Cabrera was Giants' off-speed answer

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Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera would be suspended 50 games without pay for testing positive for testosterone.Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that, effective immediately, San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera would be suspended 50 games without pay for testing positive for testosterone. He is the fourth player suspended for PEDs at the big-league level over the last three seasons and the second such player from the Giants suspended in 2012 (Guillermo Mota).

Since only 45 regular season games remained when the suspension was handed down, the Giants will need to reach the postseason to have any hope of Cabrera playing again in 2012. That may be be a tall order, however, without the services of their starting left fielder.

Entering Thursday, Cabrera is second in the majors in batting average (.346) and runs scored (84) and is leading all of baseball with 159 hits. Had he been able to maintain that lead, he would have become the first Giants player to top the majors in hits outright since Willie Mays in 1960.

Cabrera was named to his first All-Star Game earlier this season where, thanks to his efforts, he was named the game’s most valuable player. It was all part of a 2012 campaign that saw his offensive numbers improve significantly for the second-consecutive season.

From 2005 through 2010, Cabrera hit .267 with a .379 slugging percentage. Those numbers jumped to .305 and .470 in 2011, respectively, and then up to .346 and .516 this season. Both his 2012 batting average and slugging percentage would be career highs.

Highest BA vs Off-Speed Pitches
MLB This Season

One reason behind the surge has been Cabrera’s ability to hit off-speed pitching. Entering Thursday, Cabrera is batting an NL-best .335 against off-speed pitches, second only to the Angels’ Mike Trout league-wide.

He is ranked among the National League’s top five in on-base percentage (.359) and OPS (.852) against non-fastballs.

Cabrera has also done a great job going the other way, compiling an NL-best 58 hits to the opposite field including 13 of his 46 extra-base hits. Entering Thursday, only Derek Jeter (61) had more opposite-field hits than Cabrera in 2012.

And finally, his importance to San Francisco is most clearly illustrated by his wins above replacement. Entering Thursday, Cabrera’s WAR (4.8) ranked fourth in the National League behind only Andrew McCutchen (5.8), David Wright (5.7) and teammate Buster Posey (4.9).

The Giants enter Thursday only one game back of the Dodgers in the NL West, but with Melky Cabrera unable to play, they will be forced to make their final playoff push without one of 2012’s most productive hitters.