The selling point for bringing Melky Cabrera on board over the off-season was simply that he was a left fielder with a pulse, but a fringe benefit was that his switch-hitting abilities provided the Sox with a reliable everyday solution. Instead, they have gotten this rarefied craziness (Through Thursday).
Vs. RHP: 127 PA, .307/.362/.351
Vs. LHP: 40 PA, .081/.103/.081
That's uh, a little skewed. Is this sort of thing normal?
CAREER Vs. RHP: 3549 PA, .291/.341/.416
CAREER vs. LHP: 1475 PA, .271/.329/.398
No, it's not normal. If a switch-hitter regularly OPS'd under .200 from one side of the plate, you would take it upon yourself to calmly and courteously inform him that he is not, in fact, a switch-hitter. And it's a measure that isn't out place even this early in the season, if someone is coming this close to literally giving at-bats away.
The problem with this, as with Adam LaRoche's intense platoon struggles, is that the White Sox roster is ill-prepared to make this sort of adjustment or accommodation for Melky. We don't know how good he would be hitting left-handed all the time, and the bench is almost entirely composed of guys just trusted to field the position well. J.B. Shuck, a lefty, had reverse splits that one moment in time he was a decent regular, which is looking particularly far off at the moment. Trayce Thompson is the presumptive next outfielder up in the farm system, and is right-handed, but is also Trayce Thompson, and might never actually be ready to produce in any way against MLB pitching. There is no lefty-killer waiting in the wings.
And all this is coming without any real understanding of the why. Again, as with LaRoche, while Cabrera is still a worthy starter with the platoon advantage due to on-base ability, but he's been struck with the same baffling power outage affecting the entire roster. This is a guy who hit 18 home runs while playing Kauffman Stadium four years ago, who is now currently sitting on three extra-base hits on the season. Dodgy batted-ball data that I don't trust and certainly don't have enough familiarity enough to determine what is a fluke, has 10% of Cabrera's hard hit balls becoming medium hit. What this means for his long-term prospects, is a more hard to pin down concept.
Injury would be a fun all-encompassing explanation--he played like a ghost of himself in 2013 too before a tumor was discovered--but there's been no hint of rumor on something like that. Age is likely why LaRoche can't hit lefties anymore, and it would make sense that Cabrera's non-dominant hand is what would slip as he begins to decline in his 30's, but "decline" typically does not equate to "instantly disappears."
Bad luck has been a specter on all of the Sox early-season offensive struggles and there's a risk to overreacting to everything that's going in, but a problem so specific and extreme can be a test case for how Robin Ventura, Todd Steverson and Co. are addressing and responding to things they have a power to change. With a veteran with a baseline for performance is wildly failing to meet expectations, is he replaced or aided in recovery, or does he languish as a lesser value than what the Sox front office paid for? The question has a lot of applications beyond this one.