Before the 2013 season starts, let's all remember there was a player named "Melky Cabrera" on the 2012 Giants.
The year was 2012. The month, April. The San Francisco Giants, looking to improve on a 2011 lineup that scored twice all season (on a safety), had an entire offseason to fix the lineup. After those months of hard work, this is what they came up with for Opening Day:
Angel Pagan - CF
Melky Cabrera - RF
Pablo Sandoval - 3B
Buster Posey - C
Aubrey Huff - LF
Brandon Belt - 1B
Ryan Theriot - 2B
Brandon Crawford - SS
Pagan was coming off a down year. Cabrera was coming off a fluky, out-of-character year. Posey was almost a year removed from live pitching, and Huff was hitting fifth. Theriot and Crawford were at the bottom of the lineup. It looked like another year of miserable hitting, made palatable only by the knowledge that Tim Lincecum was a super-ace.
The Giants had the best offense in the league after adjusting for park.
Of course, that's by OPS+, which uses single-season park factors. If you believe in OPS+, you believe in ERA+, which means you believe that both Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner (and their 3.37 ERAs) were nothing but average last season. I'm not sure I'm ready to believe that entirely, but I'm ready to believe that the Giants were a better hitting team than a pitching team in 2012. Which is still ludicrous to type, even after watching it happen.
And Melky Cabrera was a thing that happened, one of the reasons for the turnaround. At the All-Star Break, he was the biggest reason for the turnaround, the main cog in what had inexplicably turned into a functional machine. Our projections for him from before the season:
And the results:
It was amazing to watch. Do you realize what Melky hit against left-handers last year? .395/.444/.667. He won the All-Star MVP, helping the Giants get home-field advantage in the World Series. He was the #3 hitter the Giants had been desperate for, a necessary complement to Pablo and Buster. He was going to get a big, long-term deal. He had people dress up for him at the park. He had ballpark giveaways planned around him. He was taking enough synthetic testosterone to grow a patch of pubic hair on his forehead.
Yet it's the last one that people seem to remember. smh.
It's possible this will be the last Melky-themed column in the history of McCovey Chronicles. It's certainly the least essential community-projection review of the bunch, considering he's a Blue Jay now. But after Cabrera was suspended, the Giants went 30-15 in the regular season and 11-5 in the postseason, so everyone forgot about him. I certainly did.
For a while there, he was kind of a folk hero. He was a data point supporting the idea that Brian Sabean is smarter than all of us. And I have no idea how to review that community projection because the dude was juicing like Jack Lalanne. If you predicted a total collapse, do you get to say, "Oh, sure, well if I knew he was juicing, I would have been much more bullish"? Probably, even if you know that's just you weaseling out.
Melky Cabrera existed. We thought he was going to be mediocre. He was, instead, transcendent. Then he was shamed and humbled before he was forgotten. Between a perfect game, an MVP, and a World Series championship, Melky Cabrera existed.