I’m a huge baseball chat nerd and FanGraphs is a great place to find daily chats, on top of very interesting stat-nerd articles. In Jeff Sullivan’s chat on Tuesday, this was asked and answered:
Comment From Oren
What’s up with Asdrubal Cabrera?
Jeff Sullivan: career high strikeouts, career low grounders, career normal power. Something definitely looks like it’s up, but someone closer to the Indians might be better equipped to speak to any potential mechanical changes or lingering injury
Jeff Sullivan: His contact rate is down more than five percentage points from last season
Indeed, it is gross and something isn’t right with Cabrera this season, particularly since the start of July, as the Tribe shortstop has managed a .195/.251/.308 line with three home runs, nine doubles, 20 RBI, and a 34:11 K:BB in 175 plate appearances, while posting an unlucky or miserable .224 BABIP since July 2.
The putrid numbers in the second half of the last three seasons paint a picture of a lack of proper conditioning:
This is a pattern now, not a small sample size. His triple-slash in the second half over the last three seasons is now .238/.311/.381 in 666 plate appearances going into Tuesday night’s game and his plate discipline (130:43 K:BB) is pretty miserable. In fact, his strikeout rate, which Sullivan mentioned in the chat, is 19.5 percent in the second half the last three seasons compared to 17.4 percent in the first half, which doesn’t really show a tremendous decrease in skills, however, he doesn’t seem to be making solid contact as the season progresses.
Above, you can see Cabrera’s career high O-Swing (swings at pitches outside of the strike zone), career worsts in contact percentage, O-contact (contact on pitches outside of the strike zone), and Z-contact (contact on pitches inside of the strike zone). The swinging strike rate is alarming, as well.
One should wonder if there is something lingering from Cabrera’s disabled list stint from earlier this season, although it would be strange for a thigh strain to have such a lasting impact on a swing. Perhaps the tumble down the dugout steps in April did more damage than was made public, as a wrist contusion was all that was reported.
The tumble in Cabrera’s game could really make it difficult to deal the post-2014 free agent during the upcoming offseason. With a $10 million dollar salary next year and Francisco Lindor, Juan Diaz, Jose Ramirez, or Ronny Rodriguez within the system as middle infield prospects, the once fiscally depressed franchise could deal their one-time All-Star shortstop for payroll relief as they seek upgrades in the rotation. Luckily for the Cleveland Indians, the upcoming free agent shortstop market consists of such superstars as Jhonny Peralta, Brendan Ryan, Rafael Furcal, Cesar Izturis, and Stephen Drew.
Asdrubal Cabrera was recently dropped to the sixth spot in the order and the removal of pressure from the heart of the order could assist in his apparent pressing at the plate, but what if it doesn’t? After all, the gross displays of baseball skills after the All-Star break since 2011 shows that more of the same will likely be on the way. The Tribe will need someone to step in and pick up the slack from Cabrera’s second half slump if the club is going to get serious about contending. More likely, however, the burden of another failed season will be attributed to another lousy effort from one of the team’s supposed best players.
With so many fans reaching to social media to call for Yan Gomes to be behind the plate every day, it is nearly shocking that there haven’t been more calls for Mike Aviles to get more time at short in recent weeks. Is that a good idea at this point?