This guest post is by Jim Johnson, formerly of Bronx Block.
Let’s look at the road Melky Cabrera has taken in his young career.
- In 2005, he was brought up for a bit and embarrassed himself.
- In 2006, he filled some holes when some injuries hit the team and out-performed expectations while playing most of the year.
- In 2007, he became the starting center fielder early in the season. However, he did not take a major step forward in his development as one would have hoped.
- As of 2008, Melky has made center field his own and his performance is fairly positive.
2007 was a troubling year for Melky. While playing in 20 more games and collecting 85 more at-bats than in 2006, his average dropped 7 points, his slugging remained the same, and his on-base percentage dropped a hefty 33 points. He stuck out more and walked less. This is not what anyone in the Yankee organization wanted to see. Melky has drawn comparisons to Bernie Williams and Carlos Beltran at the same point in their careers. Now, I don’t think that anyone truly believes that Melky can match Williams or Beltran in terms of talent, but the comparisons are there.
2008 is going to be a very important year for both Melky Cabrera and the Yankees. How Melky performs this year could set events in motion that could reverberate thought the entire Yankee organization. There are two possible scenarios. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that the below come true.
- Brett Gardner continues to develop as hoped and is ready to become the 4th outfielder on the Major League club in 2009.
- Austin Jackson continues to develop as hoped and is ready to contribute to the Major League club mid-2009 and be the starting center fielder in 2010.
- Jose Tabata continues to develop as hoped and is ready to contribute to the Major League club mid-2010 and be a starting corner outfielder in 2011.
If we assume that those 3 prospects work out as planned (which may or may not be a stretch), there are two ways this could all play out:
Melky Cabrera improves on his plate discipline in 2008, increases his power numbers, and finishes with a batting average over .300. The Yankees decides that his potential is legit and decide that he has a long-term role with the team. With RF open due to the departing of Bobby Abreu, the Yankees decide to slide either Cabrera or Brett Garnder to RF until Austin Jackson is ready to make the jump to the majors. From then on, Gardner can slide into the role of 4th outfielder and pinch runner. The organization continues to develop Tabata and will decide which corner of the outfield to slot him into.
Backtrack to 2009. With Bobby Abreu departing and Melky moving to RF, there will be a heavy offensive drop-off. The Yankees will see an offensive reduction from C, SS, CF, RF, and potentially LF and DH. By losing their 3rd place hitter and replacing him with a bottom-of-the-order hitter, the Yankees will probably go out and sign Mark Teixeira to a hefty 7-year deal. Teixeira will be 29 at the start of the 2009 season and is a switch hitting first baseman with a .290 Avg / 30 HR / 100 RBI bat. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner and two-time Silver Slugger winner.
With the need for offense, Teixeria will be able to name his price. By the end of the contract, much as we see with Jason Giambi, Yankee fans may be grumbling that they have better 1B options sitting on the bench because of the money the starting guy makes. Also, the deal with probably keep Jorge Posada behind the plate for an extra year than he would have otherwise. I see Posada as a C/1B/DH in year 3 of 4 and a DH in year 4 of 4. Teixeira’s signing will block 1B for Posada, possible Jesus Montero and, of course, Derek Jeter. With a full outfield and 1B tied up for the foreseeable future, Jeter may not have a place to move in 2011 when he signs his new deal. He’ll either have to remain at shortstop (yikes) or take up the very valuable DH position.
Montero might even be dangled as trade bait if one or more of the trio of young starts the Yankees have do not work out. With the signing of Teixeira, the Yankees may not be willing to shell out the kind of money that C.C. Sabathia will be commanding, no stadium or not.
Shelley Duncan will have no place on this team, either.
Melky Cabrera puts up another 2007 and looks more like a back-of-the-order bat instead of a front-of-the-order bat. The decision will be made to overpay Bobby Abreu to re-sign for 2 years instead of the 3 that he could get elsewhere. Melky will remain the starting CF in 2009 but will split a little time with new 4th outfielder Brett Garnder. There is little doubt that Melky is keeping the spot warm for Austin Jackon. Once Jackson gets called up later in the season, Melky will begin to get moved around the outfield a bit. In 2010, the Yankees decide to go with their center fielder of the future and Melky becomes expendable.
There are several ways the Yankees could go after this. With Bobby still with the team, the Yankees may not be so eager to sign Teixeira to big bucks. They may prefer to hand the role to Shelley Ducan and/or Juan Miranda with an occasional start by Posada or even Damon. The future of 1B could fall in the lap of Derek Jeter or Jesus Montero.
The success of Hughes/Joba/Kennedy coupled with Cashman’s salesmanship and the status of whatever Hank had for dinner last night will have a factor on whether or not the Yankees will make a play for C.C. Sabathia. Actually, I think the biggest factor in this decision may be how Joba the Starter looks in late 2008 vs. how Joba the Reliever looked in early 2008/late 2007. Everyone in their right mind wants him in the rotation, but the combination of him shortening games, Mariano’s aging, the availability of a big-time lefty starter the sudden abundance of available money may swing this decision in the other direction.
