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Pinch hitting: Depressed Fan

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Two days left this month and two more guest bloggers. Our penultimate pinch hitter is Brian from Depressed Fan. [2]

Why Brian is so depressed, we have no idea. He’s 31, lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter and followed the Yankees, Eagles and 76ers. He’s been a Yankees fan since seeing Don Mattingly play.

Here’s his post:

I have a bone to pick with certain members of the Yankee front office, fan base and blogosphere. Over the past year I’ve heard on numerous occasions that Melky Cabrera is “expendable,” “average at best,” “a stop-gap,” and “terrible.” I have to ask, do you guys watch the same team as I do?

I realize that when the games are over all we have left are statistics. Today, statistics seem to be more important than our own eyes. I’m not here to argue against VORP, PECOTA, OPS or any other stat for that matter. I believe in them, to an extent, but I also believe that statistics alone never tell you the whole story. In Melky’s case, they don’t even begin to quantify his contribution to the team, unless you put some weight on one particular
statistic … wins.

In 2006 when Sheffield and then Matsui went down with serious injuries this team was between a rock and a hard place. How can you replace 40+ home runs and 200+ RBI in your lineup? Brian Cashman didn’t go the traditional Yankee route right away, instead he called up a kid who looked completely overmatched in 2005 when he had his first cup of coffee. When Melky was called up, the Yanks were 18-12, a .600 winning percentage. After Sheffield and Matsui went down, they finished 79-53, a .599 winning percentage. Obviously, Melky alone wasn’t responsible for this, but he was a big factor. At the end of the year, when Matsui and Sheffield came back Melky was deposited back on the bench. We all know how that turned out.

You’d think Joe Torre would’ve learned his lesson coming into 2007, but no. The season started much the same way the last had ended. Melky saw sporadic action in April and May of 2007. On May 31st, Jason Giambi went down with a foot injury and an organizational decision was made. Melky was to be the every-day center fielder until further notice. On that day, the Yankee record was 22-19, a .431 winning percentage. From that point on the Yankees played to a .649 winning percentage (72-39) and Melky’s influence was felt in every aspect of the game, tangible and intangible.

Since offensive statistics seem to be the most common tool used to discredit his contributions, take a look at Melky’s numbers from June through August, 2007. His OPS was .811 in June, .939 in July, .818 in August. Those numbers over a full season would put him as the seventh most-productive center fielder in the game. His final OPS number, .718 ranked 16th, in his second full season in the majors.

Is it out of the question to believe that he’s going to be able to avoid the horrendous start he had in 2007, and the terrible month of September and play on more of an even keel throughout as he matures? Even last year, with all the offensive warts, he outperformed the center fielders on 14 other teams. The point being, his offense isn’t that bad. If he continues to progress, his production will be downright good, God forbid.

On defense, I’ve heard complaints about his range. For my money, his 16 assists make up for any bad patterns he takes to the ball. Baseball America actually rates him as the fourth-best center fielder at fielding balls in his zone. So he makes all the catches he’s supposed to, throws out more runners than anyone, and holds countless other runners from taking an extra base. Sounds like a positive at the position to me.

I spent way too much time talking about the tangibles, because that’s how Melky is always attacked. Let’s finish with the intangibles. Before Melky was inserted into the lineup in 2007 we started hearing dreadful things about this Yankee team. “The don’t have fun out
there,” “They’re just playing for their paychecks,” “They’re a bunch of overpaid All Stars.”

As the season wore on Melky and Cano’s youthful exuberance overtook the entire team. It manifested itself into joking in the dugout, dancing at the plate after home runs, high fives all around, Bobby Abreu making snatch catches against the Red Sox just to show off for Melky, A-Rod actually smiling. The team played together and they played loose. They had fun out there and it translated into two things, wins for them, and enjoyment for us.

By the end of the year, who didn’t look forward to getting home from work to see the Yanks play? Can you honestly say the same about April and May?

Melky Cabrera is an integral part of this team going forward. Austin Jackson or Jose Tabata may move him out a couple years down the road, but moving him for the sake of moving him now would be a step in the wrong direction. It’s about time all the doubters started to take notice of the contributions he’s made.