Among the Mets’ position players, Asdrubal Cabrera has been the most valuable and it is not particularly close.
Cabrera is hitting .329/.376/.552 with a .394 wOBA and a 156 wRC+. Among second basemen in Major League Baseball, Cabrera is tied for second in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging, second in wOBA, second in wRC+ and second in fWAR.
So how did Cabrera go from being an above average hitter in 2016 and 2017 to an All-Star caliber player in 2018?
First and foremost, Cabrera is healthy this year. Last year Cabrera dealt with various injuries such as a thumb issue and a hamstring problem. That said, Cabrera still managed to hit a very respectable .280/.351/.434 with a .338 wOBA and 111 wRC+.
The problem was his defense and base running were significantly hampered. As a result, Cabrera was only worth a 1.3 fWAR in 2017 but this year, his fWAR has already cleared that mark at 1.8.
In 2016, when Cabrera had a really good year for the Mets, he only hit the ball on the ground 37.4 percent of the time. Last year, that number jumped up to 43.5 percent, which is not bad but an increase in ground ball rate is never good. This year, that number is back down to 37.1 percent and as a result, he is mashing again.
Of course, hitting the ball in the air is just one part of the equation. The second part of it is to hit it hard. Cabrera is hitting balls in the air at an exit velocity of 94.1 MPH, the highest of his career in the Statcast era.
The added bonus to Cabrera hitting balls hard in the air is that he is also pulling them more than he ever has in his career. This year, his pulling balls in the air (line drives and fly balls) 41.1 percent of the time.
From 2012-2017, that number was 37 percent of the time. While you might be reading all this and thinking “it’s only a four or five percent change, why does that change anything?” Well, I’ll leave that to the the God of Hitting, Joey Votto.
Votto said that even a two or three percent change is really big at this level.
You might also be wondering why it’s a good thing that Cabrera is pulling the ball in the air more? I’ll leave that one to Daniel Murphy, who adopted that philosophy and ran with it.
Many fans tend to be less inclined to believe in a player’s hot start but nothing to Cabrera’s suggests that it is luck.
Hopefully his fellow running mates start chipping in to the offense but for someone who people were debating about keeping or moving this offseason, Cabrera has been a savior. Things change very quickly if you play well.