Melky Cabrera And Small Sample Stat Goodness


Apr 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) hits a 2-run home run in the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Astros 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ask any Toronto Blue Jays fan out there right now, and they are loving Melky Cabrera again. One year after a tumor on his spine had him playing the worst baseball of his career and two years removed from a steroid suspension, Cabrera is the toast of Toronto right now.

That’s the beauty of baseball isn’t it? When a guy being run out of town a season ago can be hoisted on the shoulders of the masses, we start to notice that nearsightedness is a real thing and the fickle nature of being a fan swings swiftly.

In truth, Melky Cabrera’s huge start carries the burden of the small sample size. Eight games is not nearly enough to judge whether a player is truly back to his All-Star form or simply riding a hot streak. Even if you add in his spring training, where Melky slashed .405/.423/.595 we’d still be stretching for justification of what may or may not become an ill-fated misconception.

Still, we can enjoy the ride while it last, and possibly have some fun with what Melky is currently doing right?

– Through 8 games in 2014, Cabrera has slugged 4 home runs, 1 more than he did in 337 additional plate appearances in 2013. Those home runs have come in four consecutive games.

– Of course, that comes with the caveat that Cabrera has a HR/FB ratio of 50%, which is completely unattainable over a full season. For those who are curious, the highest HR/FB ratio over the last 12 seasons? Ryan Howard in 2006 with a mark of 39.5%.

– Despite batting .314 on the season, Melky features a BABIP of .259 because four of his 11 hits have left the yard. What makes it even more confusing is that Cabrera, having played mostly in the lead-off role, has yet to receive a walk on the season.

– Cabrera currently sits with a wRC+ of 166, 16 points higher than his clouded 2012 campaign. Again, read here small sample size.

– Despite having hit those four bombs, with two of them being important late in games, Cabrera’s WPA on the season is…wait for it…-0.2. That’s right, the man that is willing the Blue Jays to win right now is carrying a negative Win Probability Added. FanGraphs themselves say that WPA is a “storytelling statistic”, but how true is it telling the story of the Blue Jays season in Cabrera’s case?

– Along those same lines, Melky is carrying a -0.27 clutch rating.

– Melky is worth 1 Defensive Run Saved according to the Fielding Bible thus far in 2014. That would be a significant upgrade over a player rated -5 in the field last season and has not had a positive overall season in the outfield since 2008 according to FanGraphs.

Again, these numbers are all based on small sample sizes, which makes them an illusion as to what may actually occur over the other 94.1% of the season. Still, it is fun to watch.