Cano looking to retool swing

What would you take from the stadium?
The Governor's Cup will have to wait another day

According to Bryan Hoch, Kevin Long and Robinson Cano are going to work together to retool Cano’s swing this off-season. The Yanks seem to feel that Cano’s moving parts are to blame for his sub-par season. However, I’m not quite convinced this is indeed the case.

On the season, Cano’s batting metrics are right in line with his previous seasons’ numbers. His line drive percentage is at 19.1, 2.2 percentage points higher than his 2007 number; his groundball percentage is 48.4, 3.8 percentage points lower than last year’s total. Meanwhile, Cano’s batting average on balls in play is sitting at .273, nearly .060 points lower than it was last year. These numbers seem to suggest that Cano is simply having one of the unluckiest seasons in recent memory.

So as the Yankees head into the off-season, looking to turn around one of the players most responsible for the team’s offensive malaise this year, I have to wonder if this is just a misguided effort or if the Yankees are seeing something in Cano’s swing and results that we’re not seeing reflected in the numbers.

To me, Cano’s steeply declining home run total is the biggest indication of a problem. He’s gone from a home run every 32.5 ABs to one every 41.6 ABs. If Cano were simply unlucky, his absolute power — his ability to hit the ball over the fence — shouldn’t decline as much as it has. For now, we’ll just have to wait ’til next year on this one, but this could just be case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Hat tip to Manimal for the article.

What would you take from the stadium?
The Governor's Cup will have to wait another day
  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Great. Kevin Long. Fantastic.

    • Ben K.

      Kevin Long wasn’t a problem in 2007 when the Yankees scored a MLB-leading 968 runs. Let’s leave our discussion of him out of it right now.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        It also helps when you have Donnie Baseball also looking at their approaches, or Joe Torre, who, if I remember correctly, was a pretty descent hitter in his day.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        Also its hard to leave Long out of it, when he is the one helping “retool” the swing.

        • Ben K.

          Right. But he doesn’t just go from being a stellar hitting coach during a season in which the Yanks blasted everyone to a fireable coach because the offense collectively underperformed. There’s something else at work. I just don’t know what that might be.

          • cult of basebaal

            given the results that arod got after working extensively with long after 2006, i’m willing to take a chance here … i know what the numbers say, but i haven’t felt like cano has been especially unlucky this year … no walks in 99 at bats isn’t a function of luck.

            • Slugger27

              very true… im not a professional hitting coach, but it doesnt take a genius to see theres a problem with his entire approach at the plate. no way he should have a .295 obp.

              100 PA’s without a walk? even alfonso soriano thinks thats a joke

              i think his poor stats are indicative of both poor approach to hitting and bad luck, but bad luck alone cant account for his stats thru 140 somethin games…. a complete retool of the swing may be unnecessary, but nothing wrong at all with a major league hitting instructor working with him during the offseason…. dont see how anybody can have a problem with that

              • Bruno

                here here

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    or decent., though descent also works.

  • Mark B

    Make you wonder if the words of wisdom / chemistry Cano had with Torre, Mattingly and Bowa was more important than we are letting on.

    So far whatever Joe Girardi and Kevin Long are telling him obviously isn’t working.

    • Ben K.

      That’s not really the conclusion I’m going for. It seems that Cano’s been unlucky but with a corresponding decrease in his home run power. His line drive rates suggest that his batting average should be a good .030 to .040 points higher. If anything, he’s hitting too many line drives — decreasing power — that are going right at fielders — decreasing rate stats. I don’t know if that needs fixing, and I don’t think chemistry between him and the former coaches had anything to do with it.

      • Mark B

        I won’t disagree with you…..Cano is obviously talented, though seems to be in a funk that it seems will he will hopefully come out of next year or has developed a hitch that he will never get rid of….leading to the Yankees no choice other than to trade him. I am obviously hoping for the former….

  • Ivan

    Boy I hope they know what they are doing.

    Gotta like the quotes though from Cano.

    “I don’t want to say this is a bad year, but it’s at least a year that I’m going to learn from and not be back in this situation again,” Cano said. “This is a year that you can just say, ‘OK, this is not happening again.'”

  • yankeemonkey

    Maybe they should hire Cano’s father as an assistant hitting coach during the offseason.

