Posts like this always open with an admission of our collective position on Melky Cabrera, as if it needed restating. It is plainly clear that we don’t like Melky as the everyday center fielder. He has had his high points, but the lows are abominable. It is best to have someone else sharing time with him out there, which is why Brett Gardner is an important component to this team. When Melky’s going badly, Gardner can step in and at least lend his speed.
The latest Melky complaint came on August 18. On August 2 he had hit for the cycle, and in the subsequent 56 plate appearances took a nosedive, hitting .115/.161/.173. Small sample or not, it was a terrible stretch in which the Yankees essentially had a pitcher in the ninth slot. Worst of all, Gardner was still on the disabled list, so there were few options to spell Melky. Jerry Hairston got some games out there, but not with any frequency. It was clear the Yankees were going to ride out Melky’s slump.
That appears to have been the right move. Melky has surged since the 19th, hitting .348/.392/.464 in 75 plate appearances. The greatest part of his onslaught has come in September, where he boasts a .419/.471/.581 line in 34 plate appearances. His slump is over, and with the return of Brett Gardner, perhaps the Yankees can stave off another one before the end of the season.
It would be foolish to think that Melky will avoid another slump like the one he experienced in August (.223/.364/.350). He’s had the up-and-down syndrome from month to month since 2007. It makes for an incredibly deep lineup some months, when he can hit (but not run) like Curtis Granderson. It also makes for a short lineup other months, where he hits like Willie Bloomquist. That’s what makes the Melky experience so frustrating at times. We’ve seen him do so much better.
There’s certainly hope for Melky’s future. He’s only 24 years old and has had to learn on the fly at the major league level. When he’s bad he’s really bad, but when he’s good he can be an above average center fielder. Just look at his numbers in July. Over 86 plate appearances he was .289/.372/.447, and his BABIP was only .290. In April it was .324, and in May, when he had a totally acceptable .777 OPS, it was .356. It obviously dropped in his down months, but he did have a good month with an average BABIP. I don’t think anyone would complain if Melky started hitting .289/.372/.447 every season.
Every player streaks and slumps. It’s part of the game. But not every player has a hot month followed by a month-long drought. Not every player puts. up a .819 OPS one month and then follows it up with .613 the next. Over the years we’ve seen Melky develop his game a bit, mostly his power. The next step in his development will be to even out some of this streakiness. If he can avoid the sub-.700 OPS months, he’ll have a place on this team for quite some time. But if he continues to streak and slump in the manner he has over the past three years, it’s going to make for a rough ride in the future.