Asdrubal Cabrera’s Power Surge May Not Be Repeatable

Asdrubal Cabrera has had a number of up and down seasons in the past few years, and from my outside perspective it seems to be, at least in some part, related to a significant quadriceps injury he suffered in 2013 (view the video). Cabrera entered the 2013 season as a two time All Star shortstop, and during the first two months he was off to a pretty standard Asdrubal Cabrera type season: above average offense and mediocre defense.  After this injury, from which he missed three weeks of playing time, he languished offensively for more than two entire months.  From June 26th, the day he returned, until September 4th, he produced a miserable .221/.276/.329 line with .267 wOBA and 65 wRC+. From September 6th on, he went back to his more standard .272/.330/.519 with .368 wOBA and 134 wRC+.  With the benefit of hindsight, we can all agree he likely came back from his quad injury too soon. 

The struggles of the 2013 season may have prepared Cabrera for his 2016 campaign, as it turned out to be very similar to 2013 in many ways.  During spring training, Cabrera suffered another quadriceps related injury, this time to his patellar tendon, the bit that connects your kneecap to your lower leg.  This injury served to plague him throughout the season, leading him to the disabled list in early August after suffering what, to me anyway, looked like a potentially serious injury (view the video).  Similar to 2013, Cabrera came back from this injury exceptionally quickly, this time missing only 18 games, but, unlike 2013, this time came back with a fury. And a new hair color.

Immediately upon his return from the DL, Cabrera became one of the greatest hitters in MLB for about a 5 week stretch from August 19th to September 26th during which he bat .367/.431/.703 with a .470 wOBA and .202 wRC+. He hit 10 home runs, scored 22 runs, and knocked in 28 RBI during this stretch. He was the life of the Mets offense, the leader of the ball club, and a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the plate. It was tremendous to watch as a fan.

In terms of fantasy value, Asdrubal Cabrera slots 14th-15th place among shortstops in 2016 according to Brad Johnson’s end of season rankings, right around Addison Russell and Brandon Crawford.  You can stretch a little and compare him to Marcus Semien as well, which is particularly satisfying for me, considering I had all four of these guys manning my shortstop positions on my various teams. Anywho, Cabrera settled in as a solidly above average, albeit not quite great shortstop in 2016. In large part thanks to large spikes in both batting average and home runs. However, he suffered from ‘my team has a bad offense’, which limited his RBIs and Runs scored. Which might change in 2016?  Hey it couldn’t get much worse.  The Mets had an historically bad offense for most of the year.  Any boost at all in their offense could help Cabrera establish a bit more fantasy value.

Going into the 2016 season, ZiPS projected Cabrera to hit .258/.315/.421, which was a step down from his 2015 season. It made sense to pull in the reigns on his projection, considering his 2013 and 2014 seasons were so weak.  His xStats for the 2016 season turned out to be .256/.315/.430.  Perfectly in line with that ZiPS projection.  However, his game performance was actually .280/.336/.474, a pretty large disparity. There was a similar difference between his 2015 xStats- .238/.291/.445 and his 2015 stats- .265/.315/.430.

Below I have concocted two rather large tables (I’m sorry for their size) which detail the exit velocity, launch angle, and the probabilities of similarly hit balls landing as singles, doubles, triples, or home runs.  These are all of the batted balls that had even the slightest chance to go over the fence.  I’ve included the value hit metric, and if you change the sorting order you’ll see that it isn’t directly tied to either vertical launch angle or exit velocity, but rather particularly beneficial combinations of the two plus the horizontal angle.  Even still, exit velocity definitely helps quite a bit.  

