Melky Cabrera: The Best No. 9 Hitter in Baseball

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IFebruary 5, 2010

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 25:  Melky Cabrera #53 of the New York Yankees smiles while playing against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 25, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The New York Yankees traded center fielder Melky Cabrera to the Atlanta Braves in December.

In doing so, they traded away the best No. 9 hitter in baseball.

Last season, Cabrera played in 35 games, in which he hit in the nine spot. He started 31 of those games.

Cabrera had a batting average of .317 in 120 at-bats, with an on-base percentage of .346, a slugging percentage of .450 and an OPS of .796.

From the nine hole, Melky scored 16 runs and drove in 22.

His average in the nine hole was the best in the major leagues in 2009.

By comparison, the player most likely to take Melky's starting center field position in 2010, Brett Gardner fared much worse in the nine hole.

Gardner started 32 games hitting in the nine hole and hit in that spot for a total of 37 games.

He had 108 at-bats, almost as man as Leche. But his average was a meager .222, with an OBP of .317, a slugging percentage of .231 and an OPS of only .549.

He scored 17 runs when hitting ninth but drove in only nine.

To Gardner's credit, he did much better at other positions in the batting order.

For instance, hitting leadoff in 11 games, Brett had 46 ABs, with a .304 average, an OBP of .327, a slugging percentage of .457 and an OPS of .783.

Gardner was also much better when he hit out of the eighth slot.

Much has been made of the circular lineup of the Yankees when there are no easy outs in the order.

Cabrera certainly contributed to that reputation when he hit ninth in last year's championship run.

It remains to be seen where Brett Gardner will bat this year.

But it seems almost certain that Derek Jeter will be leading off and Nick Johnson will hit second.

The most logical place for Gardner is ninth. All Yankee fans can hope that a steady place in the lineup for the coming year will give Gardner a chance to improve on his numbers from last season.

If he can elevate his OBP in the nine hole, he certainly will help set the table when the lineup turns over and Jeter, Johnson, Tex, and ARod come to the plate.