  • Slugger27

    “if it aint broke dont fix it”???

    i dont care what his line drive percentages were, or how similar they are, the dude has regressed drastically in the past 2 full seasons, both in power and average. just because his line drive percentages are the same, doesn’t mean his swing and plate presence arent awful. i definitely believe in him (and for damn sure dont wanna trade him) but to say theres not a problem to be fixed is crazy.

    Granted, his discipline and decision-making may need more fixing than his swing, but still, nobody should be opposed to him getting extensive coaching on his swing this offseason

  • cult of basebaal

    not that this is huge news, but this kinda sucks (from CJ):

    “One other note from down here, I haven’t been able to find anything official, but the word around the clubhouse is that Scott Patterson was claimed off waivers by the Padres and is going straight to the big leagues. San Diego plucked knuckleballer Charlie Haeger off waivers earlier this week, and general manager Kevin Towers does seem to have a knack for finding relievers. Patterson could be a nice pick up for them.”

    patterson had a tough, tough year and i understand the 40 man squeeze, but it just irritates me that we had to cough him up when the Sir Snacks Pontoon is so egregiously wasting a space …. gah.

  • Patrick T

    Look its simple. Cano’s not hitting this year because Bowa isn’t up his ass. Girardi’s terrible and this is exhibit one. Maybe he’s been hanging out with A-Rod too much and he’s learning how to look good and not care about the game. He needs to spend more time with Damon or Giambi because they’re white hard-nosed players who care about winning. /endPeteAbe

    Seriously, I think reconstructing guys swings rarely works, but I think the lack of power leads me to believe there’s more at play than just luck. What I’d really like to see is some work on his approach – waiting to get a pitch to drive instead of hacktastically swinging at the first thing within a mile of the strike zone.

  • Manimal

    thanks for the shout out. Personally, I think Cano’s problem is 100% mental.

    • Old Ranger

      Nice article. A little bit of reason is welcome, you very well may be right.

  • Mickey Rivers Rules

    Interesting quote from Cano. Now if only they could make him look like he actually cares about playing baseball (whether at the plate or in the field).

  • Mike A.

    Why does everything that goes wrong with the Yanks need to be completely rebuilt? They miss the playoffs, gut the team and start over everyone says. Hughes and Kennedy have a bad month, they’re busts. Cano has a bad year, completely break down his swing.

    • yankeemonkey

      They’re the Yankees. Anything less than a 162-0 record and a sweep of all 3 rounds of playoffs to win the WS every year is a failure.


      Cano might benefit from extra work, though. If only they could make him more selective at the plate….

      Speaking of busts, the Ghost of Kei Igawa is pitching tonight for Scranton ;-)

      • Manimal

        OFFTOPIC- I wonder if Igawa’s turnout in the Majors will affect their persuit of Japanese players. That would be a good Open thread since its an off day.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Ben told you in the immediately preceding thread that saying “off-topic” before saying something off-topic doesn’t give you license to make an off-topic statement, and that you should email your off-topic comments directly to Ben, Mike or Joseph. There’s no way you forgot about that little exchange between 7:22, when you acknowledged Ben’s request that you not make off-topic comments, and 7:31, when you made this OFF-TOPIC COMMENT AND SAID “OFFTOPIC” AT THE BEGINNING OF THE COMMENT AS IF SAYING “OFFTOPIC” MAKES IT OK TO MAKE AN OFF-TOPIC COMMENT.

          Sorry. I’m obviously not a moderator or anything. But seriously, come on now.

    • Manimal

      Hughes and Kennedy had a terrible month. Cano had a bad year and believes that the answer lies in a flaw in his swing. No one said they need to be completely rebuilt. Just more SP, and a CF would be nice.