Asdrubal Cabrera’s 2015 BIP With >0% Of HR
Date Result EV Angle x1B x2B x3B xHR xAVG VH
04/24/15 Triple 99.5 24.5 0.0% 35.7% 7.0% 7.1% .499
04/28/15 Double 100.2 19.3 0.0% 63.0% 11.0% 3.7% .776 1
05/08/15 Double 102.2 23.5 3.8% 57.7% 7.6% 30.8% .998 1
05/09/15 Home Run 105.2 35.1 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
05/13/15 Out 91.9 30.7 0.0% 7.2% 0.0% 28.6% .357
05/16/15 Triple 96.6 28.8 0.0% 5.6% 11.0% 16.7% .332
05/19/15 Home Run 105.4 30 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 87.5% .875 1
06/03/15 Out 93.9 37.5 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 10.5% .105
06/13/15 Out 92.4 28.5 0.0% 8.0% 0.0% 4.0% .120
06/14/15 Home Run 101.6 38 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 63.6% .636 1
06/15/15 Out 99.5 28.5 6.2% 18.8% 0.0% 37.5% .624 1
06/19/15 Home Run 100.4 22.3 15.7% 36.9% 0.0% 36.8% .894 1
06/22/15 Out 92 34.6 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 50.0% .500 1
06/23/15 Home Run 103.1 40.7 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
06/30/15 Double 100.5 21.5 0.0% 60.0% 19.9% 6.7% .865 1
07/08/15 Double 102.2 22.6 5.2% 52.7% 0.0% 10.5% .684 1
07/09/15 Double 106.7 24.8 0.0% 9.1% 0.0% 90.9% 1.000 1
07/09/15 Out 92.5 34.2 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 6.7% .067
07/29/15 Home Run 94 33.1 6.2% 0.0% 0.0% 12.5% .187
08/02/15 Double 102.9 24.2 0.0% 13.4% 0.0% 80.0% .933 1
08/04/15 Home Run 104.2 34.8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
08/05/15 Double 106.2 20.1 0.0% 64.3% 0.0% 35.7% 1.000 1
08/07/15 Double 106.4 21.9 16.6% 16.7% 0.0% 66.7% .999 1
08/11/15 Out 100.8 30.5 0.0% 7.7% 7.6% 23.1% .383
08/14/15 Single 104.5 17.1 23.5% 17.7% 0.0% 5.9% .470
08/15/15 Home Run 99.7 28.1 0.0% 21.4% 0.0% 64.3% .857 1
08/17/15 Out 106.2 21.3 0.0% 25.0% 12.4% 37.5% .749 1
08/22/15 Home Run 102.2 26.8 0.0% 15.8% 0.0% 73.7% .895 1
08/27/15 Out 94.7 39.6 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 15.4% .154
08/31/15 Home Run 105.2 33.1 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
09/05/15 Out 98.5 37.5 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 10.0% .100
09/06/15 Home Run 102.7 31.6 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
09/09/15 Double 105 17 7.6% 53.9% 0.0% 23.1% .845 1
09/11/15 Home Run 104.7 28.7 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 91.7% .917 1
09/23/15 Home Run 99.6 33.8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
09/24/15 Double 104.9 23.8 0.0% 37.5% 0.0% 62.5% 1.000 1
09/27/15 Out 101.7 33.4 0.0% 5.9% 0.0% 5.9% .118
09/29/15 Home Run 102.9 37.8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 37.5% .375
10/03/15 Home Run 94.2 31.3 0.0% 11.8% 0.0% 29.4% .412
SOURCE: xStats.org
Total AVG EV AVG Angle x1B x2B x3B xHR xAVG VH VH%
39 100.7 29.0 .8 6.5 .8 17.7 .660 25 64%

 

Anyways, he had 39 batted balls which this system identified as having a chance to leave the park, ranging from a 3.7% to 100% chance. Of these, 15 registered as home runs, which is roughly 38% of the total. Another 10 were doubles, two triples, and one single, for an overall batting average of .718 and a slugging of 2.231.  When I add up the ‘expected’ results it comes out to .8 single, 6.5 doubles, .8 triple, and 17.7 home runs. Which is a .660 expected average, but still the exact same 2.231 slugging.  Cabrera averaged 100.7 mph on these batted balls and he registered 25 value hits (64.1%).

As for the 2016 data, you can probably notice there are more batted balls listed.  There 53 as opposed to the 39 in 2015. Of these 53, 23 are home runs (43%), 10 doubles, 1 triple, and 3 singles for a .698 average and 2.226 slugging.  The expected results sum to 1.8 singles, 11.4 doubles, 1.9 triples, and 18.7 homers. An expected .638 average and a 1.983 slugging. The average exit velocity is 99.9 mph with 32 value hits (59.2%).

