Braves 2010 Season in Review: Melky Cabrera

Melky Cabrera became an Atlanta Brave on December 23rd, 2009, when the Braves traded free-agent-to-be SP Javier Vazquez, RP Boone Logan and Mr. Cash, for him, RP Mike Dunn and heralded prospect, SP Arodys Vizcaino.  At first blush, naturally, I was disappointed that the Braves were unable to move Derek Lowe instead, but it seemed like it was a forlorn conclusion that Javier Vazquez would have to be moved.  But then going into the regular season, I felt a little optimistic about Cabrera, despite the frightening comparisons to Jeff Francoeur, because I felt that Cabrera brought some intangible, winner's mentality to the Braves, having been a contributor to the recent World Champion Yankees just a year prior.  That, and I actually did really like Melky's ability to take pitches (3.71 pitches/PA) for a team that needed some patience.

As much as I want to make a snide remark that maybe my modest expectations were still too high, based on the numbers, it's hard to say that he had the year that was to the magnitude of the endless abyss some people have made it out to be.

Offense:

Across the board, Melky Cabrera was statistically worse in almost every offensive category, in comparison to his career numbers.  Some stats, raise the question of how much leeway is to be given based on being in a typical Yankees line-up (a stacked one), how much New Yankee Stadium may have helped some of his offensive production, and the ever-popular "adjusting to a new league" syndrome effected his output.  But there's no denying that in this results-driven occupation, that Melky Cabrera was vastly underwhelming on the offensive side of the game.

His slash line of .255/.317/.354 was entirely below his career median of .269/.331/.385 prior to arriving in Atlanta.  His platoon splits versus RHPs was slightly better, but still below his career averages.  Melky only hit four rally killers for the Braves, while he averaged 9HR a year for the Yankees, raising a little suspicion of the home field there.  Overall, his power was unimpressive, but we all knew that going into '10, but it should be noted that he still had down years in slugging and ISO, at .354 and .098 respectively, with the former still being better than teammate Rick Ankiel's, due to his ability to hit doubles.

Melky's 42 walks was about in line with his prior average of 43 walks a year, but at an 8.3% BB%, that was a slight improvement from his career average.  Hey, with so little good, you have to accentuate the upsides, as small as they may be.  Surprisingly, Melky actually led the team in one statistic - intentional walks.  With 11 iBBs, Melky leads the team in that department, but it should come as no surprise, considering he had 193 plate appearances from the 8th spot in the batting order - in front of the pitcher.  Unfortunately, his slight improvement in taking walks could be negated by his career-worst-tying 14% K rate.  When he was able to make contact with the ball, his LD% and GB% were both lower than his career averages, but he did have a little spike in FB% - unfortunately, too many were of the lazy variety, and all of the aforementioned numbers resulted in a slightly degraded BABIP for the year.

But the worst would be Melky's inability to deliver when it counted.  He batted .179 with RISP and 2 outs, and an overall .215 with any RISP at all. Compared to his career numbers of .221 RISP/2outs and .260 RISP, Melky discovered a taste for LOBster in his year with the Braves.

Defense:

One of the good things about Melky Cabrera was his ability to be able to play all three outfield spots.  However, playing them well was a completely different story.  MVP played at least 25 games in every outfield spot, and in every outfield spot, he posted a negative UZR, UZR/150, and committed at least one error from each - except RF.  Right field is where he was the least detrimental, but with Jason Heyward firmly entrenched in that spot, it was not to last.  He was slightly less poor in LF than in CF (-20.8 vs. -30.4 UZR/150), but I don't think anyone's going to forget the lawn dart he threw out of CF that made people want to throw their televisions out the window.  Overall defensively, he's pegged with an abysmal -15.9 UZR, and -22.3 UZR/150.

Overall:

Melky Cabrera's WAR, according to FanGraphs is an underwhelming -1.2.  He was bad on offense, and even worse on defense.  But it's hard to really say it's his fault; most of us were very much aware that he's very much a fourth outfielder, at best, but out of necessity and no better option, Melky still started 115 games for the Braves.  What more could you have expected out of him?

As the numbers-ignoring fan:

As mentioned, I was optimistic about Melky at first, but that ride crashed to earth pretty soon.  However, some of his numbers do dissuade from some of my opinions, but it's more like the various scenarios cancel out others.  There are ABs, where Cabrera swings at the first pitch, and grounds out, but then there are other ABs, where Cabrera falls into an 0-2 hole, and sits on enough pitches to get to a 2-2 count, before fouling off six pitches, before lazily flying out to LF.

I can't say that Melky really gave me much joy as a fan, but I do remember one positive moment, on August 16th, while riding a train in Portland, Oregon, monitoring on my phone, despite the three-hour time difference, as the Braves fought back against the Dodgers at home, with it culminating with a Melky Cabrera game-winning hit off of Octavio Dotel, stunning them with three-runs in the 9th.

Next Year:

Goodbye, Melky.  The Braves mercifully non-tendered Cabrera on October 19th, 2010, ending his potential future in Atlanta.  He was paid $3.1M for 2010, and going into his third arbitration year, and it was a safe bet that the Braves were going to non-tender him.  At least it wasn't the $5M necessary to secure Jeff Francoeur for 4/5ths of a season, but Melky was still largely as disappointing.  In hindsight, it wasn't the worst deal in the world - Javier Vazquez crumpled back in New York, Boone Logan got a little better use than Mike Dunn did, but at least the Braves nabbed Arodys Vizcaino; injured he might be, but is still very much a part of the long-term plans.

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