    • Slugger27

      im not saying the team should completely rebuild (obviously i think abreu and giambi should walk) but cano is a curious case that needs addressing. the thing that worries me is that he has the same talent and approach as in ’06, but theres a book on him now. pitchers know him, and exploit his weaknesses (bad discipline, struggles with pitches up in the zone, doesnt work counts, etc)

      i believe in the guy, and im not saying rebuild everything on the yankees or even rebuild his swing, but his whole approach/technique/style at the plate is poor, and i think it was even in 06 but he got away with it cuz hes that talented. im worried that without addressing his flaws pitchers will continue to pitch to his weaknesses. just the fact that teams know him and his approach better now made me the cause of his decline in stats

      hes got talent, but whats the harm in a hitting coach working with him? u cant possibly think no adjustments are necessary

      for the record, im with u on everything else, i dont think this team should completely scratch everything. with cano, however, i think its a good idea

    • yankeemonkey

      Mike, any possibility of a Scranton “game thread” tonight to discuss minor leagues and other random stuff w/o incurring Ben’s wrath?

  • A.D.

    My guess is they may want to retool Cano’s swing to have greater concistency. Even in years were he hit better than this year he’s been real streaky, probably because its real easy for him to get out of whack, they can simplify it down less moving parts more success

  • daniel

    I think a major aspect of his struggles is focus. This results in his decline both at the plate and in the field. We all know that he has the tools, and there is absolutely no reason why a player with MLB experience under his belt should be playing baseball as cluelessly as Cano has this season.
    On an unrelated but equally as frustrating note, you are telling me there is not a single player at the Yankees’ disposal who deserves tomorrow’s start more than Sidney
    Ponson?!? It’s simple baseball strategy. Down the stretch, in a game clearly not pivotal for the yankees, give a kid a chance to pitch in a game that matters. Best case, he performs, ala el Mexican Gangster. Worst case, he gains 75 pounds and gives up 13 baserunners per game. what do we have to lose?

  • Chris

    One possibility is that he’s not squaring up the ball as well, and so even though he’s hitting more line drives they’re not HARD line drives. The same thing could apply to both ground balls and fly balls as well. This could explain both the lower BABIP and lower home run rate. One thing I have noticed about Cano is that he seems to hit a lot of bad pitches and put them in play weakly. Compare that with someone like Damon who fouls off those pitches until he gets something he can drive.

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  • tommiesmithjohncarlos

    “Meanwhile, Cano’s batting average on balls in play is sitting at .273, nearly .060 points lower than it was last year. These numbers seem to suggest that Cano is simply having one of the unluckiest seasons in recent memory.”

    …or, could it be that his 2006 BABIP of .359 and his 2007 BABIP of .329 were some of the luckiest seasons in recent memory instead? And perhaps he’s not as good as he was in ’06 and ’07 and not as bad as he’s been this year, but rather he’s simply a slightly above average player, a 2B who’ll give you an OPS+ of 100?

    Look, I’m on record as being firmly in the “Don’t trade Cano, he’s a future superstar” camp, but the “luck” argument can clearly cut both ways, don’t you think? According to the Baseball Prospectus definition, “average” BABIP is .290, so while we could say that Cano’s been cursed with a little bit of a shoddy rabbit’s foot this year, it also means that he probably had a TON lucky breaks the two years prior when he looked like a worldbeater…

    • Frank

      I agree. I don’t really buy the “luck” argument. He swings at bad pitches and puts them weakly in play. I think the HR rate, and just his power numbers in general, are what’s most telling. Home runs, doubles, total bases, SLG… it’s all down this year. I think it’s all his lack of plate discipline. I agree with what Long said; he’s simply not swinging at pitches he can drive.

      Cano’s swing looks fine IMO. We’ve seen when he’s on, he IS a great bad ball hitter and it seems like he can drive ANYTHING. But that’s obviously not always going to be the case over a long season. He needs to be more selective with pitches both outside and inside the strike zone. Not for the purpose of walks (he’ll never draw 60 + BB), but looking for a pitch he can hit.

  • diony

    He’s obviously ‘broke’ go check his numbers.

  • Old Ranger

    Awhile ago (another thread) I said I had seen Cano in the minors and made the comment ; “he has a sweet smooth swing” and is a “good bad ball hitter”.
    Above I agreed with Manimal, about it being 100% mental…I still do, but with a caveat.
    Yogi was a great bad ball hitter, but he didn’t swing at a pitch he couldn’t drive. Whereas, Cano has begun swinging at bad pitches he can’t drive. When one swings at a pitch so far outside he has to lunge at it, or so far inside and down he can’t even come close to hitting it…that’s not good. His swing is no longer sweet and smooth.
    So yes, I still think it is mental.

