I like Paul Hoynes about 80% of the time, as opposed to Bill Livingston, who I like about 5% of the time (and even that 5% makes me feel icky). Then I read his latest mailbag. Here’s the money question, and the answer.
Hey, Hoynsie: Is there any theory behind Asdrubal Cabrera’s decline? It seems like at his age, he should be hitting his prime and getting better. – Glen Toplyn, Pittsfield Township, Mich.
Hey, Glen: Cabrera has never been a darling of the defensive metric experts who calculate range with computers and calculators. He probably has lost a step or two defensively, but I notice he’s been diving for more balls behind the bag, which could be an indication that his legs are feeling better after being beat up earlier in the season.
Offensively, he’s been a solid contributor on a team that really doesn’t blow you away with its run scoring ability. After hitting .220 in April, Cabrera hit .274 with three homers and nine RBI in May. In June his average dipped to .243, but he hit four homers and drove in 17 runs, second on the team to Lonnie Chisenhall’s 21.
Among AL shortstops, he’s tied for first in homers, leads in runs and is fifth in OPS. Cleveland fans have been tough on any shortstop not named Omar Vizquel. They didn’t like Jhonny Peralta and take delight in picking apart Cabrera’s game.
This is Cabrera’s seventh year with the Tribe and he’s been a solid contributor and cares a lot more than people think. He’s a free agent after this season and almost assuredly won’t be back. Then the paying public can train their computers and magnifying glasses on Francisco Lindor, but I think they’ll miss Cabrera.
First of all — it’s 2014. Using RBI to evaluate how good a player is really, REALLY stupid. Phenomenally stupid. I like his other points about Cabrera’s offense, compared to his peers. But bringing up RBI kind of killed his credibility. However, being a really good hitter for an AL shortstop doesn’t make him a good hitter.
|162 Game Avg.||162||687||613||85||166||38||3||15||76||12||5||52||118||.270||.332||.412||.744||106||253||16||8||9||5||2|
Those are decent numbers. They aren’t great, but decent. A shortstop who can slug over .400 is relatively rare these days. Except he isn’t doing that right now. Cabrera is a valuable player because he’s a good hitter for a shortstop or second baseman. He’s far from a great player, and really hasn’t been since 2011. The good news is, he’s already reached last year’s WAR in 200 fewer ABs. But what he isn’t — what he’s never been — is anything but a league average shortstop defensively. Last year his defense cost the team a win. At his best, his defense has given the team a win (which was back in 2008 — 1.7 wins, to be exact.) He’s playing slightly below replacement level with the glove this year,but if his bat continues to be reasonably productive, he’s a worthwhile player.
The “calculators and computers” line was clearly an attempt to tap the Bill Livingston portion of his audience. Nobody uses calculators any more, Paul. That’s just stupid. I get his point — Asdrubal Cabrera deserves credit for being a solid SS, which he absolutely does — but Cleveland fans aren’t being dicks when they rip his defense; it’s genuinely not very good. Oh, and Hoynsie: believe it or not, the very best season Jhonny Peralta had? He was still an Indian. He peaked at 23. He’s become useful as a Tiger and Cardinal, but for a long time, was awful. If anything, Cleveland was excessively patient with him.
Meanwhile, we already know Francisco Lindor is awesome with the glove, and he’s holding his own with the bat. I think the chances of Cabrera being an Indian next year are really, really low. I think he’ll be gone in a few weeks. I don’t know what return we’ll get — maybe a fringey prospect or a role player — but I do know that Lindor’s time is coming, and that we’ll probably forget all about Cabrera.