Whither Melky, again


While the Yankees downed the Orioles last night to move into sole possession of first place, Melky Cabrera did not have a night to remember. He went 0 for 4 and saw his triple slash numbers decline to .274/.333/.418. For the first time all season, Melky’s OPS+ has dipped below 100. He is now a below-average hitter for the Yanks.

Earlier in the year, things were looking up for the Melk Man. He was hitting .327/.400/.571 through the end of April and followed that up with a .321/.348/.429. The power drop was precipitous, and the decline in his IsoD, the difference between his batting average and on-base percentage, was notable. Yet, through the end of May, he was still hitting .323/.368/.481, and we all would have taken it.

Last night’s 0-fer caps what has been a miserable two months for Melky. Since the start of June, he is just 29 for 130, good for a .223 batting average, and has a .297 on-base percentage. He is slugging just .353 in that stretch, and his OPS has declined to .751, a drop of over .200 points since the end of April.

We can’t really be surprised by Melky’s post-spring slump. In 2008, he had a stellar April, hitting .299/.370/.494 and then put up a triple slash line of .235/.281/.300 through the end of the season. It’s little consolation that his 2009 swoon is a slight improvement over his 2008 nose dive. He’s still producing at a level that should get him benched.

At this point, I don’t know what to do with Melky Cabrera. We’ve long been accused of being Melky haters, and to a certain extent, we are. But we don’t hate Melky due to any sort of personal grudge. We hate him because Joe Girardi insists on playing him in spite of the numbers.

Melky Cabrera has over 1900 plate appearances at the Big League level and has never managed to be an above-average hitter for more than two months at a time. While his fielding is good, it can’t overcome his inability to get on base or hit for average. He is basically a fourth outfielder in sheep’s clothing.

The Yankees probably won’t look to improve upon center field at the trade deadline. They would end up spending far too many prospects on a player who just won’t be that good. But at the same time, they can’t keep sending Melky Cabrera out there day in and day out. It’s time for Brett Gardner to be the de facto center fielder. When or if he shows he can’t handle it, the Yanks can begin to think about ways to fill that hole, but the reign of Melky and his .297 on-base percentage since June 1 needs to end.

Categories : Offense


  1. Jake H says:

    I do wonder if Melky needs some days off. It seems that since he is young that Joe thinks he can play every game. I think he needs to play a couple times a week. It seems that he is rolling over pitches again like he did last year. Earlier this year he was hitting more line drives, now it’s all grounders and pop ups.

  2. Moshe Mandel says:

    Yeah, they need to shift that platoon towards Gardner as the primary, at least for a bit. I hate to do it because Melky’s been so clutch, but it needs to be done. I just hope it does not overexpose Brett.

  3. adeel says:

    Could it be that he just gets tired out by the long season? Maybe benching him for a few weeks will fix what ails him.

  4. Sam P. says:

    I’m sure it’s just me, but it’s really seemed as if he’s been hacking up there at the plate a lot more over the last few months. Lots of first pitch swings. I’m sure pitchers know if they give him something even remotely close to the plate he might not have the discipline to take a pitch.

  5. Ivans says:

    I don’t get why he’s been getting so much playing time lately. Gardner’s shown to be better in all offensive facets of the game and in most defensive too, with the exception of arm strength.

    I’ll give Melky credit for his unbelievable late-inning performances earlier this year but the big picture shows that he’s not an every day player. If the Yankees are showcasing him for a trade, it isn’t working in my opinion. Exposing him is more like it. They should have sat him and dangled him while his numbers were good.

  6. I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

    On Girardi’s show last weekend, one of the viewer questions was why Gardner isn’t starting since he’s been so hot the last few weeks. Joe’s response was incorrect in two key ways:

    - He said that he is playing Gardner a lot, and the idea is to get Gardner and Melky both 6 or 7 games out of 10. In actuality, Gardner has started only 9 games since July 1.

    - He said that Melky has been swinging the bat well lately. We know that’s not true.

    The only conclusion I could draw was that Girardi thinks that Gardner can’t handle playing every day. That his bat just isn’t up to the task. Maybe he’s right, and maybe he’s wrong. But my question is: Can he really be that much worse than Melky? Remember, since Gardner is a better defender and a better runner, if he can even be 80 percent of Melky at the plate (which is below league average), then he should be in there, no?

    At this point, I think Gardner has to be the everyday center fielder, with occasional rest days against tough lefties.

