Asdrubal Cabrera’s First Pitch Outs Enrage Fans
On Sunday against the White Sox, Asdrubal Cabrera did something that fans have grown extremely tired of over the past few seasons. That being Cabrera’s propensity for swinging at the first pitch during key situations with runners in scoring position.
During Sunday’s 4-3 loss, Cabrera grounded out weakly to first after swinging at the first pitch. He did the same thing during the Tribe’s AL Wild Card defeat at the hands of the Rays. It’s gotten so bad, that it has resulted in enough vitriol on Twitter that a joke account has been set up (NSFW language in the Twitter handle) to help fans know if and when Cabrera does the unthinkable. We’re also probably a good two weeks away from the #FreeLindor campaign gaining steam.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not always a bad thing to swing at the first pitch. Many a power hitter has made a career feasting off of first pitch fastballs. When a pitcher gets into a routine of throwing the same pitch in the same location to each and every player to start an at bat, it makes sense to utilize that knowledge to your advantage. But Cabrera does not approach at bats in that way.
More often than not, Cabrera comes to bat with the bases loaded or with runners in scoring position during the later innings. With the opposing pitcher on the ropes and struggling with control, Cabrera fails to wait for his pitch and instead wails away at whatever garbage comes his way. Because the first thing you want to do after a pitcher has thrown eight straight balls, walked the bases loaded, and couldn’t throw a golf ball into the ocean is swing at the first pitch and bail him out of the situation.
The ironic part in all of this however, is how Cabrera’s number have shifted in recent year when swinging at the first pitch. He hasn’t always been unproductive when swinging at the first pitch. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite, as his career splits would suggest.
A slash line of .316/.315/.454 isn’t terrible. Actually, a that’s a fairly decent slash line somewhat surprising considering what we have seen in recent years. Another surprising fact from those splits is that Cabrera has never gotten a hit in a 3-0 count. In 54 plate appearances, he has drawn 53 walks when drawing a 3-0 count, but never gotten a hit. I find that to be unbelievable.
Moving back to the issue at hand, Cabrera’s performance swinging at the first pitch may have less to do with talent and more to do with the fact that baseball is a numbers game where the law of averages tends to play out more often than not. Just look at Cabrera’s first pitch splits over the past four years.
It has been a steady regression since his career year in 2011. Again, that would be the fact that numbers tend to regress back towards the average over time. On the flip side, it doesn’t help that Cabrera has been in a stead offensive decline overall during the past four seasons. It has only magnified the results and amplified the anger that is beginning to bubble over within the fan base.
What we need to remember, though, is that it is too soon to make assumptions based off of Cabrera’s 2014 first pitch splits. The sample size is simply too small on a split that is already a tremendously small sample size to begin with. There is still plenty of time for Cabrera to turn things around. After all, two weeks does not a season make. Cabrera could break out of his prolonged slump and turn in a career year. You just never know.
Of course, that won’t stop fans from spitting venom on Twitter and other social media platforms (Admittedly, I’m not to be excluded from this trend) until Cabrera either stops swinging at the first pitch or starts turning those pop ups and ground balls into line drive base hits.