    • Frank

      Everything with Cano is mental. You almost have to hope that this is the kind of season that lights a fire under his ass. It looks that way judging by his quotes. Except that I don’t want him to forget it, I want him to remember it so he can feed off it and work harder.

      Otherwise it’ll be more clueless play and peace signs next season.

  • ortforshort

    Are they serious? Cano’s problem is not his swing. That swing was good enough to hit .340 a couple of years ago with power. His problem is pitch recognition and plate discipline. Its not bad mechanics that make him consistently flail away at pitches in the dirt or pitches two feet outside. No wonder the Yankees can’t develop a hitter to save their lives, they’re utterly clueless!

  • Marcus

    You guys aren’t paying attention to the real numbers.

    Nothing is wrong with Robinson Cano. He is one of the best batters we have right now and will be for a long time coming.

    You can’t just look at “overall statistics”, they don’t say or mean much.

    Robby is also a singles/doubles specialist…who the hell cares if he hits a home-run?

    Cano started off April and halfway thru May somewhere around .170 or .180 BA. Since then he’s been batting over .300.

    The only problem is that his first month and a half effected the rest of his seasons overall stats.

    He is fine. But, spending more time with hitting coaches and such…can maybe help reduce that first month and a half slump. His plate appearances and swing is perfect. It’s probably just the mental part at the beginning of the season of somewhat getting into the everyday life of a ball player and taking it seriously.

    He just needs to start the competitive drive within himself on day 1 instead of day 60. Hopefully the extra coaching makes him an every season .330 hitter(for the entire season), so people can start to appreciate/embrace him. This man should get no criticism.

    Long live Cano the Yankee!

    P.S. -> Can’t believe some idiots actually believed we should trade Cano. Like an all-star second baseman is replaceable? Ha.

  • Big Stein

    Does his brain count as a moving part?

    The stats are helpful and interesting, but just watch him at the plate: no discipline, lunging at pitches, etc. The kid has huge talent, and the problem is that he knows he can hit balls that others can’t (except Vlad) and swings at them.

    • JohnnyC

      Vlad can do it because he has incredible plate coverage…he can make solid contact with pitches way out of the strike zone, especially down in the zone. Cano cannot. Physically he cannot. I’m dubious about Cano ever “correcting” his approach to hitting. The best we can hope for is some incremental improvement. I wouldn’t bet on seeing another 2006 season from him, given that opposing pitchers know his tendencies all too well now.

  • daneptizl

    This probably means he won’t be doing that swaying load that he does next year, right?

  • big bowler

    Let him retool somewhere else.

  • Bart

    One factor to evaluate is the number of pitches Cano sees. This is approach and plate discipline

    Ted Williams said the key to hitting (beuond 20-15 eyesight) was getting good pitches to hit.

    With his size and bat speed you’d like Cano to hit with ARod like mechanical effciency and Boggs like patience.

    The thought is Cano doesn’t see enough pitches. If that is true then the question is can you teach patience or demand patience. If he is a “guess hitter” maybe he can learn certain pitchers tendencies and certain counts allow for better guesses.

    Stats are avilable for 1st pich hitting, 0-1, 0-2 counts and so on.

    The balls in play and line drive stas are a good indicators over a large sample, but the power decline and the number of pitches seen indicate that he is not swinging at “good piches” frequently enough and as a result not “centering” the ball frequently enough. Overall what Long and the Yankees — and even we TV watchers are seeing is a guy who is not selective enough. and gets himself out.

    The other apsect of the “retool” is that he looks fliud but there are a lot of moving parts — the “retool” approach may have nothing to to do with seeing picthes but in trying to get him to be more compact. I have heard stated in regard to both baseball and golf mechanics that it takes 3000 movements to “lock in a chnage” and if anyone other than Tiger Woods is involved the “retool” seems to create a body – mind war that does not work frequently enough to insoire confidence.

    One question is can selectivity be learned (at his BB age) or is Cano simply an impatient hitter and so uncomfortable with any other approach that asking for change will make for less efficiency.

    A second question is if the Ynakees do not like what they see – are they prepared to trade him and take the chnace that he blossoms elsewhere and what the get for him is “less than Cano”.

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