Cabrera Provides Veteran Leadership to Core Up the Middle

After a disappointing 2012 Cleveland Indians season the organization is at a crossroads to decide how to progress with the organization, not just for the 2013 season but several seasons to come. Decisions involve ownerships, the front office, managerial and coaching decisions and the players. For the month of October, we’ll look at how the Indians ended up in their current predicament, but most importantly, Where Do the Indians Go From Here. This week we analyze the Tribe’s young core of players moving forward. 

Much like the Cleveland Indians themselves, Asdrubal Cabrera got off to a fine start. Just like the Indians season, unfortunately, Cabrera would falter in the second half, and ultimately finish a year that didn’t quite meet expectations.

Many parallels can be made between the Indians season, and Cabrera’s offense. At the end of April, Cabrera was batting .302, and the Indians found themselves in first place in the AL Central. As May came to a close, Cabrera’s batting average had dropped just a tiny bit to .298, and the Indians had fallen just a tad in the standing to 1.5 games back; both numbers still very good, and very promising. Going into July, Cabrera was batting .297, and the Indians were still very much in the hut at 2.5 games back. Then, things took a turn for the worst. Cabrera hit just .233 over the next two months, and the Indians record would plummet from 40-38 to 56-77.

Cabrera at least finished with a very respectable offensive season. He hit 16 home runs, down from 25 the previous year, and he batted .270, and hit 35 doubles. On the down side, he stole only 9 bases, and scored a mere 70 runs with just 68 RBI in 143 games. The runs scored and RBI are not entirely Cabrera’s fault. The Indians poor offense accounts for most of those low numbers. When a player is batting, someone has to be one base in order for him to rack up RBI. And when he is on base, someone needs to be driving him in for him to score runs.

When compared to his position, Cabrera’s season looked even better. He ranked second among AL shortstops in home runs and RBI. He also finished second with a .762 OPS (On Base plus Slugging), and he led all AL shortstops in doubles.

Cabrera came through in the clutch consistently in 2012. He batted .300 with runners on base, and .285 with runners in scoring position. What might have been his biggest moment of the season came on June 19th against the Cincinnati Reds. The Indians trailed the White Sox by a half game in the AL Central as they meet their fellow statesmen. The game would go into the 10th inning, and that’s when Cabrera made his mark. He stepped in against All Star fireballer Aroldis Chapman with the Indians trailing 2-1 and a man on first. Cabrera launched a Chapman fastball into the seats in right field for a walk off home run, and the Indians took over the AL Central lead once again.

In 2012, Cabrera suffered from a split personality. In a sort of antithesis to Carlos Santana, Cabrera started out very strong, and then fizzled out considerably after the All-Star break. One can look at a players slash line to get a quick and basic assessment of how that player’s season has gone. A slash line is just a player’s batting average, on base average and slugging average put together and separated by a back slash. A slash line is represented as AVG/OBA/SLG. Cabrera’s slash line was a crisp .286/.364/.467 at the break; after the break, he managed a meager .251/.305/.371.

When compared to the league average of .255/.319/.405, Cabrera basically became a below average hitter for the second half of the season. This is a trend that Indians fans have seen before. In 2011, Cabrera posted a slash of .293/.347/.489 at the All Star break, but managed just .244/.310/.419 in the second half. This may be an indication of poor conditioning, or it may be teams making adjustments to the two-time All Star, but whatever the reason, lets hope he gets off to another strong start in 2013, and sustains that pace throughout the season.

The power numbers shown by Cabrera are going to be fairly consistent to what he should produce year in and year out. Look for a rise in his batting average in the next season, as his plate discipline has gotten much better. He will be right smack in the heart of the Indians 2013 lineup, likely as the number two or three hitter. New Manager Terry Francona has a solid middle infield to work with here in Cleveland.

As the Indians front office moves forward to 2013, many changes are sure to come. Cabrera, however, appears here to stay. He signed a two year extension to his contract, and isn’t set to become a free agent until after the 2014 season. The Indians are young and strong up the middle, and Cabrera is the cornerstone at short.

If the Indians decided a full-blown rebuild was necessary, the Tribe could kick the tires on what would have to be a huge trade to move Cabrera. With his contract stable for two more seasons, a contender would gain a cornerstone of their own. The Indians would have to receive a large dowry to consider trading Cabrera this winter.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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