More Melky Cabrera Ramblings

It’s been said before. Melky Cabrera, unlike these guys, is young. Relatively young, at least. Age 27 is a magic age — an age when players typically enter their peaks. That he’s coming off his best season — .305/.339/.470, 121 OPS+ — at age 27 makes a world of difference. It’s quite possibly more than just a player performing above his true talent level — it could be an indication of a player that’s breaking out. Of course, more likely than not, that isn’t entirely the case. Cabrera was a mediocre (85 OPS+) hitter for the first 2700 plate appearances of his career, so why would the most recent 700 PAs discount that fact?

If you want proof that a breakout season at age 26 doesn’t necessarily hold over for the following year, check this out:

Year Age OPS+
1981 21 91
1982 22 97
1983 23 94
1984 24 72
1985 25 92
1986 26 137
1987 27 87
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2011.

That’s Steve Sax. He entered 1986 at age 26, without a particularly impressive career record — through his first 2691 career plate appearances, he had posted an 89 OPS+. Then he put it all together: .332/.390/.441 — good for a 137 OPS+ — in 704 plate appearances.

In 1987, at age 27, instead of building on his previous season — or even matching it, Sax regressed. In 600+ PAs, he posted an OPS+ of 87 — remarkably similar to the mark he’d posted in his first 2691 career PAs. Sax is not the rule, but he does serve as a testament to the importance of those first 2700 plate appearances.

With Cabrera, regression is almost an inevitability. It’s good that he’s coming off a great season, and that he’s doing so at the right age. But he’s been a mediocre hitter for the greater part of his career, and a single season doesn’t erase that. Dan Szymborski estimates the odds at 7 to 1 that 2011 Cabrera is the new and improved Cabrera. But even with a healthy dose of regression — ZiPS projects a 40-point drop in OPS — Cabrera can be a useful player. I expect he’ll be good for 2-3 WAR if he stays healthy, which is more than can be said for the vast majority of 2011′s Giants.

I think the big issue I have with Cabrera is what Dave Cameron (who actually liked the Giants’ end of the deal) noted about him. He’s a classic ‘tweener: his defense doesn’t profile in center, but his bat doesn’t profile at the corner outfield positions. If he can play passable defense in center, he’ll be a pretty useful player. I just don’t think he’s much better — if at all — than Andres Torres. It’s not a bad trade, though. I just don’t know that it’s worth entering 2012 with Barry Zito as the fifth starter, and Eric Surkamp as the only real insurance.

News and Notes: Gold Glove Awards, Elias Rankings

Splash Hits: NLCS Edition

I’ve got nothing for you this morning but links…

An argument for Andres Torres – McCovey Chronicles
An argument for Andres Torres

Giants Catcher Hector Sanchez Forces His Way Into San Francisco’s Plans : Scouting the Sally
A nice profile on Hector Sanchez, who has rapidly become one of the Giants’ best prospects.

10th anniversary: No. 71 | The Hardball Times
The anniversary of Barry Bonds‘ 71st home run of the 2001 season.

Kevin Towers and the Bullpen Redemption | FanGraphs Baseball
The DBacks’ bullpen saw an improvement of 5.5 WAR from 2010 to 2011.

The Platoon Advantage: How Much Is a GM Worth?
Over at TPA, with all the speculation about Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and a possible trade to the Cubs, Mark Smith offers up some thoughts on the value of a GM.

OHHHHH WRITTEN IN THE CARDS | You Can’t Predict Baseball
A fantastic lengthy write-up on the Cardinals’ unpredictable season.

Washington Nationals 2012: Hope – Beyond the Box Score
An article I wrote for BtB on the Nationals, who look to be contenders in the near future after years of rebuilding.

The Theoretical Grade A+ Prospect – Minor League Ball
The Theoretical Grade A+ Prospect

Splash Hits: Cody Ross, Pablo Sandoval, Larry Baer

Giants

An argument for Cody Ross – McCovey Chronicles
Why the San Francisco Giants should sign Cody Ross.

Panda’s (Historically?) Big Boned Cycle | FanGraphs Baseball
Less than a year ago, Sandoval was getting benched in the playoffs for the likes of Juan Uribe and Zombie Edgar Renteria less than a year ago. Today, he is the most voluptuous guy to hit for the cycle in at least 37 years.

Larry Baer: Giants’ mission won’t change much
This week’s KNBR Conversation was conducted between Brian Murphy, Paul McCaffrey and the Giants’ Larry Baer. It has been edited for length.

Lefty Malo – The Perhaps-Not-So-Difficult Andres Torres Decision
If Torres has indeed reverted back to pumpkinhood — a backup outfielder used almost exclusively for late-game D and pinch-running — he can still earn his keep.

A Suggestion For Dumping Chone Figgins | U.S.S. Mariner
My guess is that’s exactly what the M’s will try to do with Figgins this winter, and in that vein, I’d like to offer up a suggestion on one particular team to call – the San Francisco Giants.

