Robbie needs to walk


Tom Boorstein gets it. The lead editorial producer for and somewhat recent Columbia grad is slowly emerging as one of my favorite New York-based baseball commentators. He penned a great tongue-in-cheek column on A-Rod earlier this week, and today, he takes a more serious look at Robinson Cano.

Writes Boorstein:

After 2007, the Yankees made their move by giving him a handsome contract to buy out his arbitration-eligible years. How did Cano repay their generosity? By putting up a .271/.305/.410 line with bouts of horrendous defense in the field.

Here’s what could be bad news for the Yankees: There just isn’t much they can do about it. As poorly as Cano played in 2008, where is the upgrade to be had? The Yankees’ best hope is that the streaky player puts up lines more reminiscent of his 2007 (.306/.353/.488) or his even-better 2006 (.342/.365/.525)…

Cano has always relied on a high batting average. Let his 2008 serve as a reminder to those who scoff at the value of walks. Batting averages fluctuate much more from season to season than on-base percentages…This is why hitting streaks are overrated. Yes, it takes skill to get base hits. But patient hitters don’t usually end up with long streaks. That’s because their walks cut down on their chances to get hits.

What does that have to do with Cano and 2009? He needs to make sure his on-base percentage is more than 50 points higher than his average. Everyone worries about changing a hitter’s approach. “He’s aggressive,” coaches and announcers will say. “We like that.” What teams should like is “productive.” Aggressive is just a euphemism for impatient.

Basically, Boorstein’s analysis is spot-on. Robinson Cano must be a more patient hitter to be a more valuable piece of the Yankee lineup. Sure, if he hits .350, that’s great, but as we saw in 2008, he’s not going to hit .350.

It will be interesting to see how Cano and the Yanks approach 2009. He showed signs of offensive life after retooling his swing in the off-season, and he’s practically guaranteed to do better next year. But if the OBP stays the same, the Yanks may not have the player they thought they had when Cano made his Major League debut in 2005.

Categories : Analysis


  1. jsbrendog says:

    trade him. bring back andy stankiewitcz

  2. pat says:

    we need to talk to walt jocketty maybe we can trade him for pujols

  3. Reggie C. says:

    At this point, I don’t care if Cano doesn’t materialize to be a #3 hitter. I’m not asking that Cano return to the All-star heights of 2006; i think we’d all settle for a repeat of his 2007 season. Forget bringing up the “whose better” arguments between Cano and Pedroia. I just want to make sure the “whose worse” chatter b/w Cano and Melky was a thing of the past.

  4. Baseballnation says:

    “the Yanks may not have the player they thought they had when Cano made his Major League debut in 2005″

    Yeah, that’s right. They have a much better one. In ’05 they when he replaced Womack they thought they had a guy who could hopefully be a stopgap until something else came along. After the ’05 season they thought they had a guy who could possibly be an average everyday starter. 3 years later they have one of the best second baseman in baseball, and an all star who just happen to have an off year.

  5. LeftyLarry says:

    I see no reason Cano can’t get back to his 2006 form this season.He’s older more humble and Melky will be hanging on by a thread and possibly both will be working on their games this Spring instead of their newest jump handshake chest bump.
    Much to early to give up on Cano.
    A .300 + season with 18-22 dingers would not surprise me in the least.

  6. Steve says:

    “This is why hitting streaks are overrated. Yes, it takes skill to get base hits. But patient hitters don’t usually end up with long streaks. That’s because their walks cut down on their chances to get hits.”

    I wouldn’t call hitting streaks “overrated”, or streaky hitters. We all know that the best teams make it to the playoffs, but the hot team wins once you get there. Having streaky hitters who nobody can get out can carry you to a WS championship. Just ask Mike Scioscia about his 2002 team.

    There’s really no easy answers, or any one way that will work all the time.

  7. The Scout says:

    How often do hitters learn plate discipline after four years in the majors? Can you identify players whose early careers profile like Cano’s and who then go on to walk significantly more often as they get older? He is what he is. Either we (and the Yankees) accept that or at some point the team moves him and replaces him with the kind of hitter who fits the high OBP profile.

    • Jay says:

      I think there is still hope that Cano will improve his plate discipline. He has incredible hitting talent. It seems like he has a pretty good eye at times too. He can put pitches well off the plate in play, and I think the fact that he knows that contributes to his impatience. He’s only played in 3 1/2 seasons worth of games. If they can find a good hitting instructor to get though to him, I don’t think it’s too late for him to turn it around.

      Kinda makes me wonder why although Robbie, Melky and Abreu were so chummy, but the wily ol’ vet’s plate discipline didn’t rub off on the .300 OBP hackers…

    • RobC says:

      As Billy Beane says in “Moneyball” maybe you can teach plate discipline but you beter start when they are in diapers

  8. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    When you are 15 years old trying to get signed by a major league team, you swing the bat. You don’t get noticed in a major league development camp for your plate discipline. How many players from the Dominican put up numbers like a Nick Swisher type? Taking pitches is easier said than done.

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