Asdrubal Cabrera was about as good as it gets in 2011. Cabrera was so good in fact that it can be argued, persuasively, that he was the best American League fantasy shortstop in the just completed season. Is there any chance in hell he will be able to repeat his bust out campaign in 2012?
In 2011, Cabrera hit 25 homers. Only two other shortstops had more (Troy Tulowitzki and J.J. Hardy had 30).
In 2011 Cabrera posted a .460 SLG. Only one other shortstop who qualified for the batting title bettered that – Jose Reyes (.493).
In 2011 Cabrera had 92 RBI. Only Tulowitzki had more with 105.
In 2011 Cabrera scored 87 runs. Only three shortstops had more: Jose Reyes (101), Elvis Andrus (96) and Starlin Castro (91).
In 2011 Cabrera stole 17 bases. Thirteen shortstop eligible players stole more bags, but no other shortstop who stole that many bases also hit 20 homers.
I wasn’t kidding when I said he was the best fantasy shortstop in the American League. So what’s the problem with building your team around Cabrera in 2012? Here we go.
(1) Cabrera hit .273, eight points below his career mark of .281. This doesn’t look so bad until you realize the drastic swing his performance took last season. Cabrera hit .330 in May, and then it was all downhill from there. Here are his monthly totals thereafter: .297, .266, .239 and .234. That translates to a .293 mark before the All-Star game and then .244 after the break.
(2) Cabrera hit 18 home runs from 2007-2010. That isn’t a misprint. He hit 18 homers in 1,415 at-bats before he went Kirby Puckett on everyone (I should also point out that he hit just 27 homers in 1,655 at-bats during his minor league days). How in the world was he able to blast 25 homers in just 604 at-bats last year?
(A) Cabrera had posted a GB-rate of 48.0 and 51.7 percent in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 that number tanked down to 43.8 percent. Conversely, his fly ball rate, under 31.5 percent in 2009-10, went up to 38.7 percent in 2011. Hitters don’t normally completely flip flop their performance like that in one year.
(B) In addition to all the extra fly balls, Cabrera also managed to jack up his HR/F ratio, and when I say ‘jack up’ I’m not kidding. Here are the HR/F rates of Cabrera in his first four seasons: 6.3, 6.7, 4.7 and 3.0 percent. In 2011 that mark was 13.3 percent. Cabrera doubled his previous career best folks. Established hitters don’t normally sustain jumps like.
Could A and B repeat themselves in 2012? It’s certainly possible. But I’ll tell you the same thing I said about Joe Mauer in 2009 when he hit 28 homers and I predicted that he would regress (he fell to nine homers by the way with his follow up effort) – players just don’t double their HR/F ratios from one season to the next when they’ve already established a baseline.
(C) Because of all the extra fly balls, Cabrera’s GB/FB ratio did a total flip flop in 2011 as well. In 2009-10 his mark was 1.60 and 1.65. In 2011 that mark fell all the way to 1.13. Again, players simply don’t sustain drastic changes like that very often.
Cabrera will steal double-digit bags, and his batting average will surpass the big league average. However, you can say that about an awful lot of middle infielders. The real key for Cabrera will be whether or not he will be able to sustain the massive power spike he flashed in 2011. It’s possible that he will remain at that level, there are no certainties in this life, but in my opinion it would be foolish to bank on Cabrera matching his homer, RBI or SLG marks in 2012.
By Ray Flowers