Melky Cabrera is MLB's New Hit King

Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera is backing up a career year in 2011 with a record breaking first half in 2012.

From 2001 through 2010, the one hitter in baseball who was known above all others for simply racking up hit after hit was none other than Ichiro Suzuki.

The Seattle Mariners outfielder recorded over 200 hits each and every season during that span, never finishing with an average below .300.

However, in 2011, those streaks came to an end and thus far in 2012 Ichiro is not having a bounce back year. Therefore it is safe to say that Ichiro has relinquished the throne of hit king.

So who’s next?

It could very well be Melky Cabrera.

Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy, you read that correctly. Melky Cabrera is indeed the new Ichiro. The former run of the mill outfielder for the Yankees and Braves has all of a sudden blossomed into one of the game’s top hitters.

Last season with the Kansas City Royals Cabrera easily set career marks across the board: 201 hits, .305 average, .470 slugging, .809 OPS, 18 homers, 87 RBI and 20 SBs.

But considering his overall numbers prior to last season are well below those marks, many Giants fans and columnists (myself included) were skeptical about the offseason trade that brought Melky to San Francisco.

It wasn’t that anyone expected Jonathan Sanchez to be better than average with Kansas City, but the thought was whether or not Melky’s 2011 was a fluke.

Well the verdict is in, and it certainly wasn’t a fluke.

Thus far with the Giants Cabrera is leading the league in hits with 78, his .373 average trails only Paul Konerko, his .417 OBP ranks him seventh, and his .967 OPS is 14th. Mind you these numbers are MLB rankings, not just NL.

To go along with the offense, not only can the deceptively quick Cabrera can play all three outfield positions but he is tied for third in baseball with five outfield assists.

Most recently Cabrera threw out Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki at the plate from medium DEEP left field. With Aoki trying to score on a sacrifice fly, Cabrera gathered momentum towards the plate, caught the fly ball, crow-hopped and delivered a missile that didn’t even bounce, going straight into Posey’s glove.

Here, take a look for yourself.

Watching this play live, I was thinking the same thing that Giants play by play man Duane Kuiper was thinking: “no chance” for Cabrera to make the play.

Also note color commentator Mike Krukow’s comment: “If there’s a better player in the game right now, I want to see him!”

This is simply how brilliant Cabrera has been all season long both offensively and defensively. If it weren’t for Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp, Cabrera would be the talk of the league.

Let’s pause for a second here, Cabrera set the San Francisco era Giants record for hits in the month of May with 51 by breaking a record set by Willie Mays in 1958.

It’s simply not everyday a player breaks a record set by the greatest to ever play the game. Plus it’s also not everyday that someone is compared to the great Tony Gwynn.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy played with and managed Gwynn in San Diego. Recently the skipper gave the following comparison while speaking with the media:

“He [Cabrera] reminds me of Tony Gwynn. He takes what they give him. He doesn’t try to do too much up there. He has a calmness, there’s no panic in him even with two strikes. He’s just a great hitter.”

Cabrera is currently on pace for over 240 hits, and barring injury is a lock to make his first ever trip to the All-Star game, which coincidentally will be in Kansas City this year.

Think the Royals want a do-over on that one? Sanchez has a 6.75 ERA, a 1.86 WHIP and is on the DL.

Meanwhile “The Melk Man” has his own following of fans dressed up as Milk Men at AT&T Park and has instantly become a fan favorite for all Giants fans.

Bay Area folk are accustomed to great pitching but they now once again have a dominant offensive force to get behind.

The way Cabrera is hitting from both sides of the plate, the new-look Melky is the odds on bet to take over the role as the game’s hit-king.

Like Ichiro in the past, all Cabrera does is hit, hit, hit, and hit some more And outside of major injury (feel free to knock on wood Giants fans) there doesn’t appear anything that can stop him from continuing to dominate at the dish.

Andrew Bensch writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter at @AndyBensch

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