MLB

MLB Looks at Europe as Newest Source of Baseball Talent – MLB Daily Dish
Europe certainly produces premier athletes as we can see on the basketball court and the soccer pitch, but when will we see their athletes make an impact on the baseball diamond?

Explaining OFP in scouting – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN
A scout compiles OFP by adding up all five future tool grades (hitting, power, speed, throwing and fielding), and then dividing that total by five. Scouts can then adjust the OFP by ten or so points if they please.

The Platoon Advantage: Naive PLAYOFFS+ MVP awards since 1995
A look at how PLAYOFFS+ correlates with actual MVP voting.

A Quick Look at the Toughest Batters Using Pitch Values – Beyond the Box Score
To that end I took a look at the accrued pitch value numbers for all batters with 1,000 plate appearances or more from 2008 – 11. I decided to focus on how they fared against fastballs, sliders, curve balls, and change ups since these are the major repertoire’s of most big league pitchers.

All-time NL Hispanic greats – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN
Yesterday, in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we talked about one person’s list — mine alone — for the AL team’s all-time greats of Hispanic heritage, so naturally enough, let’s turn to the senior circuit and look at the best of the National League’s teams.

Previewing the 2012 Free Agent Oufield Market

Aaron Rowand‘s gone for good, and the Giants will lose several outfielders — Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell — to free agency. Nate Schierholtz will be back, in with a breakout season, could potentially see regular playing time in the outfield. In addition, the Giants will presumably tender Andres Torres a contract, though it remains to be seen what role he’ll play next season.

Anyway, the Giants will be in the market for outfielders; if they envision Nate Schierholtz as the starting right fielder, and Brandon Belt as the starting left fielder, the big void is in centerfield — where the market is very thin. A brief preview of the 2012 free agent outfield market:

Re-Signs

Cody Ross: He made $6.3MM in his final year of arbitration, and has had a somewhat disappointing season – .238/.327/.399; that said, his numbers (thanks to a very-high walk rate) are bascially in line with his career norms, and he’s posted the best BB/K of his career (0.53). He averaged roughly 2.5 WAR/season from 2007-2010, and I imagine he’ll be looking for a starting role (which he deserves). The thing that makes Ross special is that he can play centerfield — and an average hitter in center is of value. Given his versatility in the outfield, and the fact that he’s solid at the plate, Ross represents one of the best available outfield options for the Giants.

Carlos Beltran: Easily the top outfield bat on the market. It’d be nice to retain Beltran, as he solidifies the middle of the Giants’ lineup. He’s the cream of the crop though, and could command a whole lot of money. If I had to guess, I bet he’ll end up elsewhere.

The Athletics

David DeJesus: initially suggested by Zack in the September roundtable, DeJesus could provide decent value at an affordable price. Here’s what Zack had to say:

I’d love to see them make a cheap offer to David DeJesus. He’s putting the worst offensive numbers of his career, but he hasn’t been nearly as bad Oakland fans tend to think. He has the ability to take a walk, and unlike other “sluggers” on the market (Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, etc.), he still rates well defensively. I’m inclined to give DeJesus the benefit of the doubt because 1) he may still be recovering from an injury, 2) half of his games are in Oakland, and 3) his playing time has been iffy due to the managerial situation. And while he’s not exactly young, it’s not like it would be a long-term deal. One or two years would be great.

Coco Crisp: Another Oakland A’s outfielder, Crisp is an intriguing option for a number of reasons: he can still play centerfield, and despite the fact that he’ll be entering his age-32 season, he still flashes speed on the basepaths — in fact, his 40 steals in 2011 represent a career-high, and he’s stolen 72 bases in all since 2010, at an 86% success rate. Over his career, he’s pretty much been an average hitter (.276/.331/.407, 99 wRC+), but he’s been especially solid at the plate over the past two seasons (114 wRC+).

Josh Willingham: a very nice bat (career OPS+ of 121), but he’ll be 33 years old and his defensive limitations mostly restrict him to left field. Given that the Giants will probably enter 2012 with Brandon Belt as the regular left-fielder, Willingham doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

The Other Centerfielders

Rick Ankiel: Wrong side of 30 and a below-average hitter, but he’s also posted +17 DRS (defensive runs saved) in centerfield this year.

Nate McClouth: He’ll be four years removed from his all-star season, and he really hasn’t impressed of late. Over the last two seasons (609 PA), he’s posted a .650 OPS. He can play passable defense in centerfield, but he’s not a particularly good defender.

Some other CF names: Willie Bloomquist, Corey Patterson, Scott Hairston

Some Right-Field Names: Michael Cuddyer, J.D. Drew, Lance Berkman, Jason Kubel, Ryan Ludwick, Kosuke Fukudome