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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I'm an avid sports and movie fan, and I love statistical analysis of almost anything.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Ok, I have no proof of that.

But I’ve been a big proponent of the Jays signing Melky Cabrera to be the Team’s new everyday left fielder, proposing a 1-year, $10million deal. I like Rajai Davis as a 4th outfielder and pinch runner and injury replacement, and I like Emilio Bonifacio as a utility guy who can spell Colby Rasmus in centre, and I think Anthony Gose could be Denard Span-good at the MLB level (which is pretty good in case you only know his value as a fantasy baseball player, or don't know him at all...he plays for the Twins).

But none of those guys should be considered starter-worthy heading into the 2013 season, and the Jays still needed to add another good bat to the lineup for it to be truly “feared.” Enter Melky Cabrera, formerly of the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and 50-game PED suspension list. The early report is that he signed a 2-year, $16 million deal. That’s amazing. Prior to the steroid scandal (and what a scandal it was), Melky was an MVP candidate, MVP of the all-star game, and in line for a $100million payday. Now, he’s signed for less than a team would typically pay for a league-average free agent left fielder.

I don’t want to get into the whole steroid-ethics issue. Melky served his time, lost a lot of money, and came under serious scrutiny for the way he handled his big error in judgment. But I believe in second chances and forgiveness, and that once a man has served his time and paid his debt to society, he should be allowed to move forward with his life in a normal fashion.

Of course, Melky isn’t moving forward in a normal fashion, because guys who have put up 8.8 fWAR over their most recent 1,207 plate appearances and are still only 28 years old typically sign for much more than $8million per year for 2 years.

Let’s assume that steroids WERE a big part of his production (which is not safe to assume, as the Ryan Braun incident has shown). But let’s say for argument sake that it inflated his production by as much as 25%. Then he was still roughly 25% better than the league average hitter. That’s very good. That’s probably worth almost $16million per season alone.

San Francisco’s AT&T Park is a notorious pitchers-friendly stadium, and is especially hard to hit in for lefties not named Barry Bonds (Melky is a switch hitter). However, Melky still managed a .346/.390/.516 line in 501 plate appearances last season. His BABIP was far higher than his career average, at .379 vs. .309, but his BABIP the previous season was .332, and he was 20% above-average at the plate in that year.

Bill James, renowned baseball statistician and author, projects Melky to play 148 games in 2013 and have a hitting line of .295/.348/.432. I think it’s safe to say that in Toronto, his slugging percentage will be higher than that. 10.7% of his fly balls turned into home runs last season, but away from home he destroyed pitchers. His wRC+ (a measure of how much better you are than average taking into account Ball Park and pitching competition) was a remarkable 177 on the road, compared to a still-good-but-not-amazing 117 wRC+ at AT&T Park. His HR/FB ratio outside of San Francisco’s spacious walls was 14.8%, vs. 4.8% at home. 14.8% isn't elite, but it's upper-middle-class. It’s no secret that The Roger’s Centre is a very good home run park for righties, and it’s roughly neutral for lefties. Melky, assuming he didn’t forget how to swing during his forced hiatus, should be able to put up good power numbers in Toronto.

My estimate for him in Toronto is 650 plate appearances, a .297 batting average, a .354 on base percentage, and a .466 slugging percentage, with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Combined with his below-average fielding in left, and above-average base running, that’s probably good for a fWAR around 3, and it makes him “worth” about $15million in 1 season.

Some people won’t like this signing because they want to condemn anyone who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs to a lifetime of misery and scorn. I don’t feel that way. I am opposed to steroid use on many levels, however as I said I think he has served his time and that he should be allowed to move on. Also, it's only a 2-year deal. If he goes off this season, and is really doing well next season, but the team isn't in a position to win for whatever reason, he'll be VERY tradeable at the deadline, and would likely net a premium prospect. He'll only be 30 when this contract is up.

The fact of the matter is, from a baseball standpoint, the Blue Jays just got a lot better, again. So far it’s only on paper, and there is some risk with any signing, especially of a player coming off such a big scandal. But the Jays’ GM has shown a knack for acquiring assets, via trade, that other teams dislike despite their baseball abilities. He has finally translated that to the free agent market, signing a very polished player who on the surface appears to be scuffed.

Jays fans should be excited about a team that is making apparently shrewd moves and spending smart money to put a competitive product on the field. The city of Toronto and its sports fans deserve this.

Now the team needs to acquire Derek Holland from the Texas Rangers in exchange for J.P. Arencibia, and roll with Travis D’Arnaud, John Buck, and Bobby Wilson as the catchers next year.

I know you’re reading this, Alex Anthopoulos…

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