell (who’s been a plus fielder this year), Adam Dunn, Randy Winn (one-year deal, his bat is solid and he’s an excellent fielder) or a few other options. Abreu should be gone come 2009 (bat isn’t as good as Giambi’s and he’s awful in the field these days.)

    • parms

      how could you say he is a league-average player with 6th worst WPA in the AL this season among ALL position players

      • Old Ranger

        Very easy, just type whatever he wants. This is the USA, post what ever one wants to, just because he is wrong doesn’t matter. I know this thread is over, I just couldn’t stop myself, sorry ’bout that. 27/08??

  • Greg C.

    When Melky became a regular starter, no one cared about his hitting. Everyone raved about his defense and arm. At the same time Bernie Williams was still producing at the plate ( not Bernie in his prime numbers but better numbers than Melky has ever managed) but could no longer play CF. Many people were happy with his involuntary retirement and did not want him back even as a 5th outfielder. Many of the same people loved Melky- and again didnt care about his hitting. On the Yankees afterall, the thinking went, if you have 7-8 guys in the lineup who can slug, its worth having 1 light hitting guy who can play the outfield. Now after 3+ years, Melky who has never been much of a hitter on any level ( yet many Yankee fans preferred him over several .300 hitting sluggers), needs to start hitting?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Those people that you mention weren’t us. Melky’s never been highly regarded by the three of us, and his utter lack of production — his worse-than-replacement level numbers — are harming the team. It’s not okay to have some guy in the lineup who can’t put up league average numbers, least of all when the team has the financial resources to figure out a better solution.

  • pounder

    We could of had Beltran,we could of had Cameron,but ,no, we fell head over heels for the Melkman, and for Damon.Can we possibly get Baldelli,peanut allergy or not.