A three year Indians review: Shortstop
This is the third part in this series, and thus far the Indians have been strongly improved over two positions. The first two positions I looked at were first base and second base, so it's time to continue across the diamond in counter-clockwise fashion and look at the shortstop position.
This is the only position which has stayed consistent over the last few years for the Indians. Asdrubal Cabrera is the only Indians hitter to be the opening day starter for this team the last three seasons.
2011 - Asdrubal Cabrera .293/.347/.489 393 PA
2012 - Asdrubal Cabrera .286/.364/.467 343 PA
2013 - Asdrubal Cabrera .259/.295/.375 300 PA
The drop by Asdrubal this season is frightening as he has taken a major tumble in every stat. I know he was hurt, but remember how he reported to camp in the best shape of his life; well his performance has not showed this at all. I am most scared by the drop in OBP where he took such strides in it last year but it is down 70 points this year. He is getting on base 7% less which over the course of a season is huge.
I wrote an article comparing Asdrubal to Carlos Baerga before the year began. The story was based on the idea that this was the age when Baerga fell apart, so you should trade Asdrubal now. For those who might be curious, the year Baerga fell apart his slash line was .258/.291/.392 at the break. Have I scared you yet?
For this stat remember anything below 0 is below replacement level, 2+ is a starter, 5+ an All Star:
2011 - Asdrubal Cabrera 2.9
2012 - Asdrubal Cabrera 2.3
2013 - Asdrubal Cabrera 0.7
The previous two years Asdrubal's decline in WAR was based on defensive regression. He has not gotten any better defensively and now his offense is also in major decline. The value difference in change from Asdrubal in 2012 to 2013 is greater than the value difference from Kotchman to Swisher. The hope is he will rebound, but at this point he has been a below average defender with a slightly above average bat.
For this remember 100 is average and 120 is great as it means the player produces 20% more runs than your average starter.
2011 - Asdrubal Cabrera 132
2012 - Asdrubal Cabrera 133
2013 - Asdrubal Cabrera 106
Asdrubal is still a better than average offensive player which is a big bonus when you consider his position. In terms of wRC+ he is still one of the top ten players at his position, and before the break he was nearly top five. The shortstop position has regressed badly the past few years, so frankly being league average will make you a top ten player. We are a long time away from the golden age of Nomar, ARod, Jeter, etc. Look at it this way, the Cardinals starting shortstop has a wRC+ of 60, so you can't tell me that Asdrubal wouldn't be worth a win or two for them the rest of the way.
So now we are three positions in and the Indians have seen improvement in two of the three positions. Next up will be third base which has been one of the most unsettled positions for the Indians ever since they traded away Casey Blake.
Also here is the compiled WAR and wRC+ for this team vs. 2011 and 2012:
2011 vs. 2013: WAR +3.5, wRC+ +66
2012 vs. 2013: WAR + 1, wRC+ +32
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Still, we're 2/3 of the way through the season and is average is down over 30 points, his OBP is down over 50 points, and his OPS is down over 100 points. That's very concerning.
Francona said he's been playing with a knee problem. He missed some games earlier this year with a strained quad or something. I wonder if the injuries are catching up to him and affecting his swing.
It wasn't that long ago Jhonny Peralta was all but run out of town and what has he done but beewn a 2-time all star for an annual contender at a position he wasn't supposed to be able to play.
Cabrera probably overperformed when he was hitting 20+ HR with 90+ RBI for a poor team but he is a very good player, a switch-hitter with pop at a premium position who simply must work harder to get better. Hopefully it'll be with the Indians until a guy like Lindor is more than talented prospect and proves he can do the job better.