The day before Major League Baseball suspended Melky Cabrera for 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers were tied for first place in the National League West. Each team had a record of 64-53. The next day, Cabrera was gone and the Giants lost to the Washington Nationals, falling a game behind the Dodgers in the standings.
Things looked bleak for the Giants. For most of the season, Cabrera was the engine driving the Giants' improved offense. The 50-game suspension ended his season, leaving Cabrera with a .346/.390/.516 batting line, a .386 wOBA and a 156 wRC+. To be sure, Cabrera didn't carry the Giants' offense on his own.
Buster Posey batted .289/.362/.458 in the first half and then got hot after the All-Star break, hitting .381/.458/.595 in July. Angel Pagan got off to a slow start and then kicked it into gear in May by hitting .375/.422/.462. When Pagan cooled off in June, Pablo Sandoval returned from surgery on his left hand and hit .296/.354/.408. And then reinforcements arrived before the July 31 trade deadline, when the Giants acquired Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies and Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies.
But Cabrera had been consistently good all season. He hit off the charts in May and never slumped. His worst month was June, when he batted .304/.343/.441 with a 110 wRC+. Without Cabrera, the Giants had a big hole in their lineup and an even bigger hole in left field.
Five days after Cabrera's suspension, the Giants rolled into Los Angeles and swept the Dodgers in a three-game series. But by the end of that week, the Dodgers had pulled off the Big Trade, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto from the Boston Red Sox. Point. Counterpoint.
Now, more than three weeks after Cabrera's suspension, the Giants have a 4½-game lead over the Dodgers. Without question, the Dodgers have not performed as expected after their trade with Boston. But the Giants haven't faltered in Cabrera's absence -- they've actually been quite fine without him.