Thursday, June 4, 2009

There's Something in the Melk

Yesterday, for what seemed like the umpteenth time this season, the Yankees' Melky Cabrera came through with a big hit late in the game.

This alone is pretty incredible: after all, last year Cabrera played so poorly that he, the starting center fielder on Opening Day, got sent down to AAA Scranton.

If it was a wake up call, it seems to have worked. Cabrera has been great for the Yankees this season, and perhaps no situation better than in late, close games, in clutch situations.

Let's take a look at the splits.

The first I'm going to look at here is Melky's numbers each time he sees a starting pitcher. Like most players, Melky hits better the third time he sees the pitcher, at .421/.429/.632. Starting pitchers fatigue later in the game, so this split isn't too surprising.

However, it probably should be noted here, that in the 8th and 9th innings, when Cabrera's doing most of his damage, the starter has usually been taken out of the game. So while the above split is nice, it doesn't really suit our purposes.

This, however, does:

Cabrera hits .412/.444/.588 in the eighth inning and .471/.526/.529 in the ninth. Those splits don't indicate close games, but they do indicate a knack for hitting late in the game. In the third through seventh innings, Melky doesn't even hit .300, but eighth or later, Melky's OPS is over 1.000. (Melky also has great numbers in the first and second innings, but if a hitter as low in the order as he is gets a chance to hit in the first two innings, the first especially, the other pitcher probably isn't doing a very good job.)

In high leverage situations, Melky is hitting at .324/.350/.514 which is one indicator of hitting in so-called clutch situations.

Another indicator are situations defined as close and late, which is a situation where, 7th inning or later, and the batting team is tied, ahead by one or with the tying run at least on deck.

In these situation Melky's numbers are an astounding .483/.500/.690, and he has an OPS of 1.192, nearly 1.200, when 1.000 is considered excellent. He has 33 plate appearances, which is a small sample size, but it's not that small.

Most telling, in these situations, Melky has 11 of his 22 RBI.

Having a hitter with these kind of the numbers in these situations at the bottom of the line up is certainly a weapon, as it further reasserts the notion that there are no holes or landing spots in the Yankee line up.

What's all this mean?

Quite simply, right now, in 2009, if you want the Yankees to get a clutch hit, late in the ball game in a close game, you don't want Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira or even Jorge Posada batting.

You want the Melkman.