Hoping for a major rebound from Cano

Prospect Profile: Eric Duncan
Some Yanks lose to Atlanta

Robinson Cano and his sub-par 2008 season have been major issues of discussion this off-season. While many Yankees fans figured he’d improve upon his 2007 season, he got off to a horrid start before bringing himself back to an acceptable level of offensive production (.298/.324/.452 from June 1 on, .302/.331/.464 from July 1 on). Mike linked to a Beyond the Boxscore analysis of Cano, which used Cano’s contact rate, BABIP, and Isolated Power to show that we can expect a rebound, but not to get pie-in-the-sky and think that he can reproduce 2006. That sounds reasonable, and I think Yanks fans everywhere would take Cano’s 2007 — even considering his slow start — in a heartbeat.

Yesterday, Moshe Mandel of The Yankee Universe took an in-depth look at Cano from both a statistical and scouting point of view. On the scouting end he discusses Cano’s stance, which became a big issue later in the year. After experiencing success with an open stance for his entire career, hitting coach Kevin Long though tit better to close it up. You can see the difference in this post on Cano’s 2008 season:

So what was the difference in 2008 which caused concern for Cano’s stance? Mandel tackles the issue:

Another obvious problem with Robbie’s swing was the motion of his head combined with his front shoulder flying open. Players are supposed to keep the head looking at the pitcher, and then the ball, at all times, while the front shoulder remains square to the pitcher. Robbie consistently pulled his head early while allowing his front shoulder to fly open, which contributed greatly to his unbalanced swing and resulted in plenty of softly pulled balls on pitches that Robbie would typically drive.

Why weren’t these issues a problem in the past few years? That’s tough to say. It would take some serious video analysis to see exactly how his body moved through the swinging motion, and how that changed from 2006 through 2008. Makes me wish there were an easy way to find such compilations. Maybe MLBAM could one day offer this as a premium service for nerds. I’d rather pay for that than my ESPN Insider account.

On the statistical end, Mandel takes things a bit further than the typical BABIP argument that Cano was unlucky. He cites a Rich Lederer article which notes the values of line drives, ground balls, and fly balls.

When it comes to batting average, line drives are king, followed by groundballs, outfield flyballs, and infield flies. … However, when it comes to production, flyballs are more valuable than groundballs. To wit, including home runs, line drives produced .40 runs in 2007 and .39 in 2008, while the average outfield flyball yielded .18 runs in 2007 and 2008. Meanwhile, the average groundball generated .05 runs per event in 2007 and .04 in 2008.

Cano saw a decrease in ground balls and an increase in fly balls last season, so this could have drive his batting average down. Mandel: “Essentially, Cano hit fewer grounders and more flyballs without gaining the run production that increased flyballs would give a hitter whose swing is not faulty. One other point to notice is that Cano’s O-Contact% and FB% saw a significant increase, affirming the point that pitchers were throwing Robbie fastballs out of the zone, and he was more than willing to just put them in play rather than fouling them off or laying off of them.”

I’ve loved Cano ever since he came up in 2005, and I’ve had high hopes for him ever since. He delivered in 2006 and 2007, which makes me think that his 2008 problems are surmountable. He’s worked heavily with Kevin Long, and by all accounts has done all he can this winter in order to fix the flaws in his swing. Given his talent, this should all add up to a solid campaign for Cano in 2009 and beyond.

Prospect Profile: Eric Duncan
Some Yanks lose to Atlanta
  • A.D.

    Sounds like with the head moving thing & why it wasn’t an issue earlier is something along the line of complicated mechanics. If a pitcher has complicated mechanics and it all in sync & working, then its no big deal, its when they get out of whack they are harder to adjust and correct than simple mechanics. The same is true for Cano, he has complicated batting mechanics, before they didn’t get out of whack much, or he was able to correct quickly…last year it took much longer to correct. Long & Cano have tried to simplify, making them more repeatable, and Cano less likely to slump.

    • radnom

      So Cano = Dontrelle Willis?

      • jsbrendog

        i sure as hell hope not. willis is an absolute train wreck. poor guy. from cy young caliber to worse than sidney ponson. much worse. wow

        • A.D.

          Dontrelle can still get lefties out, they could always turn him into a LOOGY

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            I would love to see the Detroit Tigers pay 12M in 2010 for a situational lefty reliever who pitches less than 60 innings. That would be hilarious.

            • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

              its better than paying him 12M to get shelled in the minor leagues

  • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

    I think he can do exactly what he did in the second half:


    That slugging is a little high, but I think he can sit somewhere in the .460-.480 range.

    • Reggie C.