  7. But we don’t hate Melky due to any sort of personal grudge. We hate him because Joe Girardi insists on playing him in spite of the numbers.

    Melky Cabrera under Joe Torre:
    2006: 524 PA
    2007: 612 PA

    Melky Cabrera under Joe Girardi:
    2008: 453 PA
    2009: 290 PA (on pace for 510 PA)

    Are we blaming the right Joe?

    • zack says:

      Considering that he is on pace for more ABs this season despite a better option (at the moment), than yes, yes we are…

    • As much as I dislike sticking up for the man… It’s kinda tough to pin Melky’s 2009 playing time on Joe Torre.

      I get your point though… Girardi hasn’t been the worst offender in the “playing Melky too much” area. And, they did demote the guy last season, during Girardi’s tenure. I have a tough time really blaming anyone too much for the fact that Melky has been playing too much lately. This team has no clear-cut everyday CFer and a LFer whose defense has been awful so it’s not surprising, given the roster construction*, that Melky is seeing his share of the playing time. Let’s wait to see how much Melky deserves to play in the second half and howmuch he actually plays in the second half before we get too angry at Girardi or anyone else.

      *Not a swipe at the F.O… Just saying, it is what it is – they have the cards that they have.

      • Agreed. I wasn’t really blaming either one, just pointing out that Girardi’s not the only guy who’s played Melky way too much, probably largely because there weren’t any greatly appealing alternative options.

        As was pointed out in this thread, Gardner’s probably a better option but he’s slumping also at the moment. Girardi’s not really riding the hot hand, he’s trying to ride the slightly less cold hand.

    • Ed says:

      Under Torre Melky got his playing time due to lack of alternatives. Like Sheffield and Matsui both deciding to bail on the 2006 season pretty early on. Or Johnny Damon’s inability to stay on the field in 2007, let alone play the position he was signed to play. I don’t think anyone expected Damon to have to leave CF that early into his contract.

      2008 had Melky optioned as soon as their were better options, so no complaints there. 2009 though, there’s no excuses.

  8. Reggie C. says:

    I hope this helps put to rest the line-up killing idea that both Gardner and Melky could play full-time next season as Damon departs from OF duty. Seattle may have 3 potential CFs manning their OF, but that team gets zero punch from its OF.

    Not much Joe G. can do but play Melky as Nady’s gone for the year, and Gardner is still very much an up-and-down player. Next year we rectify one of the corners with Lu….at a good ML player.

  9. JohnnyC says:

    Girardi doesn’t think Gardner can hit lefties and they’re throwing a lot of lefties at the Stadium…same old strategy to counter the short porch (now simply referred to as the bandbox). Problem is, Melky’s no great shakes against lefties either despite being a switch hitter. Maybe there’s some desire to trade him before the deadline and playing Pena in CF at Scranton is part of the plan.

    • Rick Rhoden plays golf says:

      If either Melky or Gardner gets hurt we will see Jackson. I get the feeling once Jackson plays he is not coming out of the lineup. He would be under no pressure. Just play great defense. The exact opposite of Fernando Martinez who had the pressure on him to hit.

  10. Tampa Yankee says:

    NoMass expanded on their “Melky Theory” and believe the Yanks are showcasing Melky. While there maybe some truth to that, Melky showing why he is what we thought we was “basically a fourth outfielder in sheep’s clothing.” Who really wants to trade for that?


    • Chris says:

      Melky >>>>> Yuniesky Betancourt

      Maybe the Royals would want him.

    • I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

      Someone who needs a 4th outfielder? ;-)

    • While there maybe some truth to that, Melky showing why he is what we thought we was “basically a fourth outfielder in sheep’s clothing.” Who really wants to trade for that?

      Teams that are currently starting fifth outfielders? Like the Reds, who are starting Wily Taveras, or the Natinals, who are starting Austin Kearns? Or the Royals, who are starting Jose Guillen, who admitted this week that he should be paying the fans back some of the 12M he’s stealing from Kansas City? Or the A’s, who run Travis Buck out there nightly? Or the Diamondbacks, who are still starting both Eric Byrnes AND Chris Young, which is one of the most punchless two-headed outfield pairings ever?

      • Tampa Yankee says:

        Ok, ok, ok to all that responded, there are plenty of teams that would want him. I guess I was just hoping this was going to be the year he didn’t do this and my disdain towards myself (and him I guess) for being duped again came out in that post. My bad.

