|The Melkman Cometh|
This is probably stupid on my part, or at the very least a bit irrational, but bear with me for a moment. Former baseball blog whipping boy, Melky Cabrera is coming off of a career year in which he put up personal bests in every single offensive category. Usually outlier years can be chalked up to little more than good fortune, and should be taken with a grain of salt, but there is something to be said for the numbers Cabrera put up last year.
In 2011, Melky entered his age 26 season, which according to player aging curves is when many players hit their peak. There have been countless stories of ballplayers struggling through the early part of their careers before ultimately figuring things out and becoming productive players. In addition to hitting his physical peak, Melky seems to have matured as many people leaving their early 20's do. He arrived to Royals camp in 2011 in the best shape of his life™, dropping the baby fat he carried with him the beginning of his career and seemed to be more focused on baseball.
4.2 fWAR, .305/.339/.470, .349 wOBA, 121 OPS+, .332 BABIP, 18 HR, 20 SB, 706 PA
It's not likely that Cabrera will top, or even match, the numbers he had last season. The giant spike in BABIP helped get his batting average over .300 for the first time in his career. This is likely to regress closer to his career .300 BABIP, which will drop his batting average in return, but, the slugging numbers Melky put up last year might be the most encouraging thing about his 2011 campaign. And if he can sustain his power surge, he might make Brian Sabean look like a smart man. The park factors of Kauffman stadium, and AT&T Park are both pitcher friendly, so his power numbers shouldn't regress due to a change in venue. In fact, AT&T Park is more home run friendly to left handed hitters than Kauffman, so there may be reason to be optimistic for higher home run totals for the Melk Man this season.
The Giants will be leaning heavily on Cabrera to provide some punch to an offense that was rather anemic last season. The NL West should be an extremely winnable division with the D'Backs providing the only real competition for the division crown. Replacing the lack of production that Andres Torres provided last season with Melky Cabrera may help the Giants pick up an extra win or two, and in a tight division race, those marginal wins are worth their weight in gold. Let's just hope we don't see too much of this out of Melky in 2012.
Off the Cuff Projection:
.280/.330/.450 and 25 HR