Robinson Cano is by far the best player on the New York Yankees. In my opinion, this is seen with the eyes and on the stat sheet. Cano is coming off a year in which he has been lauded for his performance as well as criticized for having a down year. How can there be such a divide? I’ll try to settle the score with my regular season grade of Cano.
**Be sure to check out the rest of the Grading the Yankees series.**
Cano has one of the best looking swings in the business. He is also one of the most fluid fielders in the game. He has a tendency to loaf on the base paths and that sometimes plays tricks on viewers who see his ability to make difficult plays in the field look simple and simple plays look like he is uninterested.
There is no denying that Cano will occasionally fail to hustle down the line on a grounder or pop up. Baseball is not taught that way and he should be criticized for it. Where I disagree is with how some observe Cano in the field. The man is smooth and he shouldn’t be faulted for making many plays look so simple that he looks like he’s day dreaming through them. What should be the focus is his incredibly strong arm, maybe the best in the Yankees infield, and he turns the pivot better than many in the game.
Of course fielding is only one aspect of Cano’s game and while it is above average, it takes a back seat to his bat. Cano is the best hitting second baseman in the game and one of the best hitters in MLB period. Cano hit .313 this season with a .379 OBP and .550 SLG good for a .929 OPS this season. He drilled a career-high 33 home runs and added a career-best 105 runs scored. He drove in 94 runs (which is what most people knock him for, saying that’s not enough from a middle of the order hitter), but it is ridiculous to do so when his wOBA was .394 and his wRC+ was 150 (both good for eighth among all MLB players in 2012). His 7.8 fWAR was second in the American League to Rookie of the Year winner and MVP runner-up Mike Trout (10.0) of the Los Angeles Angels. This is a second baseman folks.
Despite the incredible numbers, there are some that say that Cano should not be considered the Yankees 2012 most valuable player, let alone put in the same breath as Trout and eventual AL MVP winner Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera in the league voting. Cabrera obviously put up incredible numbers in winning the Triple Crown and Trout is a pretty good fielder and a very good base stealer on top of his outlandish hitting stats, so Cano was admittedly a step behind both and eventually finished fourth in the voting (Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers was third).
But, I would have to side with anyone who said Cano was the Yankees MVP in 2012. I think the numbers at the plate (did I mention he won his fourth Silver Slugger) and his work in the field (he won his second Gold Glove and a recorded a 9.2 UZR/150) suggest he did the most to help the Yankees win ballgames this season. Sure, Derek Jeter was better than expected and Rafael Soriano was great in Mariano Rivera’s slot, but Cano generated and prevented more runs than Jeter and while Soriano pitched very well, he doesn’t get many of those chances without Cano’s production.
- Makes players around him better
- Displays superior talent
- Occasionally loafs when he shouldn’t
- Still has room for improvement
Conclusion: Robinson Cano had a career year in 2012. He set career-highs in homers, doubles (tied), SLG, OPS, ISO, wOBA, wRC+, UZR/150 and WAR. At 30-years-old, Cano could have very similar years through his early to mid-thirties. He is set to cash in with a very lucrative contract beginning in the 2014 season and could find himself mentioned as one of the best second basemen the game has ever seen when all is said and done.