      Having Cano put up a season’s worth of that 2nd half stat line would be a serious rebound, and put him back in the discussion of “best 2B in AL”..

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        Yeah, word. The AL East has 3 damn good 2nd basemen and Hill is pretty much on the verge, even though he took a bit of a backward step last season.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        … provided that Little David Faustino up in Boston regresses a bit. (which is far from impossible, btw.)

        Pedroia put up .317/.380/.442 and .326/.376/.493 the past two years. It would take more than a .333 OBP and a .480 SLG for him to be more productive than the Leprechaun. I know we all bemoan the fact that he gets to play in a park tailormade for his offensive game, but, dude, he’s still playing there, and will be for the foreseeable future.

        The only solace that we have is that Pedroia can’t hit the high inside fastball.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Heh, my first two thoughts after watching this video:

          1.) Damn, Faustino’s only like a foot taller than that little girl!
          2.) Who was that huge black man? I’m afraid of him. Very fearful of him…


        • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

          Cano’s fielding has to stabilize a bit, too. Pedroia’s put up good fielding numbers the last two seasons.

          • anonymous

            Watching Melky pack his bags for Milwaukee will probably fix that.

  • Dave M

    These are problems any decent hitting coach should be able to fix. I’m a little league coach. We work with problems like this all the time. The hardest part is getting the player to buy into what your saying.

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      I umpire for the Cal Ripken League and I see/hear the same stuff. Most of the time, the kids have so much wasted motion in their stances and pitching deliveries.

  • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

    Thanks for the plug, Joe. I think the answer to your question as to why this didn’t happen before is probably what AD said above. According to Long, Cano had so many moving parts in his swing that they knew the time would come when it would need to be revamped. By closing his stance up, they essentially try to keep him square with the plate at all times (rather than facing the pitcher), which hopefully should cut down on the amount of movement. Why specifically the breakdown came last year is harder to explain, but it probably has to due with his slow start resulting in him trying to do too much and pull everything. Once pitchers realized Robbie was going to swing at every FB near the zone and try to pull it, they began throwing everything on the outer half, and Cano could not adjust. As things got worse, his swing got further pull happy, giving Long the excuse to start from scratch.

    • steve (different one)

      nice work.

      • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

        Thanks, man.

    • A.D.

      Figure he probably had the most expectations last year, especially when Posada went down and they wanted Cano higher in the order, makes him press, slump worse, advanced scouting picks up, pitchers pick him apart.

      • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

        Good point- new contract, team counting on him more, slump= disaster.

  • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

    I’m an insufferable Yankee optimist. I see Cano have a line around .320/.355/.490

    I know its unlikely … but its not impossible.

    • anonymous

      I could see his batting average go 20 points either way of 300 easily with all hes going though. But the rest seems right on target for his average.

      • andrew

        His career line is .303/.335/.468
        I wouldn’t say impossible… but… close to it

  • Tom Zig

    Correct me if I am wrong, but to me Cano’s new batting stance resembles Abreu’s.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    “One other point to notice is that Cano’s O-Contact% and FB% saw a significant increase, affirming the point that pitchers were throwing Robbie fastballs out of the zone, and he was more than willing to just put them in play rather than fouling them off or laying off of them.”

    I believe this is commonly known as “Alfonso Soriano syndrome”.

    • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

      Yup. I think the difference with Sori is that he makes much less contact on his swings out of the zone. It leads to more strikeouts, but probably fewer poorly hit balls.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

        But strikeouts r the bad!!!1!!1!1!1!11!

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

          I can’t even get my mocking right. Should read:

          But strikeout r theteh bad!!11!!1!!!1!!111!

  • http://www.supertangas.com The man with 33 fingers

    Cano is going to be AWESOME this year. God-like. U’ll see.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Hello, Tahiticora.

  • anonymous

    Cano went 2 for 4 with a walk and a run scored yesterday against the Marlins.

    • andrew

      Mark it down, Cano will hit .500 this year with 162 runs scored and 162 walks

  • NickyTheSwish

    I think it’s pretty clear that the steady increase in O-Contact%over his career is the reason behind his steady decrease in BABIP, which is otherwise generally attributed to bad luck. In my opinion, for Cano it has always come down to whether or not he can develop some semblance of plate discipline. Even in ’06 when he almost won the batting crown his OBP was just .365 compared to his .342 average. That’s a ridiculous split. The league made adjustments, as it always does, to exploit his aggressiveness and until someone can teach him to be more patient on pitches outside the zone instead of hacking away trying to make contact he’ll keep struggling. Mechanical issues or not, this has always been his downfall.

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