If Melky does not take a significant step forward in 2008, I see him being shipped off to another franchise within 2 years. The Yankees have 2 star-caliber outfield prospects coming up and another who is a perfect 4th outfielder or bottom-of-the-order hitter. Granted, these decisions could be affected by the 2008 performances of Tabata and Jackson nearly as much, but for the time being, Melky’s destiny rests in his own hands. A significant part of the Yankee roster going forward could be shaped by how much improvement the Yankees see in their 9th place hitter in 2008.
Melky image from flickr user phillenium1979 under a Creative Commons license.
At the outset of the season we announced our plan to raise money for The Jorge Posada Foundation with The Big Three K’s Craniosynostosis Pledge Drive, where readers pledge a certain amount of money for each strikeout recorded by Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy. The response we received was better than I expected: 24 pledges totaling $4.94 per strikeout.
Even though The Big Three haven’t performed as well as we hoped, they’ve still helped us raise $266.49. We’re on pace to pull in over $980 over the course of the season, and obviously we all hope Phil, Joba & IPK right their respective ships and make that number even bigger.
If you haven’t already pledged, please consider doing so. We’re very flexible about this and can start your pledge today, retroactive to the start of the season, any time really. You set the terms and everyone wins. Whether you think the Yanks should traded for Santana or not, we can all agree that this is for a good cause. Shoot me a line at mike (at) riveraveblues (dot) com, stick Pledge Drive in the subject line, and we’ll get you all set up.
While we had a good laugh over the Jason Giambi thong story on Friday, it turns out that Portfolio’s piece was another example of subpar journalism. PeteAbe says that the thong story is nothing new, and Jason Giambi said that the Portfolio reporter never attempted to interview him for the piece. So much for journalistic standards. · (5) ·
Is there anything worse than watching a Yankee game where the team looks terrible, they’re losing badly and Joe Morgan is one of the announcers? I had trouble refraining from chucking my remote control through the TV as Morgan spouted out wrong information and general inanities for nine innings.
The stupidity reached a high point though during the disastrous top of the fourth. When Carlos Delgado lined a foul ball/home run down the left field line and the umpires overruled a call that was probably correct in the first place, Joe Morgan said that the disputed nature of the call and the unclear conclusion offered by the instant replay was exactly why instant replay shouldn’t be instituted in baseball. And that, folks, is Emmy-award winning baseball coverage from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
In fact, Delgado’s home run was exactly why baseball needs instant replay. I’ve written passingly about instant replay in the distant (blogging) past. Basically, MLB should institute a form of instant replay review like the NFL. It’s not too hard to figure out how, and with even the umpires admitting they erred, it would be really easy to fix this problem.
Here’s my proposal: Instant replay should be available for plays that could lend themselves to controversy. That includes tag plays, home run calls and runners tagging up on fly balls. Instant replay review can be initiated by each team, say, once or twice during a game, and the umpires can choose to consult the video as well if they can’t agree on a call. Much like in the NFL, the ruling on the field should be the default, and it should be overturned only if video evidence is conclusive enough to warrant it.
In tonight’s game, then, since, as Morgan noted, video evidence wasn’t obvious, then the call stands as a home run. That was probably the right call anyway.
Through this system, you won’t see managers challenging balls and strikes calls, and I’m happy to leave force plays up to the umpires. Tags and foul ball/home run calls are wrong way more often than force plays at a base.
The technology exists to perfect these calls, and there’s no reason for MLB to delay implementing instant replay. We’ve seen far too many bad calls in very prominent situations. Shouldn’t getting it right trump any sense of tradition? We have QuesTec; why not instant replay?
Anyway, I’m not going to harp on the game too much. The Yanks are a mess, and hopefully, A-Rod‘s return and a three-game set against the Orioles can spark something of a resurgence. It’s still early, and the Yanks just have more talent than a last-place, 20-24 team. I know things will get better. They can’t get much worse.
Chad Jennings says Jeff Karstens will make the start for Triple-A Scranton tomorrow. Karstens is the model AAAA pitcher; he destroys minor leaguers (3.48 minor league ERA) but get’s destroyed by big leaguers (80 career ERA+). If nothing else, at least he’s another option.
In completed unrelated news, Mike A. prospect crush Hall of Famer Michael Aubrey was recently called up by the Indians and picked up his first career hit today when he took Edison Volquez deep. Congrats on first career knock and jack Mikey, hope the back’s doing well.
Game 1 (7-1 loss to Pawtucket in 7 innings)
Brett Gardner, Justin Christian & Jason Lane (aka the 1-2-3 hitters) combined 0 for 10 – Christian drove in a run & K’ed
Juan Miranda: 1 for 2, 1 2B, 1 BB
Greg Porter & Chris Stewart: combined 2 for 3 – Stewart scored a run & K’ed
Bernie Castro: 1 for 3, 1 SB
Steven White: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 HB, 5-5 GB/FB – 42 of 75 pitches were strikes (56%)
David Robertson: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 36 K in 28 IP
JB Cox: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB
It’s cloudy and cool in New York. While this afternoon’s rain storms have let up for a bit, showers are supposed to return this evening, but the House that Ruth Built will host a baseball game tonight as the New York teams wrap up round two of the six-round Subway Series. (Shameless plug alert.)
