There has been much debate on this site in the last couple weeks about who the New York Yankees MVP for this season has been. Mainly the discussion has been between Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. I’m not going to drive this argument into the ground (you can view the articles by heading to this one which contains links to the others), but I am going to ask one simple question. Which Robinson Cano are we going to see should the Yankees reach the postseason? The virtually non-existent player of the first 27 games of the season, the slumping hitter of the last 25 games of the season through last night or the extraordinary masher we witnessed in the middle 100 games of the year?
Cano’s overall stats are certainly worthy of praise. This is the type of player every team wants to build around and the Yankees should be forking over loads of money to Cano in the near future. Here are some full season stats through September 24.
No one is going to scoff at those numbers especially from a slick-fielding second baseman. What’s amazing about his overall numbers is that his start to the season was awful and he was in a deep funk. This is Cano’s line through the first 27 games of the season.
Mind-boggling for such a premier hitter. But, then here is what Cano did over the subsequent 100 games.
The man was on fire, but the good times ended after Cano’s two-homer performance on August 27. Next we look at his last 25 games.
The player who was obliterating just about everything he saw has gone missing.
Listen, Cano is arguably the best second baseman in the game and is certainly the best hitter in the Yankee lineup. I’m not going to debate that and I think he should be thrown as much money as needed to keep him in New York for a long time. But, the Yankees cannot survive the postseason, should they reach it, with the player who started the season off poorly and is in quite a lengthy slump at the present time. They need someone reminiscent of the player who helped create the Yankees’ enormous lead in the American League East which they’ve been holding onto by a thread since — well the last 25 games.
The Yankees have been fortunate over the last two weeks to be getting some of their previously slumping players back in line for the time being like Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez and Curtis Granderson of late. We know Swisher’s history in the postseason, Ibanez is sure to cool off just in time for the playoffs and Granderson is hot or cold so who knows what he’ll provide in October.
Alex Rodriguez is not performing like a middle of the lineup hitter (triple slash since returning on September 3; .268/.319/.402) and the Yankees should not believe they can rely heavily on Mark Teixeira even if he returns before the end of the regular season at full strength. It would be unfair to him after missing what will be over 30 games.
Cano, however, is a great middle of the lineup hitter. I’d much rather believe the sample size of the practically centered 100 games than either of the smaller splits referenced above. There are factors which seem to suggest he could bust out soon. His .227 BABIP screams unlucky for one; and his walk rate during the last 25 games is 11.7% (9.0% for the entire year) which shows he’s at least trying to be selective at the plate.
However, his line drive rate in September is the lowest of any month this season at 18.6% (24.6% for the season) and he’s hitting fly balls 31.4% of the time in September, which is considerably higher than any other month this season and most of the fly balls are staying in the park (13.7 HR/FB rate; 22.9 for the season).
I understand these are small sample sizes, but they do show that Cano can have lengthy dry spells. The previous one lasted 27 games. Let’s hope he’s either hit bottom now or will by the end of the Minnesota series (27 games). This Yankee team needs a constant threat in the middle of the lineup; someone opposing pitchers and managers will worry about when the game is on the line. As of right now, Cano is not scaring anyone, except maybe Joe Girardi.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.