Rob Deer is known as one of the masters of Three True Outcomes. If Deer didn’t hit a home run or draw a walk, Rob Deer was striking out.
Alberto Cabrera was the Rob Deer of pitching in 2012. He faced 99 batters in the MLB in 2012. He let one take him deep, walked 18, and struck out 27 others. That’s 46 of 99 batters, good for 46.5% of all plate appearances (In this analogy, Carlos Marmol is Adam Dunn – both similarly effective in 2011).
Cabrera sported an ERA of 5.40 in the majors last year, but in a small sample size (21.2 innings) and in spite of a 3.83 FIP (Cabrera did, however, carry a 4.59 xFIP, indicating he wasn’t entirely unlucky).
The Cubs have decided to make Cabrera the 8th or 9th starter in 2013. How will that work out?
It’s a fool’s errand to put any stock in 390 major league pitches, but I am a fool. PITCHf/x has Cabrera utilizing 3 pitches: a 4 and 2 seam fastball, thrown 35% and 25% and 94 and 93 mph, respectively. His other offering is an 83 mph slider. There’s no real way to glean any constructive data from PITCHf/x here, so I’ll resort to the scouting reports, which say that he can dial it up to 97 on the fastball but maybe doesn’t have the best control of his slidepiece at the moment.
Cabrera never had eye-popping peripherals until 2012; SO/BBs of 1.23/1.35/2.50/1.36 isn’t exactly the stuff of the legends. He was also eminently hittable in those years; his WHIP in the minors is a worse-than-pedestrian 1.540, even including his breakout 2012. However, in 2012, he also struck out 12.1 per 9, paired against 2.3 walks per 9. That IS the Pedro Martinez blueprint of the minors (albeit in 55 innings). I don’t have much to go by here, but my best guess is that his stuff just played out a LOT better as a reliever. Having no offspeed pitch but the ability to throw 97 tends to do that to a guy.
Cabrera could possibly carve out a career as a good middle reliver/setup man in the bigs as soon 2013. I don’t foresee a ton of success as a starter. He couldn’t do it his first 6 years in the bigs, and without a secondary pitch you can throw for strikes, the odds are good he won’t do it now. In the best case, the Cubs find some more depth at Iowa to start and Cabrera takes on his true role as a 2013 pen arm. In the worst case, we see just how many walks a guy with no secondary offering can issue in his 10 spot starts in Chicago.