For the Yankees, today is thankfully the last day of the A-Rod Disabled List stint. If his value to the team isn’t apparent after this terrible stretch of baseball, then you haven’t been paying much attention. Right now, I’d have to believe that Morgan Ensberg may be witnessing his last game in a Yankee uniform. His stint in New York was a good idea; it just hasn’t panned out, and Alberto Gonzalez is a much better fit for this team going forward than Ensberg is.
The Yanks, oh so terrible against lefties, face yet another southpaw tonight as Oliver Perez takes the mound of the Mets. As a team, the Yanks have never really hit Perez, and on the season, they are hitting .232/.303/.333 against lefties. As Ed Price relates, the Yanks are 1-6 vs. lefty starters since A-Rod hit the DL. Chien-Ming Wang better bring his A game to the Bronx tonight.
Game time is 8:05, and we’re stuck with the All Star broadcasting team of Joe Morgan and Jon Miller.
As the Yankees — without Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez‘s anchoring the middle of their lineup — struggle to score runs, the team has come to rely upon their starting pitching to keep them in games. While the back end of the rotation has been in flux, Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina have so far done their jobs and both lead the team with six wins. Where the Yanks’ pitching has faltered, however, has been with Andy Pettitte.
Over his last five starts — a period of time that seems to correspond with the Yanks’ less-than-stellar hitting — Pettitte has not been his reliable self. He’s put together a truly forgettable stretch of pitching. Over 27.1 innings, he’s given up 35 hits, five of them home runs, and nine walks while striking out 24. He’s 0-4 over that span with a 6.26 ERA. Yesterday’s Pettitte effort counts as a Quality Start, but he’s probably just as unhappy as the rest of us were with his forcing in a run by walking the Mets’ number eight hitter with two outs.
During this stretch of time, opponents are hitting .315 off Pettitte with a .372 OBP and a .477 slugging. Basically, with Pettitte on the hill, opposing hitters are putting up Magglio Ordoñez-like numbers. That’s not going to lead to many Yankee wins.
For Pettitte right now, the key stat seems to be the batting average on balls in play or BABIP. Over the course of the season, Pettitte’s BABIP is .333 while a pitcher will, on average, see a BABIP of .290. For the Yankees, this is good news. Luck dictates that Pettitte will stop giving up so many hits at some point soon. He’s bound to regress to his career mean and become a more effective pitcher.
But at the same time, Pettitte’s defensive-dependent pitching numbers raise something of a red flag. His line drive numbers are down this year and his fly ball numbers are down this year but he’s giving up many more groundballs — 53.3 percent of all balls put in play this year compared to 47.7 percent last year — than he has in the past. The Yankee defense, then, isn’t doing a very good job of turning the ground balls Pettitte is surrendering into outs.
Something has to give here, and it will. Petttitte’s BABIP will decline, and the Yanks will hopefully grab a few more batted balls. The team certainly needs Pettitte to be more effective than he’s been over the last month. The success of their starting pitching depends on it.
I find myself with two extra tickets to this Thursday’s game between the Yankees and the Orioles. The seats are excellent — Tier Reserve Section 4, Row N — and all I want is to cover what I paid for them. So this pair can be yours for $32 total. E-mail me at the address at right, and it’s first come, first serve. · (5) ·
PeteAbe brings the good news. A-Rod mashed in a simulate game today (?), but more importantly he took 54 grounders of varying degrees of difficulty at the hot corner, and ran in the outfield without incident. “It’s the best I’ve felt since the injury,” Rodriguez said. Yes, A-Rod wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball before the injury, but the Yanks have scored 2 or fewer runs in 6 of 14 games this month. Getting the cleanup hitter back and healthy is better than any trade acquisition could ever be. · (16) ·
Triple-A Scranton was rained out, they’ll play two tomorrow.
Double-A Trenton (4-3 win over New Hampshire)
Ramiro Pena: 1 for 5, 2 K
Austin Jackson: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K – threw a runner out at second from CF … 3 XBH (2 doubles & a jack) in the past 2 days
Colin Curtis & Kevin Russo: both 2 for 4, 1 2B – Russo also tripled & drove in 2
Edwar Gonzalez, Jose Tabata & Reegie Corona: all 1 for 4 – Tabata scored a run & K’ed … Corona K’ed twice
PJ Pilittere: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
George Kontos: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 4-3 GB/FB
Zach Kroenke: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 3-1 GB/FB – southpaw is holding righties to a .148 avg, lefties to .250
Mike Gardner: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 4-0 GB/FB – he’s been a 2 inning closer all season