Melky Cabrera has been lauded with many compliments, from his teammates and from fans, regarding the play that he brings to the field. Compliments are usually difficult or impossible to quantify, but I have to admit that for some time he has been arguably my favorite Yankee to watch. Sometimes, someone will come along and rattle one’s opinion, and speaking for myself, I may dismiss an assertion that isn’t in line with my opinion as out-of-hand without looking at the statement rationally.
"I like Melky Cabrera for what he is. I think he’s a good fourth outfielder, a very good fifth outfielder. I don’t see him as an everyday player." – Steve Phillips
Most YFs know this quote, and know that it is weeks old, issued by Phillips right around the time of the non-waiver deadline. He has already been beaten up pretty well by many sources. But this post is not about piling on Phillips, who was opining on whether Cabrera should have stood in the way of the Yankees making a move to land Gagne, whom this post is not about either, so please keep that in mind if you choose to comment.
This post is about the fact that I wanted to take a look around the leagues at the center fielders that are getting most of the innings and see how much this (completely healthy, non-creepy) infatuation that I’ve had with Melky for the last 15 months or so lines up with actual performance in comparison to his peers. It really came to a head last night when he made the great catch in the second, potentially saved the game with the laser throw to home in the ninth (and backed up the overthrow to second!), and scored the winning run. Just GREAT stuff to watch as a baseball fan, let alone a Yankees fan. There’s a bunch of numbers that follow, and perhaps not much insight. I put them together to scratch an itch. Suffice it to say that if the Yankees choose to start their "good fourth…very good fifth outfielder" in center for the next eight or ten years, I think I might be happy with that.
Here are the major league center fielders with more than 400 innings at the position for 2007, up to date within the last game or two. The offensive statistics columns displayed are inclusive of all positions played this season; innings and the defensive metrics are for play at CF only.
(some data may be hidden based on your brower’s default font size.. rightmost column should be OOZ)
Caveats: There’s plenty of depth in statistics left out of this set of numbers that would help get a better picture of where Melky falls in amongst the rest of the 8s in the leagues, and I am not that adept a statistician to begin with. Also, I didn’t weigh the totality of Phillips’ assertion by considering 7s and 9s, but that’s not really relevant. Acknowledging those shortcomings, by my eyes Cabrera rates by each measure a starter right now. If he doesn’t I would like to know why. Is he the best center in the game? Of course not.
I considered showing his splits offensively at CF (edit: since becoming the starter) which are truly impressive, but got lazy when I realized I would have to do it for everyone else too, so that drill-down is left out. Also, I left out the personal interest factor of what he brings to the field and the plate in the way of intangibles, but it seems I didn’t even need to bring that up considering the facts, and since the "good feeling factor" is what I was trying to step away from to begin with.
I’ve posted the XLS file if you want to sort the columns differently: Download cfcomp.xls