      • DCR says:

        Guillen, Byrnes, and Kearns are all guys on terrible teams with terrible contracts. Their names come up annually in trade talks. They are playing to boost their trade value. Young and Buck are starting to look like busts but they were pretty well regarded prospects so they should be given every opportunity to succeed.

        That being said, I think Melky could definitely start for an NL team.

  11. A.D. says:

    Surprised on the lack of BG out of the break, at this point it should be at best for Melk a 50/50 platoon, and realistically worse than that.

  12. Chris says:

    Melky Cabrera has over 1900 plate appearances at the Big League level and has never managed to be an above-average hitter for more than two months at a time.

    Melky Cabrera from May 1 2007 through August 31 2007:

  13. Rick Rhoden plays golf says:

    Does anyone else think Hinske needs to get more time? I like Swisher but a man who hits 4 homers in 3 games needs to get in there.

  14. ramadan says:

    Go get Wells and Halladay

  15. Fittingly enough, I just found out that Melky is not in the starting lineup today.

  16. Ben says:

    As if 6irardi read your post, Gardner is playing and Melky is sitting today.

  17. Tony says:

    Reality has a distinct anti-Melky bias.

  18. AndrewYF says:

    So, is Rivera available today? He’s pitched four times in the last 5 games. Will Girardi push it to 5 in 6? I would let Hughes close, if needed.

  19. gxpanos says:

    If Melk gets traded/released, who will Cano pick up college chicks while wearing Ed Hardy shirts with?

    I think that’s the strongest argument for keeping the Melkman around.

  20. Tank the Frank says:

    No Melky in today’s lineup. I swear you guys have a direct line to Girardi’s office.

    Actually, if you really did, they’d be stretching Phil Hughes out right now.

  21. DSFC says:

    seems pretty clear that Melky will be traded before next season. They’re going to want Jackson to start in center and I think Gardner is a more attractive fourth OF option because of his speed. Melky is young, cheap, a decent defensive player with a plus arm and some pop. Someone will trade for him. I’m just sorry that he couldn’t build off of that promising rookie season.

  22. Frank says:

    The fact of the matter is both Gardner and Melky should be 4th OFrs. The OF needs to be compoletely revamped this off season. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with Matsui and Damon gone (although Damon could be the DH).

  23. Mike HC says:

    It has been obvious for years now that neither Melky or Gardner is the long term option. The fact that we got what we did out of them for the first half of the year is all gravy. The rest of the Yanks lineup is so damn good that it just may be worth giving up that offense for plus CF defense. I agree that Gardner should be getting the majority of the at bats at this point, but I highly doubt his offense will be much better. It is what it is and they are who they are.

  24. D says:

    What about trying to trade for Adam Jones or Nick Markakis? I know Baltimore is looking to rebuild over the next several years, but that team needs pitching more than it needs hitting. I know it’s hard to make trades within the division but is it possible that we could give up one or two pitching prospects (not named Phil and Joba) and Melky for one of those two?

    • Mike HC says:

      Jones and Markakis are the rebuilding plan. They are not going to start all over again.

    • pat says:

      hahah hell no.

    • I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

      If you were the GM of the Orioles, would you trade one of your best two players for anyone not named Joba or Phil? Why would you?

      Jones, as a second-year player, is under team control for 4 years after this one. Markakis was signed to a reasonable long-term deal.

      I’m not convinced the Orioles would move either even if Joba or Phil were part of the deal.

      • D says:

        To an extent, but if Cashman is seriously willing to part with Joba, Phil, Montero, etc. for Halladay, then why not consider doing a similar trade for a CF like Jones.

        I’m not advocating for it, Obviously there is a difference when you trade for a pitcher and a position player and I know we’d be losing pitching prospects but gaining the best pitcher in the league in the former trade.

        I guess I’m thinking that I’d prefer the FO to go after younger players who can provide us with more years of playing time in the long run, instead of trading for older players.

        • I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

          The difference is that one is plausible, and one would only happen in a fantasy league.

          That is, the Jays are open to trading Halladay, while the O’s are not open to trading Jones and Markakis, two of the pillars they are building around. The O’s system has a lot of pitching prospects they are counting on.

          And, if you were going to try and overwhelm the O’s to get them to give up a guy they don’t want to trade (and, financially, don’t have to trade), how would you do that without including Joba or Phil?

          You have to look at it from the O’s GM’s point of view. Sure, as Yankee fans, we’d love Jones or Markakis, but why would the O’s want to trade one of them? And why, in a million years, would they part with a young star for second-rate prospects? Makes no sense.

