Gabe Kapler piece
Monday, April 14, 2008, 7:42:10 AM | by Dave Cameron
Hey all. My name is David Cameron, and I’m thrilled to have been invited by David Appelman to join in the great work he’s been doing here at FanGraphs. You may have read some things I’ve written elsewhere, either at USSMariner, The Hardball Times, or Baseball Prospectus. I’m excited to be here, not only because the data that David has made available has been a huge asset to fans and researchers alike, but also because I look forward to seeing how we can explore the information available here, create some unique commentary, and build a community that rivals the quality of the knowledge found on this site. I’ll be hanging out in the comment threads regularly, so feel free to ask any questions or make comments there, and we’ll get the discussion started.
For my first post here, I wanted to take a look at what has to be the most exceptional story 2008 has brought us so far - the unbelievable return of Gabe Kapler. A year ago, Kapler was the manager of the Greenville Drive, a Red Sox affiliate in the Class A South Atlantic League. At 31-years-old, he had retired from his playing career and was beginning a coaching career in the lowest rung of full season minor league baseball. He’d spent the previous few years bouncing between reserve roles and playing in Japan, and after a torn Achilles in 2006, it looked like he would never get a chance to fulfill the promise he showed as a prospect with the Tigers in the 90s.
However, unwilling to let his on field career end prematurely, he declared himself a free agent this winter and landed a contract from the Milwaukee Brewers. With a hole in center field while Mike Cameron serves out his suspension, Kapler has… well, to say he’s made the most of his opportunity would be the understatement of the year. After going 3 for 4 with a couple of doubles and a home run last night, he is now 11 for 26 with two doubles, four home runs, two walks, and a stolen base just for good measure. He leads the majors in batting average and slugging percentage (at .423 and .962 respectively), and his 0.71 WPA/LI ties him with Casey Kotchman, and just behind Albert Pujols, as the fourth best hitter per plate appearance in baseball. Kapler has been the Brewers savior as Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder struggle to start the season, and one of the main reasons the Brewers are 8-4 in their first dozen games.
In all likelyhood, this will go down as the best two week stretch of Kapler’s playing career, but it’s two weeks he wouldn’t have experienced had he stayed retired.