It’s no secret around here that I am not the biggest fan of Melky Cabrera. Never regarded as one of the Yankees’ top prospects, Melky had a surprising 2006 at the age of 21 and then backed into the center field job in 2007 when it became clear that Johnny Damon was better suited to left field. Cabrera hasn’t been able to replicate his 2006 numbers, and while it appeared as though 2009 would be his year, a recent slide has pushed his numbers below league average.
A few weeks ago, on Aug. 2, Melky hit for the cycle against the White Sox, and his OPS hit .819, a two-month high for him. With Brett Gardner on the shelf, Melky had no competition for the center field job, and the Yankees really needed him to step up his offensive game. The opposite has happened.
Since hitting for the cycle, Melky’s bat has gone silent. Over his last 56 plate appearances spanning 13 games, Melky is 6 for 52 (.115) with a .161 on-base percentage and a .173 slugging percentage. He has had but one day off during that stretch and is currently 1 for his last 20.
This slump though extends beyond the big cycle. Since Brett Gardner went on the disabled list on July 26, Melky Cabrera has ceased hitting. Even with that cycle, he’s at .200/.261/.375 over his last 88 plate appearances. This line or argument makes for a great narrative. Melky Cabrera cannot be a productive hitter unless someone nearly as good — or as bad — as he is breathing down his neck. With Brett Gardner, Cabrera is the Good Melky; without, he’s the Bad Melky.
The only problem — as Joe explained recently — is that narratives generally aren’t true. Right now, Melky is simply undergoing a market correction in a very short period of time. Coming into 2009, Melky Cabrera had career averages of .268/.329/.374 with an OPS+ of 84. He’s been an under-average player on a team that has been able to mask this offensive deficiency.
With this recent slump, Melky is now hitting .266/.327/.420. Outside of the .026 difference in slugging, those numbers are nearly identical to Melky’s career line, and yet again, I am left wondering if Melky Cabrera is simply a 90 OPS+ guy with a good arm who shouldn’t be a starting outfielder on the New York Yankees.
I want Melky to be a good hitter. I want him to be the Melky we saw through the end of May with an .850 OPS and some power. But every year, Melky goes through a tailspin slump, and his numbers end up where they always are, below average and disappointing.