Aug. 14, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (24) rests against the Texas Rangers during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Yankees won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Will The Real Robinson Cano Please Stand Up?

At long last, the Yankees are back to their winning ways. They have broken out of their dreadful funk of the last few months, despite some taxing extra-inning games and some pitching hiccups (although CC Sabathia was looking CC-like again). They still maintain a lead over the Orioles heading into the final two weeks with Minnesota, Toronto and Boston being the only teams left on the schedule. Things finally seem to be heading in the right direction, with one glaring exception: Robinson Cano has been dreadful at the plate heading down the stretch.

Robinson Cano will need to get back to his offensive groove if the Yankees want to make a deep run in the playoffs. (Image: Kim Klement, US Presswire)

Excuse the redundancy, as Chris Carelli wrote about Cano prior to last night’s game, but there are a few other items I’d like to touch upon. After a very slow start during which he hit .267 in April, the Cano we know and love returned in May. In May, June, and July, Cano hit .312/.364/.606, a scorching .340/.416/.730, and .314/.357/.486, respectively, during that time. In June, there was even discussion about Cano catching Josh Hamilton and challenging him for the AL MVP award in the pre-Mike Trout portion of the season.

However, by August, the dog-days may have caught up with Cano. While his numbers were still respectable, they represented a significant dip from the second baseman: .283/.337/.403. Outside of his awful April, Cano’s power numbers were his lowest all season, hitting just three home runs. (While some will also point to his low total of RBI- nine- I personally hate the stat, and would point out that it’s hard to drive in men on base when the rest of the line-up doesn’t get on base.) Also, Cano recorded only four extra-base hits, all doubles, during the entire month. Not awful, but disproportionate to the previous three months.

On the season, Cano’s numbers are just obscene: he is worth a whopping 43 RAA and 4.6 WAA. He is also amongst the leaders on the Yankees with a 6.6 WAR. Further, Cano’s runs above replacement clocks in at a staggering 65 runs. As an individual player, he is worth 6.5 runs per game- think about that. Six and a half runs per game. During times when the rest of the lineup has struggled, yet the Yankees continue to win games, effectively Cano drags the entire team with him. Not shockingly, his offensive winning percentage is .651, better than the team he plays for to this point in the season.

Unfortunately for Cano, once the calendar changed to September, his numbers dropped even more significantly: .234/.337/.528. While Cano’s slugging numbers are still strong in September, the BA has dropped significantly, as has his OBP. For those of you who watch the games, it’s evident that Cano seems to have lost his discipline at the plate, and swings at a ton of pitches outside (sometimes way outside) the strike zone. Consequently, he isn’t walking as much, hence the lower OBP. Additionally, he has 13 Ks through the 23rd of the month. The only other month where Cano had more strikeouts was May, although this stat was buried in the offensive output of that month. Also, in 77 ABs, Cano has only had four doubles- again, not awful, but in conjunction with the rest of his stats, it doesn’t look great. Overall assessment: Cano has massively struggled throughout the last month.

I agree with what Matt Hunter wrote last week when he made the case that Cano is the MVP of the team. Yet, however unfair it may be, the Yankees will need more out of Cano in the final week-plus of the regular season. After a nice start from his return off the disabled list, Alex Rodriguez is back to struggling again; Mark Teixeira is still dealing with that nagging calf injury; and Curtis Granderson remains mired in his homer-or-bust season. As much as Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki have done offensively the last couple weeks, they cannot carry the team. Cano needs to re-emerge as the offensive threat that he was earlier in the season and throughout his career. Perhaps that is what is most staggering about his September swoon — we have come to expect much, much more from Cano, and his production was tremendous during the preceding months.

Overall, Cano’s numbers on the season are still very impressive. While his BA may be a tick lower than we usually see from him, his power numbers are career highs, and his defense, as usual, looks effortless. However, the overall numbers can’t mask the fact that he has struggled mightily in September, and his production has dropped off markedly — unfortunately, his timing is terrible, since the Yankees have also struggled earlier this month, and those plucky Orioles refuse to go away. With other areas of concern that were on display throughout September, it’s fair to say that Cano hasn’t been the only reason the Yankees struggled until recently, but the fact remains that they will need him to step up offensively and return to mid-season offensive form to make a deep post-season run. Let’s hope that last night’s 3-for-3 performance is a sign that he’s headed back to being the Robinson Cano we expect to see at the plate.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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  • Matt Hunter

    Great article Alex. A couple things though. First, where did you get the 6.5 runs per game stat? If he’s been worth 65 runs over the season, he should be worth 65/150 or so runs per game right?

    2nd thing: I don’t think your September numbers for Cano are correct. After last night, his slash line is .250/.353/.398. If he had your numbers that would actually be pretty strong month, but as is it’s basically average (102 wRC+).

    Those are just nitpicks though. Overall, I completely agree with you that he’s had a very strong year, but has disappointed recently. However, I disagree with the claim that September is more important than the rest of the months. Though it feels more important because each game changes their playoffs odds more significantly, April, May, and June were just as important overall. A loss instead of a win in April would affect their standings now just as much as a loss instead of a win now. So I really don’t think we should penalize Cano for his bad performance this month any more than we should penalize Jeter for his much worse performance in June (.232/.295/.313).

  • Matt Hunter

    Also, and I just noticed this while looking at his player page, Cano’s walk rate is actually WAY up this month at 13.7% (compared to 9.1% on the season). That’s interesting given the common observation (that I myself share) that Cano’s plate discipline has been very bad this month. So either we’re making a cognitive error because of his poor performance this month, or he’s somehow walking more while also swinging at more bad pitches. I’m not sure how that would happen though. Do you think we’re all just wrong about his bad plate discipline this month?

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