Melky Cabrera

Melky Cabrera Statistics and History –

To get one thing out of the way, Yankee fans are idiots. Anyone who thinks that trading this guy for a Cy Young candidate hurt their ballclub needs professional help.

Melky (shorter to type and a better search term than “Cabrera”, as well as a first name that sounds slightly derogatory) is a tools guy from the Dominican who signed with the Yankees in 2001. The Yankees gave him a callup in 2005 after he hit .269/.319/.402 between AA and AAA. That a 20 year old did that is good evidence that he’s a prospect, but an outfielder who hits that is not ready for the major leagues. Nonetheless, he was in the majors for the majority of the 2006 season, hitting .280 but with no power, and up for good in 2007.

Cabrera had a bad year in 2008, hitting only .249 and seeing a second straight dive in his walk rate, but rebounded in 2009. Like a lot of Yankees, he took advantage of the bandbox that replaced Yankee Stadium, hitting nine of his career-high thirteen homers at home. However, his home-road splits are fairly close and less than most players’, I’d guess. He also hit righthanders almost as well as lefthanders for the first time. These are signs that he might be turning the corner into being a useful player, but he was rushed, and the Yankees, with their nigh-unlimited resources, didn’t have to do that.

Reports of his defense differ, but the consensus is that he’s basically a tweener, good enough in a corner but without the bat for one, and not really a centerfielder. The Yankees tended to push him to a corner in 2009, with Brett Gardner playing center… Joins Diaz and McLouth on the Braves’ list of pick-a-spot basestealers; he’s not a big amasser of steals but is 44 of 58 for his career and was ten of twelve last year.

Interesting group of comps. The most similar hitter, through age 24, is Curt Flood, which is probably right… but those numbers were a lot more impressive in Flood’s time, and Flood was a transcendent centerfielder, which even Melky’s boosters won’t claim for him. Second is a New York binky of a previous decade, Lee Mazzilli, who never turned into the player he was supposed to. But third is Johnny Damon. It’s the chance of him turning into Damon that makes him interesting.

57 thoughts on “Melky Cabrera”

  1. So, sounds like we shouldn’t be ready to write him off *completely* just yet.

    When did Damon come up to stay? And for the stats gurus, how did he compare to Melky for those years?

  2. Thanks for the insight, Stu. Belin sounds excellent. I am excited about his special teams experience.

  3. The scouting report on Melky Cabrera:

    Assets: A consistent switch-hitter from both sides of the plate, he lines the ball into the gaps with regularity. Is an outstanding defensive center-fielder.

    Flaws: Has only average power and speed. Needs to become a little more assertive at the plate in order to become a more productive hitter.

    Career potential: A solid starting center-fielder.

    I’m not sure if I agree with most of this so lets just break it down. Cabrera played in 154 games last season but was utilized in all three outfield spots. Cabrera saw the most action in CF, starting 97 games in CF for the Bronx Bombers while splitting the rest between LF and RF.

    His splits as a switch hitter are fairly even. Cabrera sports a career .275 BA vs. lefties and .255 against right handers. But he hits for more power from the left side. His OPS splits: .730/.680

    As for being a starter, I think Cabrera’s value lies more in his versatility as he switch hits, plays the entire outfield and can bat at the top or bottom of the Braves batting order, but lacks the skill set to steal bases with regularity.

  4. melky cabrera is not an outstanding defensive center fielder. whoever gave you that scouting report cant read stats.

    as for melky…bleh. what does he provide?]
    damon comparion:
    through 24:
    damon:.275avg .330obp .735ops +89ops 74sb 27cs
    melky:.270avg .332obp .718 88 +88ops 44sb 14cs

    pretty similar…i still dont like melky.

  5. whoever gave you that scouting report cant read stats.

    That has not stopped anyone from telling several whoppers I have read ’round here.

  6. Does anyone who goes to Orlando to Braves camp frequently know of any ways to cheaply lodge for a few days (aside from the Roach Motel)?

  7. Nice assessment of Melky. With respect to the comparions with Damon, I would rather have young Melky than the declining Damon. I recognize, of course, that we might wind up with both….

  8. If you could get Damon for 6 (obviously not today, but maybe soon) and move Melky for something useful, you’d only be adding 3M to the bottom line, and vastly improving your OF situation. Short porch or no, Damon had an 827 road OPS last year. If Heyward makes the team, Diaz/Damon would be a terrific platoon. If not, you could hang on to Melky as a 4th OF. It just makes too much sense for it to happen though.

