Asdrúbal Cabrera has always been a dude, playing an average dude, playing a consistent dude. Dude. As we enter into the Labor Day weekend, I’m reminded that I myself abhor labor, but ya know, napping can be challenging, so I think that counts. But to keep with the labor theme (so relevant bro), I’ve always owned Cabrera as a labor of love. Tie-in alert! So that being said, I must promote that he’s never low, never high, plays multiple positions, and has always been solid. As a rock. But now that he’s 34 and hitting just a paltry .229/.297/.412, where do we go from here? That’s a great question that I just asked myself, and so as is the natural law of the universe as we know it, I deserve a great answer. And, you know, so do you I guess. Sheesh man, talk about being demanding…
So, as we normally do here in our little COVID corner (trademarking and social distancing in progress), the themes we’ve tackled the entire season are trying to locate players who are on the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of production and trying to figure out what is exactly going on. Now, this theme takes a special meaning in such a time as this, but we do with what we can, or some aspirational idiom. In Asdrúbal Cabrera, we have a hitter who had hit higher than .260 for the past five seasons and holds a career AVG of .268. His ISO has been solid, maintaining a .181 or higher number in four of the past five seasons. His BB% and K% have remained pretty stable. Quite frankly, the most obvious change in his career is the fact that he’s just plain getting older. (Life maaaan.) But to go from being a perennial 2.0 WAR producing player to this season where he’s at -0.1?
When Ryan Zimmerman opted out of the season, not only did I applaud a decision that was based on cogent reasoning, it also meant that Eric Thames, Howie Kendrick, and Cabrera would all benefit in some manner or form. Well, their playing time has seen some of that benefit, but not much else in terms of our player of focus. Now, I should note that Cabrera has been currently dealing with some foot soreness for the past couple of weeks, fueling his already occurring dip with anything to do with speed, so keeping that in mind, lets start breaking down his profile.
Pretty obvious what this information is telling us. The BABIP says it all. Walks, strikeouts, power, all stable from last season, so far, the ball just isn’t finding the spots it usually does for him. Let’s take a look and see where he’s hitting the ball for further context…
Just to reiterate quickly, the power is still there at the normal rates, always a tell-tale sign if a player is truly in dire straits or way above his head, but there is some worry here. As you can see, his GB% has increased, hurting his FB% greatly. With the information revealed so far, his struggles look like your normal cold streak.
Interestingly enough, we at least know now how he’s able to sustain normal power numbers while still not hitting the ball, the Hard% has not budged, but we are seeing softer contact as a corollary to his struggles.
And last but not least, his zone judgement appears pretty darn stable. All issues that you would normally have as a player getting older would be seen mostly in his power profile. That just isn’t the case. In addition, in a prolonged slump or at least a huge red flag of avoidance (totally a think, or so my ex has told me) would also be his plate discipline cratering, which simply is not the case here. I would note that there is a slight change in his SwStr%, fueled by pitchers throwing less in the zone at a 37.7% clip from last season’s 43.1%. That’s revealing in a sense that some of his hitting struggles and BABIP issues, combined with the softer contact tells us that his contact is just a little off, and while it’s been reverberating in his entire profile this season, there’s plenty of signs here of this being temporary.
His .333 xwOBA is right in line with his career norms since 2016, and his wRC+ matches in the same way. I completely understand that in a lot of formats, Cabrera can be considered a fringe asset, but I would argue that his positional eligibility and hitting in the top-half of a great lineup helps mitigate that. On top of that, he may be readily available in your league, dropped during this slump by your peer group. The numbers are telling me to either hold, pick-up and to see what happens. Worst case is you have some flexible depth that doesn’t quite pan out the next few weeks, and best case is you gain a player who might start hitting and hitting a ton.
And there’s the Asd(rúb)al.
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him @jaywrong.