Asdrubal Cabrera’s 2016 BIP With >0% Of HR
Date Result EV Angle x1B x2B x3B xHR xAVG VH
04/17/16 Out 98 23.3 5.2% 21.1% 0.0% 10.5% .368
04/23/16 Home Run 98.9 32.8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
04/24/16 Out 97.7 30.4 0.0% 5.6% 11.0% 16.7% .332
04/29/16 Double 104.8 19.8 0.0% 75.0% 0.0% 8.3% .833 1
05/03/16 Out 102.6 19.7 4.3% 34.8% 0.0% 13.0% .521
05/04/16 Home Run 99.9 28.6 0.0% 11.6% 3.7% 42.3% .576 1
05/04/16 Out 103.8 19.1 13.0% 43.5% 12.9% 4.4% .737 1
05/07/16 Double 97 25.3 0.0% 16.7% 0.0% 27.8% .444
05/12/16 Single 102 16.6 19.9% 20.0% 0.0% 5.0% .449
05/24/16 Home Run 97.9 27.5 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 60.0% .600 1
05/29/16 Home Run 98.6 39.5 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 40.0% .400
05/30/16 Out 99.9 35.9 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 11.1% .111
06/03/16 Home Run 103 29 0.0% 7.7% 0.0% 84.6% .923 1
06/04/16 Out 97.1 22.4 0.0% 28.0% 0.0% 8.0% .360
06/11/16 Home Run 96.5 26.1 0.0% 50.0% 0.0% 14.3% .643 1
06/16/16 Double 106.2 21.5 0.0% 42.9% 0.0% 57.1% 1.000 1
06/21/16 Home Run 98.8 31.8 0.0% 6.7% 0.0% 33.3% .400
06/21/16 Out 99 25.5 0.0% 47.6% 9.4% 14.3% .713 1
06/22/16 Home Run 97.6 28.1 0.0% 45.5% 0.0% 18.2% .636 1
06/23/16 Double 99.8 29.5 0.0% 11.1% 0.0% 66.7% .778 1
06/30/16 Out 101.7 21.6 4.7% 38.1% 4.6% 4.8% .522
07/01/16 Home Run 104.4 39.5 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
07/01/16 Home Run 96.5 35.1 0.0% 0.0% 16.5% 25.0% .415
07/07/16 Home Run 103.4 34.9 0.0% 0.0% 12.4% 75.0% .874 1
07/08/16 Home Run 100.4 34.9 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0% 1.000 1
07/10/16 Out 103 19.8 5.8% 47.1% 5.7% 5.9% .645
07/10/16 Single 105.8 15.9 11.0% 44.5% 0.0% 5.6% .610
07/17/16 Home Run 100.4 24.8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 72.2% .722 1
07/22/16 Double 98.9 26.6 0.0% 33.4% 13.2% 13.3% .599 1
07/24/16 Out 90.7 31 0.0% 6.7% 0.0% 6.7% .133
07/26/16 Double 97 24.6 0.0% 28.6% 0.0% 21.4% .500
07/27/16 Single 103.6 22.1 5.2% 63.2% 5.1% 10.5% .840 1
08/23/16 Double 99.2 25.8 0.0% 47.6% 9.4% 14.3% .713 1
08/26/16 Home Run 98.5 33.2 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.0% .250
08/26/16 Home Run 100.5 39.7 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14.3% .143
08/27/16 Home Run 102.4 26.9 0.0% 10.0% 0.0% 90.0% 1.000 1
08/30/16 Home Run 98.8 28.4 7.1% 7.2% 0.0% 64.3% .785 1
09/01/16 Home Run 94.8 28.9 0.0% 18.2% 18.0% 27.3% .635 1
09/02/16 Home Run 98.7 36 12.4% 12.5% 12.4% 12.5% .498
09/09/16 Double 103.7 22 5.2% 63.2% 5.1% 10.5% .840 1
09/10/16 Out 105.5 16.5 0.0% 53.4% 6.5% 20.0% .799 1
09/10/16 Out 96.7 22.1 5.2% 21.1% 0.0% 10.5% .368
09/11/16 Triple 99 34.2 12.4% 12.5% 12.4% 12.5% .498
09/12/16 Out 95.1 27.6 0.0% 22.2% 11.0% 22.2% .554 1
09/13/16 Double 99.9 25.1 0.0% 46.7% 6.5% 13.3% .665 1
09/13/16 Out 103 19.9 5.5% 33.4% 0.0% 27.8% .666 1
09/16/16 Home Run 104.9 29 0.0% 7.7% 0.0% 84.6% .923 1
09/21/16 Home Run 101.6 30.9 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 92.9% .929 1
09/22/16 Home Run 102 28.5 0.0% 0.0% 9.4% 81.0% .903 1
09/22/16 Out 94.2 5.8 58.8% 0.0% 0.0% 5.9% .646
09/25/16 Home Run 99.1 36.8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 83.3% .833 1
09/26/16 Double 93.5 29.3 0.0% 44.5% 0.0% 22.2% .667 1
09/28/16 Out 96.5 27.8 0.0% 14.3% 0.0% 57.1% .714 1
SOURCE: xStats.org
Total AVG EV AVG Angle x1B x2B x3B xHR xAVG VH VH%
53 99.9 27.1 1.8 11.4 1.9 18.7 .636 32 60%

