Everth Cabrera, a Witch, and the Wood

Last summer, as the All-Star break came to a close, an unenviable task presented itself: I had to explain to my young daughter that Everth Cabrera wouldn’t be able to play any more. This news confounded her. She asked, “Why?”

When it comes to explaining the issue of drugs to a child,  I really don’t know how. But I knew in that space and time that getting bogged down in details was unnecessary so I took the easy road and said, “There’s this type of medicine that he took but he wasn’t allowed to take it. Now he’s in trouble so he can’t play until next year.”

I felt I handled the issue with delicate aplomb and then she asked, “Where did he get the medicine? Did he go out into the woods and get it from a witch? I don’t like witches. Mean witches”

“No, no,” I said. “He went to a . . . clinic. A doctor’s office.”

Doc McStuffins has a clinic. Like that clinic?”

“Uh . . . kinda.”

It was all so confusing. We had watched Everth Cabrera closely last season and my enthusiasm for him as a ball player had clearly rubbed off on her. She sensed my excitement as I talked about his new-found steadiness on defense and his ability to draw a walk. He was seeing a lot of pitches, getting on base, and doing lead-off-hitter-type-things. It was great. And then it all ended.

Who is Everth Cabrera? Is he the steady player who emerged last season or something else entirely?  The season is young so the conclusions we can draw are, well, inconclusive. But let’s look at his first 21 games* of 2014 and try to do some figuring.

* In 2013 he played each of the team’s first 21 games. In 2014 he missed 1 game in the team’s first 22 games.

One of the stand alone features of the 2014 Padres through 22 games is their incredibly low batting average. The number of players hitting below .220 is abhorrent, a fact which only serves to highlight the .306 average of Everth Cabrera.

But is this .306 average a good thing? Well of course it’s a good thing. What I mean to say is, is it sustainable? Also, is Everth off to as good a start as he enjoyed in 2013?

Through 21 games in 2013 Everth Cabrera hit .273 and through 21 games in 2014 the average has spiked to .306. Let’s take a closer look.

Year G PA R H BB SO BA OBP SLG
2013 21 94 11 21 12 14 .273 .378 .403
2014 21 89 9 26 2 24 .306 .322 .415

In fewer plate appearances in 2014, Everth Cabrera has more hits and a shiny average to show for it. The average looks great especially when juxtaposed with the Mendoza-esque slop littered across the Padres lineup. But what really stands out, is not the batting average, but the on base percentage. Look at how much lower it is in 2014. Despite a BA that has climbed 33 points the OBP has dropped 56 points.

Fluctuations are huge when dealing with a small sample of plate appearances but there are two numbers that tell an interesting tale of the 2013 and 2014 seasons: BBs and Ks. Ten fewer walks in 2014? Ten fewer walks in 2014! Yikes.

With the number of walks on the decline in 2014 one might assume that Everth is seeing fewer pitches or just lacking in general plate discipline. Let’s look . . .

Year G Pitches / PA S/Str K% BB %
2013 95 4.01 10.5% 15.9% 9.4%
2014 21 4.16 16.0% 27.0% 2.3%

Numbers courtesy of Baseball-Reference (1 and 2)

Everth Cabrera is seeing more pitches in each plate appearance this year, a fantastic trait for a lead-off hitter, and good enough for 12th in the NL and 35th in all of MLB. But while Everth is seeing more pitches he’s trading his walks for strikeouts. He drew the walk last year whereas he’s swinging and missing at strikes (S/Str) 16% of the time this season. Those increased swings and misses have lead to Ks in 27% of Everth Cabrera’s plate appearances this season with a low walk rate of 2.3%*

*Last night Cabby walked. Hooray! He also struck out. Boo! But he doubled and scored. Hooray! But the Padres lost. Dammit!

Those strikeouts need to start turning into walks because currently his batting average is a product of an insanely high .426 BAbip. When the luck starts to shift for our fleet-footed shortstop and the BAbip begins to normalize to 2012 (.336) and 2013 (.337) levels, Cabrera will need to be getting on base via the walk.

The season is still young and many things can happen for Everth Cabrera, and as long as it doesn’t involve a witch and a dark wood, my daughter and I will likely be happy.

***

I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired by yellow, mushy, replacement ligaments. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM. The dusty archives of AJM are located at avengingjm.blogspot.com

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  • USMC53

    Great post.
    Billy Beane would love your analysis.
    I posted a question on the Padres Social Hour chat a few days ago, asking whether ECab’s low walk rate was a concern, and the answer from both guys on the set was “NOOOOOOOOOO!”
    Fair enough, but I think when it’s juxtaposed against that .426 BABIP, it may turn into a concern before long. I’d love to be wrong about that.

    • Cheers!

      The fact that Cabby’s still seeing a lot of pitches makes me think the walks will increase.

  • SDPubmix

    I think that Cabrera is becoming more consistent offensively. His walks are down because frankly, you don’t want to put him on base, and the entire team is struggling at the plate behind him. So Pitcher’s are being aggressive in the strike zone when pitching to him. This would explain an increase in the number of hits, and a decrease in walks. His average is nice, but his strikeout’s have increased as well. He should have a higher OBP for a lead off guy. But compared to the other “regular” starter’s, he’s fine. Gyorko, Venable, and Alonso, are of greater concern to me. These are the guys who need to get hot in order for this team to contend in the NL West.