Each day, the Indians October outfield becomes more and more painfully, obviously clear.
With the vicious attrition laid upon it by injury and ineffectiveness and the front office/coaching staff’s sudden undesire to try anything novel, daring or creative despite an indomitable lead in the division, the starters once the calendar flips are all but sealed. Of course Michael Brantley will be there, and Greg Allen is doing everything a glove-only, slap-hitting center field prototype always must do. And in right, somehow, some way, there stands Melky Cabrera.
It must be so. Maybe it was always meant to be.
His is a name that went all but unmentioned before the season. Of course part of that was driven by optimism in Lonnie Chisenhall’s calf health and Bradley Zimmer learning how to not run into walls, but at this point in his career Melky Cabrera just isn’t someone you think about. Not that he’s bad, at the plate anyway.
He owns a career 102 wRC+, and outside of a couple years plagued by fitness issues in New York and most of a season in San Francisco that was… enhanced, he’s been an above average hitter pretty much every season. Heck, even right now he’s he’s (tied with Edwin as) the Indians’ fourth best hitter by wRC+ among those with at least plate appearances.
This is of course buoyed by the incredible stretch he’s been on. In his second stint with the Tribe that started July 21st, Melky is hitting .320/.386/.544, and he’s been on an absolute tear over the last 13 games hitting .400/.460/.800 with five homers over that stretch. Which has been amazing. A bit frustrating for those of us wanting playing time for Yandy Diaz, because somehow these smart baseball men are caught up in the hot hand fallacy and think this will continue forever.
It won’t of course. He’s not a better hitter than Francisco Lindor as he’s tried to lead us to believe since mid-July, or better than peak Barry Bonds as he’s suggested the last couple games. He’ll cool off at some point, or at least track back to what he’s been the last ten years. The reality is, this is Jay Bruce for 2018, isn’t it. Bruce had a few nice moments last season –the walkoff hit in win 22 among others - but ultimately for the Indians was basically what Cabrera is being right now. He posted a 111 wRC+, hit seven home runs and had some fun adventures in right field.
So this is reality. It’s not a reality I expected, or anyone did most likely. It’s not one I’m especially happy with because of the aforementioned Yandy sidelining and the mere reason Melky is on the team is because Chisenhall isn’t. But maybe he’ll be okay. They’re not exactly counting on him to carry the team, but he does stretch the lineup out a bit. It’s not like he’s a great right fielder, but neither was Bruce last year, and he at least bopped a few homers in the Indians’ brief October appearance. The Tribe brain trust continues to not be willing to do something neat and novel this year, so we won’t see any strongmen playing right. But tradition of some kind will be carried on. They seem to need an unathletic right fielder with a solid if unspectacular bat. This is what must be.
If Cabrera really has rounded back into shape, it’s far from the worst possible outcome. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.