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Bad Attitude, Bad Play: Can Anything Help Cabrera – Like a Replacement by Aviles?

Bad Attitude, Bad Play: Can Anything Help Cabrera – Like a Replacement by Aviles?

| On 14, Aug 2013

I write this with a heavy heart. Since his debut in 2007, Asdrubal Cabrera has been my favorite player on the Indians roster. That is, until this season.

Although he started out in seemingly the best shape he’s been in in a while, Cabrera’s season has started slipping dangerously quickly. After battling a quadriceps injury in June that put him on the disabled list for a few weeks, Cabrera’s 2013 season has hardly been one for the record books, despite his being a two-time All-Star in 2011 and 2012. Those seasons had Cabrera batting .273 and .270, respectively. So far this season, Cabrera is batting a career-low .240.

However, Cabrera is not simply struggling with a low average. He is having overall poor at-bats, already having 86 strikeouts on the season. He has hit nine home runs, a lower count than his previous season numbers of 25 and 16 in 2011 and 2012. He’s posting a .292/.398/.691 triple slash this season, which doesn’t say much for the new cleanup hitter in the lineup.

Since Nick Swisher was moved to the two-spot in July, Cabrera has taken over his duties as fourth in the lineup. One of the main responsibilities of the cleanup hitter is to drive in as many runs as possible after the top of the lineup has had their turn. However, Cabrera has 44 RBI on the season – hardly a stat that makes him a promising number-four hitter. Yes, he spent most of the season batting at the beginning of the lineup, giving him a few less opportunities to knock in runs in the top of the first inning, but it still doesn’t seem to grant him the cleanup position.

Not to be overly dramatic, but it’s crushing to me to see Cabrera struggling like this at the plate. His attitude doesn’t do much to make things better, either. Cabrera has seemed quite disgruntled with his performance this season, and it is not uncommon to see him throw down his bat and helmet with disgust after a subpar plate appearance.

And don’t get me started on his on-field struggles. Cabrera, who made an unassisted triple play in 2008, has had a disappointing defensive season as well. He has committed seven errors on the season, but they haven’t been “understandable” errors. His fielding has demonstrated a complete lack of effort, as if he’s given up on the season and the chance of regaining his once-impressive stature.

Saturday, August 10, Cabrera botched a ball hit by Mark Trumbo into what should have been a routine double play. That error was followed by a four-run inning for the Angels, resulting in a 7-2 loss to Los Angeles. Although the Tribe won Sunday, Cabrera was of little-to-no help in the effort. In the first inning, Mike Trout hit a ground ball that Cabrera jumped for, but provided no effort in saving the ball once he missed it. The hit resulted in a two-run single, giving the Angels a 4-run lead in the first inning. When Cabrera made his first plate appearance, he was ejected for telling at the umpire after striking out swinging, unhappy with the called second strike.

Mike Aviles replaced Cabrera against the Angels on Sunday, hitting a two-run homer that helped catapult the Tribe to their 6-5 win over Los Angeles. Which brings up the biggest question in the struggle that is Asdrubal Cabrera – how often should Aviles play instead of Cabrera as the season continues?

Aviles is currently hitting .261 with seven home runs and 31 RBI – numbers creeping closer and closer to those of Cabrera, with an average already exceeding Cabrera’s .240. Aviles has struck out only 35 times in 89 games. He’s posting .289/.384/.674. Yes, lower numbers here than Cabrera, but not detrimentally lower.

Aviles’ past seasons demonstrate that the utility man has promise. He hit .250 last season with Boston, and .317 with the Red Sox in 2011 when he was traded from Kansas City.

His fielding gives further support for a more consistent use of Aviles. He has eight errors total this season between time spent at short stop, third base, second base and in the outfield. He has spent 42 games at short, with only four errors being made. He has been part of 26 double plays while in Cabrera’s position while performing 99 assists.

When looking at these two players, they seem comparable at a base level. Aviles has the higher average, although Cabrera has a longer tenure of play in Cleveland and has proven himself an asset to the team in years past.

However, numbers can only say so much. Despite Cabrera’s track record of success with the Indians, his attitude this season almost completely negates his history. He’s discouraging to watch, and it’s become almost as common to see and hear negative Cabrera comments during a game as it is Chris Perez disapproval.

While Aviles probably won’t deliver performances reminiscent of Cabrera’s plays of the past, it can be argued that he can’t cause more damage than Cabrera is inflicting right now. Perhaps a more steady rotation between the two will prove more effective for Cleveland as they continue their season – and perhaps seeing that he is replaceable will push Cabrera to perform at a higher level.

Either way, the lack of enthusiasm put forth by Cabrera needs to change, and fast. How is a city supposed to stay enthusiastic about behind a player and a team that can’t even seem to stay excited himself?

Photo: Al Behrman/AP Photo