  9. No way the Yankees would move a genuinely outstanding outfielder out of center. Playing all three spots is evidence that he is not a great defensive player.

  10. Also, since Ryan is so dependent on numbers rather than the naked eye, compare Cabrera to McLouth.

    Fielding percentage, McLouth .992 Cabrera .990

    Range factor per 9 innings, McLouth 2.45 Cabrera 2.47

    Range factor per game, McLouth 2.17 Cabrera 2.26

    League fielding percentage, McLouth .985 Cabrera .987

    League range factor per 9 innings, McLouth 2.22 Cabrera 2.31

    League range factor per game, McLouth 1.91 Cabrera 2.01

    Of course Nate McLouth won a gold glove (which he didn’t deserve) but the two players are very similar as the numbers attest. Both are very good defenders, and I’m happy as hell that Frank Wren is making an effort to shore up the Braves defense.

  11. 15, then remember your comment when Cabrera plays CF for our Braves in 2010, and no the Yankees didn’t move Cabrera out of CF. He played primarily in CF and backed up in LF and RF :)

  12. Seeing is believing:

    Agreed. And if you watch all of his play, not just the odd cherry picked highlight, this is what you get:

    Career UZR
    LF 3.9
    CF -13.5
    RF 0.9
    Total -8.7

    LF 4.0
    CF -5.9
    RF 3.8
    Total -2.4

    There won’t be any changing of minds already made up on the matter, and certainly UZR has it’s limitations, but I ain’t the only one who sees Melky as merely an “adequate defender” at best, and this is coming from folks who have “seen” Melky far more than I or anyone else here has I suspect:

    And if Melky had a prayer of hitting as well as McClouth, there’d be far more tolerance of his defense.

  13. Further, as was mentioned in one of the articles “While he’s been decent according to UZR this season (+3.1/150) [in 2009], in 2007, when he had the most playing time, he was dreadful (-10.7)”

  14. Spike, a player’s one-year UZR is not a good measure of his true talent level as a fielder, nor is it a good predictor of future performance.

  15. The career numbers are right above, coach, and don’t support any notion of an above average defender. And yes, a one year UZR sample isn’t enough to make broad statements, but the idea that his numbers declined drastically the one year he got the most starts certainly doesn’t help your case.

  16. coach,
    challenge: find a scouting report, other than your own, that says melky cabrera is an above average defensive centerfielder. a current one. not one from 5 years ago that is projecting him to be an above average defensive centerfielder.

    and when did mclouth become part of the argument? what does that prove? does comparing two average hamburgers make one an amazing hamburger because it’s slightly better than the other? no, it’s still average.

  17. Melky actually played more innings in center last year (806.1) than Gardner (628.2). So while they did move him around, they also clearly must have thought he deserved a lot of time in center.

  18. That only proves that Gardner is better than Melky, not that Melky is bad. Brett Gardner is a very, very good defensive centerfielder. Next year Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury will both play in the same outfield, and one of them will be in a corner. Does that mean one of them is a bad defensive centerfielder?

  19. The vast majority of Yankee fans realize that they got the best of the Javy/Melky deal.

    Melky was just a fave because he was homegrown.

    BTW, how ’bout them Dawgs?

  20. Well if a Canadian website describes him as above average, I guess it’s settled then. Although I do find it amusing that you rely on “naked eyes” when it suits you, and dismiss it when it doesn’t, i.e. McClouth’s gold glove. Tautology, thy name is “Coach”.

  21. @25,

    Ellsbury career UZR/150 in center = -10.6
    Ellsbury 2009 UZR in center = -18.6

    The sox would be stupid to not play cameron solely in CF.

  22. seriously, coach? that’s your source? and furthermore, why do you feel it necessary to personally insult someone who disagrees with you?

  23. Ryan, you know the routine. He insults people if they disagree with him. If you don’t like it, don’t respond to him.

  24. What a coincidence: Bruce Pearl has reinstated Brian Williams the week of the Vandy and UK games.

    Anybody watching the Caribbean Series? Pitching is, er, interesting, but the middle-infield defense is spectacular.

    Hitting? Meh …

    It’s stylistically different than MLB, but I can’t put my finger on exactly how.

    I’d love to see a compare / contrast of MLB / Caribbean / Japanese approach to baseball. Has anyone ever seen such an article?

