Heading into the season, most of us didn’t know what to expect from Robinson Cano. We’ve seen him go from promising star in 2006 and 2007 to horrible disappointment in 2008. Was his lack of plate discipline catching up to him? Or did he just need to refocus his efforts and regain the stroke he had in earlier years? To this point, Cano has alleviated most of our fears, putting up a line of .313/.345/.507. Now that’s more like the Cano we saw in 2006-07. Yet we still must wonder: can he keep it up?
It’s easy to say yes and let that be that. But what we do here is talk baseball, so we might as well approach the question as completely as possible. Can Robinson Cano maintain the production level we’ve seen to this point? Clearly, he wasn’t going to keep up the .370 batting average he took into the early days of May — or, at least, we couldn’t expect him to do so, just as we can’t really expect that of any hitter. As we could have expected, Cano experienced a correction once the calendar flipped, going 1 for 21 with a walk from May 2 through May 7. That’s a stretch of six days, but it was enough to drop his BA from .378 to .319.
After going 4 for his last 15, Cano has shaved a few additional points off his BA, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. As we’ve seen over the past few years, he’s a hot and cold guy. He’ll hit rough patches, but he redeems himself with torrential production. For instance, over a different six-game stretch Cano went 12 for 31 (.387). An even more impressive stretch was from the start of the season through April 17, wherein he hit .405/.468/.667. Yes, he had a bad stretch last week, and even over his last five games he’s been just 4 for 15, but his hot streaks will make up for these slight drops in production.
What got me thinking about Cano was an Eric Seidman article on FanGraphs. He looks at Cano through the lens of updated ZiPS, Dan Szymborski’s projection system. These are updated now daily to reflect how the system projects a player will hit for the rest of the season. Right now it has Cano at .299/.335/.479 for the rest of the season. It seems a bit low, but it’s one possibility for how things play out.
Cano’s streaks mean that he’s subject to a great deal of randomness as concerns his final season numbers. As Cano streaks and slumps, his projections will fluctuate. If he hits his streaks at the right times, he could outperform that projection by a mile. If his slumps last a bit longer than we’ve seen so far, he could hit that .299 projection. It’s all timing with Cano. Given what we’ve seen so far it’s easy to predict that his hot streaks will outweigh his cold ones. Yet that wouldn’t be exactly accurate either, since we have no way of knowing how his streaks will time out.
What’s clear so far is that the Yankees were right to exercise patience with Cano. Not only has his offense been back to normal levels, but his defense, as Seidman points out, has been much, much better as compared to last year. Not only does UZR bear that out, but you can see the difference this year. It’s added up to a highly valuable player taking the field every day at second base. Here’s to hoping he keeps it up through his current contract and beyond.