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.