What went wrong: Second baseBy
A theme we touched on frequently this season was the poor hitting of Robinson Cano. He started off slow in 2007, but picked it up to finish strong. This year, he had a similarly slow start, but didn’t really pick it up the way he did in ’07. He had a good May, followed by a mediocre June, a very good July, solid August, and a bad start to September, followed by a strong finish.
To further break down September, Cano hit .167/.167/.229 from September 1 through his benching on September 14-15. From the 16th on he went on a tear, hitting .413/.431/.587. The benching might have served as a wake up call, it might not have. We can’t get in Cano’s head, so we don’t know for sure, but it sounds like it was part of it. The other part, of course, can be illustrated.
The one on the left is Cano’s stance on April 29 (pardon the half-Kenny Rogers). The one on the right is at the end of September. That’s quite a difference in stances. I’m figuring that had something to do with it, too. As Kevin Long said a few times this season, there were just too many moving parts in Cano’s swing. Closing Cano’s stance simplifies his swing, allowing him to make a more balanced strike at the ball.
So why wasn’t this changed earlier in the season? It seems that’s not Long’s style. From Cano himself, in May of this year:
“He gives you a lot of confidence, and that’s the best thing,” Cano said. “He doesn’t change your stance or anything. He’ll tell you you’re a good hitter, but he doesn’t lie to you, either. If he thinks it’s a bad pitch, it’s a bad pitch.”
This helps explain Long’s reluctance to tinker with Cano. He said as much himself:
“You’re reluctant to make those changes when he’s had success,” Long said. “He’s pretty much got to (level) off before you overhaul somebody.”
Long plans to join Cano in the Dominican Republic this winter to continue the refinement of this new approach.
Hopefully, he can get into the groove early in the season and silence critics before they can start up. It’s clear that Cano is a top talent. He plays a premium position, and most of the time plays it well. If he can get his bat going to even 2007 levels, he’ll be a staple in the lineup for years to come. If he can produce at 2006 levels, he’ll be a perennial All-Star, and also win the batting crown that so many pundits have predicted.
In 2008, though, he was a disappointment. There were good times, but those were offset by horrible times. Things came to a head in September, and it looks like he turned things around. Then again, it looked like he turned things around in July, so who knows what this means for the future. At this point, though, I’m not sure the Yanks should shop Cano. His contract, his position, and his potential make him a valuable chip, but they also make him valuable to the team.