Mar
04

Hoping for a major rebound from Cano

By

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.

Categories : Analysis

36 Comments»

  1. A.D. says:

    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.

  2. Matt says:

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

    .307/.333/.482

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

  3. Dave M says:

    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.

    • Matt says:

      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.

  4. Moshe Mandel says:

    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.

  5. Ryan S. says:

    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 says:

      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.

  6. Tom Zig says:

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

  7. “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”.

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

  9. anonymous says:

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

  10. NickyTheSwish says:

    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.

  11. [...] Pawlikowski over at River Avenue Blues talks about the expectations fans have for Robinson Cano. It’s a good read. I am expecting a big bounce back season from Robbie as well, so it will be [...]

  12. [...] talked about this about a million times this winter, so let’s keep it short. Cano had a good spring [...]

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