Lenny Ignelzi- AP
Everth Cabrera has been the most valuable player in all of baseball during the last 30 days. Thanks to Cabrera’s strong performance through his last 27 games, the San Diego Padres are in the midst of a seven-game win streak and are quickly climbing up the NL West ladder.
During his previous four stints in the majors, Cabrera has been an average hitter (if not slightly below) who did not get on base nearly enough to allow his speed to set up run-scoring opportunities. So far in 2013, Cabrera is hitting .305 with an OBP of .382 and has successfully stolen a base on 82% of his attempts. He’s posting a 134 wRC+ (good for third on the team) and has been keeping his strikeout rate nearly 10% lower than his career average.
Cabrera strikes out less than any other hitter for San Diego, which is exactly what you want out of your leadoff guy. Furthermore, his zone contact is up over 90% and he’s become very selective on his swings, taking cuts at just over 26% of pitches out of the zone. He’s also whiffing on just 6% of swings so far in 2013; the guy is locked in right now.
Through April and May, Cabrera appeared to be resigned to his mid-two hundred batting average as he hit .262. Suddenly, his average has skyrocketed to a .459 in June along with swiping 12 bags through 15 games.
What’s more, Cabrera’s .443 OBP has created ample opportunities for the Padres offense to score runs to support an improving starting rotation.
Carbrera is arguably the most productive number one hitter in all of baseball right now. His .417 wOBA and 179 wRC+ lead all of his fellow leadoff hitters since May 16th–only the Boston Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury has more stolen bases in that time frame.
It also is worth mentioning that Cabrera’s play at shortstop has strong this season. His career -13.5 UZR has been flipped to a 3.2 and his range has improved to a .821 RZR (up from a career of .787).
While you can’t disregard the impact that rookie Jedd Gyorko and veteran Carlos Quentin have made on the team, Cabrera still bests them with a 3.5 WAR for the year–he leads all hitters with a 2.2 during the last 27 games.
Cabrera cannot be expected to maintain his current .426 BABIP, some of which is the result of his speed. His ground ball rate of 58% on the year will have to be improved because he isn’t going to leg out everything he’s putting on the ground. He’s hitting line drives on almost 25% of his contact, which is really good and is more of an indicator of his current tear. However, once the BABIP lowers (and it will) and his line drives start to regress, Cabrera’s production might drop some but as long as he stays smart at the plate and continues his success with his stole bases, he (along with a supporting cast) will continue to keep the Padres relevant in the coming months.
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