Oftentimes, amid the flurry of chaos that is a major league season, consistency can be underrated. Stability, consistency, and reliability are often vanilla features in a world that thrives on either chaos, or dynamic but all too often fleeting success.
For the White Sox in 2016, no one really paid enough attention to outfielder Melky Cabrera. Fans were too busy crying in their beer over James Shields, wishing upon a star that Tim Anderson wasn’t a fluke, or wondering what Justin Morneau would contribute in July to a team sinking faster than the Titanic. No one gave much thought to nor appreciated Cabrera for what he was doing in 2016.
Cabrera was not simply a successful outfielder who played with day-in and day-out consistency, making him a mainstay of the White Sox shaky lineup this past season, but he actually improved upon the the disappointment that he was in 2015.
Take a look at the improvements that Cabrera made from one year to the next:
He lowered his strikeout rate by more than two percentage points, brought his walk total up slightly, and boosted his power numbers to levels that rounded out his slash line to look much heartier than it did in his first year on the South side.
It gets better though. Cabrera posted some of the best numbers he has in his 12-year career in 2016. Check it out:
Now sure, seeing that Cabrera’s slash line numbers in 2016 were only good enough to be ranked fourth seems as though it doesn’t exactly merit “career best,” but consider that Cabrera just finished off the 12th year of his career and is posting numbers this strong in his age-32 season before you scoff. I’d say that’s a quite laudable feat.
Cabrera’s 10.7 percent strikeout rate was not only a career best for him, but it was also the lowest of all White Sox hitters in 2016 just behind J.B. Shuck (8.7 percent).
The defense is the one aspect of Cabrera’s game that bogs down his ability to be labeled as an all encompassing force to be reckoned with in baseball after all this time. Baseball Prospectus’ fielding statistic, FRAA, gave Cabrera a -6.7 in 2016, which in part is to blame for his WARP of just 0.9 in 2016 (up from -0.1 in 2015 though!). However, his FRAA this season was a tad better than the -7.6 he earned in his first year with the White Sox. Still in the red, but improvements are improvements no matter how incremental.
But as James so cordially pointed out in his piece on Cabrera just last month, when you’re putting Cabrera against the backdrop of an outfield that consists of Avisail Garcia’s infamous defense as well as Cabrera having taken the spot of Dayan Viciedo, it’s hard for White Sox fans to see anything but the grass being greener in Cabrera’s part of the outfield since his arrival.
Cabrera’s contract looked dismal in his first year with the White Sox. It seemed as though all Rick Hahn did was shell out an exorbitant amount of cash that the White Sox couldn’t technically afford after the expensive offseason they had laced together, for what appeared to be an aged outfielder with poor defensive marks and even poorer offensive ones. Perhaps it simply took Cabrera becoming acclimated to his new environment, but the second year success he had certainly makes the first year of his contract look a bit more tolerable.
As for the third year, we know Cabrera has this type of production in him, though he’ll be heading into his age-33 season and the final year of his contract with the White Sox, it’s not hard to believe we will at least perhaps see some middle ground of production from him at the plate in that final year. If not, well, it will be time to cut ties anyway. If one more year of Cabrera turns out to be the worst thing that the 2017 White Sox suffer though, I would say that 2017 probably turned out pretty well on the South side.
Lead photo courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports