What a great feeling it is to watch the New York Mets climb out of their early season offensive woes, and seeing a host of different players contributing on a nightly basis. While most of the talk has been the recent power surge the Mets have had in their last ten games, a forgotten man at times has been that of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who’s provided a reliable glove and steady bat so far in the early going. And so far has proved to be a valuable offseason signing by GM Sandy Alderson.
Cabrera, 30, was signed in December to a two-year $18.5 million contract, a move that was meant to give time for several of the Mets young shortstop prospects to ascend the ranks, and provide the Mets with a reliable presence up the middle for a playoff contending team. Cabrera has been a solid player since he debuted in 2007 with the Cleveland Indians, appearing in two All Star games, winning a Silver Slugger in 2011, and viewed as a well-respected leader in the clubhouse.
So far in 2016, Cabrera has given the Mets a dependable glove at short, and has hit in fourteen of the eighteen games he’s played. He’s also had six multi-hit games as well. And he’s reached base in sixteen of the eighteen games he’s played. What’s more, Cabrera provides a solid bat down in the order, where he routinely bats seventh. This helps lengthen the Mets lineup out, giving the Mets the opportunity to run out a respectable 1-8 in the batting order.
And for all the talk of Cabrera not being a good defensive shortstop, so far he’s looked extremely comfortable at the position, making most of the plays hit near him, and even a couple nice web gems to his left and right. While he might not have the range factor or quickness that other shortstops do, Cabrera offers a steady presence at short, something the Mets haven’t had since Jose Reyes’ last season with the Mets in 2011. Cabrera and Walker have played superbly up the middle for the Mets, coming a long way from the Omar Quintanilla, Ruben Tejada, and Ronny Cedeno days.
And while Daniel Murphy became a fan favorite and clutch bat for the Mets, the easy transition Walker has made to the Mets has led many fans to embrace Walker very quickly, with “Neil Walker” chants erupting last night after he hit his 8th home run of the season. Anderson did a terrific job of bringing in solid veterans to upgrade the defense in the offseason, something that will be acknowledged further if Walker and Cabrera continue to play as they have so far.
To date, Cabrera’s numbers stack up very well compared to his fellow shortstops in both leagues. Cabrera currently ranks 1st among MLB shortstops in batting average (.318), 3rd in OBP (.375), 4th in OPS (.799), 2nd in hits (21), and 7th in Runs Created (10.4), which is currently better than Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager, and Brandon Crawford.
Another good sign is that Cabrera’s K% is less than it has been since 2012 with the Indians, which was at 16.7% before Tuesday night’s home game. This would explain why Cabrera’s O-Swing% (the percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone) is down considerably this year, currently at 29.1%, also the lowest it’s been since the 2012 season.
It was noted during the weekend broadcast against the Atlanta Braves by Keith Hernandez, that Cabrera has assumed a leadership role on this Mets squad, especially with the Latin players. In years past guys like Jose Valentin, Bobby Abreu, and Juan Uribe served similar roles, being a role model for the rest of the guys, and being a veteran presence that the younger players could reach out to.
What might seem like a small trait could mean a ton to the rest of the team, especially when it comes to mentoring and teaching the younger guys the proper ways to conduct themselves on and off the field. You could tell by his reactions in the dugout and how excited he gets when players hit home runs that Cabrera stays upbeat and positive, providing motivation and encouragement for his fellow mates throughout the game.
He’s also started a new ritual in the dugout when the Mets are up at bat; when a teammate hits a home run, Cabrera is the first one on the dugout steps to greet him and remove their respective helmet, almost serving as a sign of respect to what the hitter has just accomplished. It’s Cabrera’s way of showing his respect, and is starting to become a regular ritual, in the same way the 2014 Mets would wave white towels and use them for players to run through after they hit a home run.
But this new ritual belongs to Cabrera this season, and is keeping Cabrera busy in the dugout as of late. “I’m the first one over there waiting for my guys,” Cabrera said. “I’m just excited, you know?”
The Mets have hit a barrage of home runs in the past week and a half, turning around what was a quiet start to the season offensively. Since April 15th, the Mets lead the Majors with 26 home runs, and are currently tied for third in all of baseball with 28 total team home runs heading into Tuesday’s game. Cabrera had gone fourteen games into the season without a home run of his own, until the Mets 8-2 win on Saturday against the Braves. Cabrera is not known as a home run hitter, although he has averaged 15 home runs in a 162 game average for his career, and did hit a career high 25 home runs in 2011 with the Indians.
Cabrera is certainly enjoying his time with the Mets thus far. He always appears to be happy and supporting his teammates and the helmet ritual is one way in which he is fitting in with his new teammates. There is no sabermetric statistic that can analyze the importance of a good teammate, one that supports and encourages others, but if there were I believe Cabrera would rank high among his peers. The ability for him to gain the trust of his fellow teammates, and fit in with his fourth club in his ten-year career are important aspects when assembling a roster.
While Cabrera won’t necessarily “wow” you with his style of play, he will provide a steadying presence on this squad, both on and off the field. He’s fit in incredibly well so far, and has made an impression with his teammates. He also has playoff experience, something that will be key when the Mets look to make it back to the World Series this year, and bring a championship back to Queens after a 30-year drought.