Why Cabrera?

Continuing our look at the 2012 Padres with an eye to 2013, today we take a look at shortstop.

One line in last week’s #SezBill caught my eye:

Cabrera is the starting shortstop, but Forsythe will get a long look during ST.

I wish I’d read that at work, so when I spit my morning coffee all over the monitor I could simply ask IT for a new one. How in the world is Everth Cabrera already anointed as the starting shortstop over Logan Forsythe?  Could #SezBill and I have a crush on the same player?  Maybe, but let’s look at the numbers anyway.  As with last week, I’ll compare each player offensively and defensively.

Offensive Production

  • Forsythe (2012):  315 AB (350 PA), .273/.343/.390, 13 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 8 SB (2 CS), 57K
  • Cabrera (2012):  398 AB (449 PA), .246/.324/.324, 19 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 44 SB (4 CS) 110K

Cabrera was recalled by the Padres on  17 May 12, and he stayed with the team the rest of the year.  Forsythe broke his left foot during spring training and didn’t return to the club until 3 June 12.  The month gap on the 25-man roster explains the 100 PA difference between the two.  Cabrera’s stock-in-trade is his speed; the 44 thefts led the NL last year, and his 92% success rate is remarkable. Other than that, Cabrera is a mediocre hitter at best (OPS+ of 84 last year), with his 2012 numbers closely approximating his 2009 effort.

Forsythe (OPS+ 106) has more power than Everth and his wOBA (.325) outpaces Cabrera (.291).  Couple of interesting things in the line:  Despite Cabrera’s impressive speed, he only had 6 more doubles than Forsythe and they had the same number of triples.  Also, Everth is a strikeout machine.  He struck out approximately 25% of the times he walked to the plate.  In contrast, Forsythe struck out just over 16% of the time.

Despite a rather impressive ability to steal bases, Forsythe is clearly the better offensive player.

Defensive Prowess

  • Forsythe (2012):  21.2 innings at short, +1 (Dewan Plus/Minus), 1 Run Saved.
  • Cabrera (2012):  915.1 innings at short, 0 Plus/Minus, -4 Runs Saved.

It is very difficult to compare these two players defensively.  Forsythe has played 24 innings total at short in the major leagues, meaning his defensive numbers above exemplify ‘small sample size’.  He has no real experience at shortstop at all as a professional; his minor league stats page says he’s played 9 games at SS in his career.  The only encouraging note out of that bombshell is all 9 games have been in the past 2 seasons.  We simply don’t know how he would hold up as a defensive shortstop over a season, half a season, a month, or even a week of everyday play.   He is a converted third baseman, so it stands to reason he’d be more comfortable on that side of the diamond, for what that’s worth, if he had more time at shortstop.

Cabrera is an average or slightly below average defensive shortstop based on the above numbers.  He was a below average shortstop in 2009 , his only other season we have a lot of major league data for (over 850 innings, -10 Plus/Minus, -8 Runs Saved).  Actually, if those numbers tell us anything it’s that Cabrera has improved quite a bit defensively since his 2009 campaign.

When faced with a choice between a guy with no experience at the position and a guy with tons of experience, who might be a little suspect with the glove, the decision is simple.  Cabrera is the better choice defensively at this point.


So why Cabrera?  The answer is his experience playing short, as well as his ability (once on the bases) to pressure the defense with his speed.  Is this the the right call?  There’s a reason Forsythe will get a long look at short this spring, and that’s because he has more potential as an offensive player than Everth does.  Cabrera is what he is – a slap hitter with great speed.  Forsythe could be a 10-20 HR guy if played everyday, especially with the new PETCO dimensions this year (Bill James projects him for 5 HR in 344 PA in 2013).  The Padres need a better bat at short.

It’s understandable why Everth Cabrera is the incumbent.  It would be better for the Padres offensive production if Logan Forsythe out-plays him defensively in Peoria.

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