  25. you’re right, rob, but i got to get one more in…

    from multiple sources and not from the “naked eye”…

    “The Milkman has been up-and-down, defensively. While he’s been decent according to UZR his season (+3.1/150), in 2007, when he had the most playing time, he was dreadful (-10.7). The Fans Scouting Report is even less enthusiatic, having him at -4.8, -2.4, -2.7, and -8.0 (2006-2009) according to my “translations.” So it’s a mixed bad. Altogether, he projects as a -2/162 defender in CF for next season.”

  26. @31, The point isn’t who is better in center, but that both are capable. (Maybe Ellsbury isn’t the best example, because his defense is also something of a question. UZR says he wasn’t good last year, though with his history it would be stupid to write him off based on UZR alone. Plus/Minus rates him much better. Take a look at for an interesting take on his defense.)

  27. If you’re trying to decide who would be the better option in center, then I think you’re going about it the wrong way. First off, the alignment of Diaz/Heyward/McLouth/Cabrera really isn’t going to matter much, unless you were to put Diaz or Heyward in center. But with that said, if you have Diaz or Heyward in right, it’s going to boil down to who has the better range to his left between McLouth or Cabrera.

    The problem with stats like Range Factor and Zone Rating is it assumes that players’ range exists in a perfect circle, meaning they can get to balls to their left, right, in front of them and behind them at the same rate. Obviously the biggest disparity exists with balls hit in front of you and behind you, but some guys don’t get to balls to their left and right at the same level. So, it comes down to the naked eye of determining who is going to get to the balls that Heyward/Diaz can’t get to easier. Since McLouth is a righty, I would say that he’s going to have the biggest advantage since he’s going to have at least a foot extra of range because of his glove side being on the right field side. But if Cabrera has better range to his left, then you have to entertain that idea. If UZR is being used to align our outfield, then I’ll be a little worried.

  28. do the UZR ratings also factor in the parks they play in? I mean there is a huge difference in playing most of your games at Yankee Stadium compared to big OF’s such as Citi, Coors, or in SD. Im just wondering if he’s showing a positve UZR rating at Yankee Stadium if that would change by him moving to a different/bigger park

  29. I’ll go Colts 31, Saints 27.

    No preference on the game, really. I like Peyton & I wouldn’t mind seeing his legacy include 2 SBs, but a part of me is rooting for New Orleans.

    Given its musical history & recent tough times, it’s hard not to root for that town.

  30. I asked a question on John Sickels’s most recent All Questions Answered thread.

    Question: The Braves obviously don’t have much positional depth beyond Jason Heyward. Your top 3 were Jordan Schafer, Freddie Freeman, and Mycal Jones — for each, can you indicate whether that player will turn into a star, a regular, or a bench player?

    Answer: Schafer….my guess is that he becomes a really good fourth outfielder or an average regular.
    Freeman: slightly above average first baseman
    Jones: too early to say, just in rookie ball. Has physical talent to be a regular but also a high failure possiblity.

  31. Caldwell is getting outcoached like few in recent memory.

    You have Peyton Manning. How the hell do you go all Rich Brooks with 1:50 to go in the half?

  32. This has been (1) an uncommonly clean game, with very few mistakes on either side, and (2) the ultimate expression of the West Coast Offense, short passing, style of football. Frankly, I’m not sure that the latter is a good thing.

  33. The most important thing to come out of that game, other than me winning money, is that this edition of America’s Game will have more of a story to it.

  34. Fangraphs just released a new “splits” tab. It’s pretty handy; you can use it for all of their advanced stats.

    I remember a while back that someone in the Chipper write-up thread was curious about Chipper’s “(vs.)R/(vs.)L” LD% split; I checked it out and it’s 20.6% and 18.8%, respectively. That same split for ISO is .125 and .252, though. That’s a huge ISO split.

    And wow, I can’t believe the Saints won. That’s pretty cool.

  35. @46 – I agree. The dink and dunk passing game just doesn’t excite me. Its the main reason I watch little pro football.

    Did watch the Super Bowl. The game was better than the commercials IMHO. Pulled for the Colts because I like Peyton Manning but just as glad that the Saints won. Sean Payton should get lots of props for playing balls out football on both sides of the ball, the way it should be done.

  36. if you havent lived in the new orleans area, you just can’t understand what that victory meant for the city. the emotion, in the players, was transferred to them by the fans. it’s a great city that needed something like this to complete a mental rebuild in the minds of the new orleanians.

    cheers to a victory that mean so much more.

  37. Good for New Orleans. Every once in a blue moon, the universe allows justice to prevail.

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