          • D says:

            No, I totally understand the O’s point of view. They don’t need or want to trade either player.

            All I am saying is that if the Yanks are willing to trade rising stars for someone like Halladay, then why not do it for a player who will give you more years. Halladay is a short term solution, and we’ve been burned too many times in the past 6-7 years by this type of trade/acquisition.

            • I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

              I understand your question. It seems you don’t want to hear the answer, which is that they can’t, because the guys aren’t available.

              That’s like saying, “The Yanks are willing to trade mid-level prospects for a bullpen arm, why not trade them for Pujols.” It’s because it’s not possible.

              Also, who says the Yanks are willing to trade high-end prospects for Halladay? We don’t know, but all evidence points to the idea that they are not.

              You started this all out by writing:

              “…but is it possible that we could give up one or two pitching prospects (not named Phil and Joba) and Melky for one of those two?”

              The answer is, no, it’s not even close to possible, because the O’s might not trade Jones or Markakis even if we included Phil or Joba. And they certainly have no reason at all to accept our second-rate guys and a 4th outfielder (Melky) for a young star.

    • UWS says:

      Are you crazy? Markakis and Jones are stars in the making, why on earth would the O’s trade them for anyone, let alone someone not named Phil or Joba?!

  25. JohnnyC says:

    Jones or Markakis? I say we aim higher. Pujols or bust!

    • I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

      I’m sure we could get him for Melky and IPK.

      • JohnnyC says:

        Cashman’s not doing his due dilgence if he doesn’t get on this right away. If they throw in Carpenter, we could throw in Edwar. We shouldn’t have DFA’s Tomko so soon.

        • I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

          Rest easy, JohnnyC. When you designate a player for assignment, that means he comes off your 40-man, but you have ten days to trade him.

  26. Tony says:

    Melky benefits from a lot of assumed skills, simply because we know he can’t hit. First it was that he’s an “incredible center fielder.” Then then was an undertow of “he’s fast,” and most recently it has been that he’s clutch. In reality he’s a sub-mediocre player that received a lifetime Yankee Pass™ from some people simply because he was 21 when he came up and has a servicable nickname.

    This actually bodes well for AJax.

  27. RollingWave says:


    BABIP by month

    April : .324
    May : .356
    June : .242
    July : .222

    K/BB by month

    April : 8/6 (55 PA)
    May : 11/4 (91 PA)
    June : 14/11 (94 PA)
    July : 4/4 (54)

    It’s more of a luck realignment than anything else. your never as good as you look when your hot and never as bad as you look when your cold. looking at the underlying numbers it’s hard to suggest either April May were gigantic flukes (not really, though there were some BABIP luck in it) nor June / July as his true talent level (it’s not.)

    his true talent level is about what the 4 month add up to be. he’s streaky. a player like this have value (because contrary to popular believe, many players actually end up being below replacement level. and Melky isn’t even replacement level this year. he’s significantly better), and a player at this age have at least some chance of improving. unless your getting a pretty intriguging prospect back, I don’t see why anyone would want to harp on trading him . since he isn’t really the center piece of any deal for a good player. trading him for random relievers / junks isn’t actually going to help the team.

  28. I’m assuming the Yankees’ chances for getting Mike Cameron are nil now, right? The Crew is only 2 games above .500, but they’re only 2.0 games out. Dammit. Oh well. Maybe Cameron can suit up for the ‘Stripes next year like I proposed yesterday.

    • Rob in CT says:

      Mike Cameron was having a nice year last I looked, but isn’t he 35? I dunno if I’d want to sign a 36 year old CFer next season, and I definitely wouldn’t want to do it if it took more than a 1-year deal.

  29. Bo says:

    I don’t think anything gets Kabak off more than writing a Melky may be dying post. Maybe something bashing the stadium.

  30. craig stanford says:

    I no Melky fan, but if you compare his stats this season to those of Bernie Williams at the same age (24), they’re strikingly similar. Melky came up very young and has yet to post big numbers…..but Bernie didn’t post his first season numbers until he was 25……

  31. [...] Melky had his typical hot start and has since started fading. Benjamin Kabak at River Avenue Blues touched on this earlier today. Brett Gardner was pleasantly surprising with the bat earlier in the season, but he has since [...]

  32. [...] we had some concerns about Melky playing full-time with Brett Gardner injured, the Melk man has really stepped up of late. Since Gardner’s thumb [...]

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