Yes, Cabrera hit more balls that had a chance to leave the park in 2016, but they were, on average, of lesser value per hit.  It is true that Cabrera had an overall rise in exit velocity in 2016, he went from 88.6 to 89.5 mph, but the majority of this increase came in the form of batted balls that land for singles and doubles as opposed to home runs.  It appears, perhaps, a few of the home runs he hit this season may have come from some degree of luck.  For example, these two from August 26. They both just barely cleared a section of fences the Mets recently moved in. 

game128

Conveniently, you can see their odds in the chart above, 25% and 14% respectively. These odds aren’t terrible, a 1 in 4 and 1 in 7 shot to be a home run aren’t so bad.  The success he had this season is within the range you’d expect based upon the value of his batted balls, but he is on the high side of what you’d expect.  The mean success rates suggest, given a large enough sample, his performance would have likely dropped down to an OPS around the .740 mark, a wOBA around .320. His performance increased in 2016, there is no doubt about that, but it was a small change. Maybe 5-10 points to average and slugging, not the 30 points we witnessed during the course of the season. I question Cabrera’s ability to maintain this power surge. Then again, I was worried prior to the season, and he proved me wrong. So, maybe he’ll do it again in 2017.  For now, though, I am going to average his xStats and ZiPS and assume Cabrera’s 2017 season will be roughly .257/.315/.426.





Andrew Perpetua is the creator of CitiFieldHR.com and xStats.org, and plays around with Statcast data for fun. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewPerpetua.

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The eyeball test and understanding the circumstance of his 2016 season I think perhaps offers better insight than trying to predict by parsing all that data.

Here’s My Takeaway Having Seen Much of His 2016 Along With His Comments:

1 – Early in the season he said he did not feel any need to focus on long balls knowing how deep the Mets lineup was with power hitters. He said that freed him to focus on other parts of his game.

2 – The knee injury made him more controlled and disciplined at the plate.

3 – The DL for that knee revitalized a worn down Cabrera who played his heart out and was physically drained by that injury

4 – Kevin Long works really well with vets who grow through nuanced adjustments

5 – He wanted to prove the naysayers wrong about his so-called decline.

6 – He was embraced by his teammates as a leader and became very vested in making the most of his opportunities to help the team reach the postseason

7 – He’s extremely smart player on both sides of the ball who grew even further in 2016.

8 – Regularly batting in front of Cespedes at #2, improved the threat of protection behind him.

8 – His compact mechanics, focus and approach, plus a rehabbed, rested knee should help him replicate or even exceed 2016 power if the ball carries as it did in the majors, and avoids extended slumps. .