Nov
13

Why does Robinson Cano passively watch the first pitch?

By

Before he digs into the batter’s box for the first time, Robinson Cano playfully taps the opposing catcher’s shin guards with his bat. He then starts to settle in, adjusting his uniform and waving his bat in front of him like a pendulum. Then, as the pitcher readies, Cano gets into his stance, slightly open. The bat waggling behind his head seemingly dictates the movement of the rest of his body. It’s as if he and the bat are one, rocking back and forth in unison, waiting for the perfect moment to turn loose and strike the pitched ball.

If the ball is near the strike zone, I expect Robbie to swing. He’s never been known as a disciplined hitter — he’s been in the bottom five in the AL in pitches per plate appearances four out of five seasons, and in the other, 2007, he was in the bottom 10. Yet even though I understand the virtue of seeing more pitches, I want Robbie to swing. Not at a pitch in the dirt or at his eyes, of course, but if it’s reasonably close to the zone I think swinging is probably the proper decision. (Cano, for his part, made contact with 77.5 percent of pitches outside the strike zone in 2009, and 75.3 percent in 2008.)

This season, I noticed many times that Cano would stand and passively watch the first pitch go by, no matter its type or location. Unfortunately, a statistic does not exist which can quantify this situation. All we have is the number of times he swung at the first pitch, 230 out of his 674 plate appearances, or 34 percent overall. That is actually up from 2008, when he swung at the first pitch 32 percent of the time. In previous years, Cano swung at the first pitch more often. But while we know that Cano swings at the first pitch often enough, we don’t know how many of those first pitch situations he’s eschewing because of this passive tactic.

Presumably, this is to help correct for his poor discipline. Again, Cano routinely sees among the fewest pitches per plate appearance in the league, so the idea might be that if he takes the first pitch, he might get a better read on the pitcher. I’m not sure if this first-pitch passive approach is an instruction from Kevin Long, or an initiative of Cano’s own undertaking. What I do know is that while that tactic can sometimes lead to a 1-0 count, oftentimes Cano watches a perfectly good pitch go right by, a pitch that he can put in play. That’s Cano’s strength, putting balls in play, and I don’t like seeing him take good pitches — or even close pitches — without even thinking about swinging.

Just how good is Cano when he swings at the first pitch? He did it 118 times in 2009, and he picked up 51 hits, good for a .432 batting average. Of those 51 hits, seven were home runs, 11 were doubles, and one was a triple, for a .720 slugging percentage. He also picked up 21 of his 85 RBI by first-pitch swinging. Though his 2009 performance on the first pitch probably isn’t repeatable, Cano has fared well throughout his career in that situation, posting a .374 batting average and .578 slugging percentage over 544 plate appearances.

Hitters who see a lot of pitches provide value to the team. Nick Swisher makes fewer outs than other players because he’s willing to wait for the pitch he wants. If the pitcher doesn’t give him something he can hit, he’ll take his walk (or, as the case may be, he’ll strike out looking). The Yankees have always coveted patience at the plate, and it seems like they sometimes go out of their way to acquire this type of player. It stands in contrast to Cano, a free swinger. Even as he watched balls pass by, having no intention of swinging, he still ranked fourth to last in the AL in pitches per plate appearance in 2009.

Cano saw an 0-1 count 303 times in 2009. We might not learn from his numbers in that situation, because we don’t know how he got the strike. It could have been a passive look, an active look, a foul ball, or a swing and miss (though that only happened about 230 times all season). In any case, he hit .288/.294/.482 over 303 plate appearances. That’s pretty close to his career mark of .285/.299/.422 over 1,334 plate appearances. He is much better with a 1-0 count, .305/.383/.464 over 253 PA in 2009 and .298/.368/.476 over 1,158 PA in his career. Still, not as good as his first pitch numbers.

This is not to say that Cano should swing at every first pitch. That would be preposterous. It is to say that he’s not doing himself any favors by passively resting the bat on his shoulders. Maybe I’m falling victim to an observation bias and he doesn’t do this nearly as frequently as I think. I wish I had a way to measure it, other than watching the archive of all his 674 plate appearances. But that would just annoy me. That’s why I wrote this post, really. Because Robinson Cano annoys me when he nonchalantly watches a good pitch go by.

Categories : Offense

169 Comments»

  1. Salty Buggah says:

    Haha, you used nonchalantly. I’m not sure that is a good choice for an article concerning Robbie.

    I kinda noticed what you are saying but not all that much.

  2. jim p says:

    My guess–he’s learning. Pitch identification, and the strike zone. When he’s gotten somewhat better at this, he’ll be freer again on the first pitch.

  3. Don says:

    Very good write-up.

    However, Ive been saying all year that it is time to trade Cano for either a CF or a SP.

    For me he is another Alfonso Soriano. He is nothing more than a complimentary player on a very good team and there are far more high quality 2B around than CF or SP so its time to move him at his highest value.

    Im sticking to my guns of targeting a player like Matt Kemp or Matt Cain with a package based around Cano, and then signing a Hudson, Derosa, or Figgins.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      “He is nothing more than a complimentary player on a very good team…”

      And what’s wrong with that? No one’s asking him to be the guy to carry the team, and he’s certainly not overpaid.

      • Don says:

        For a complimentary player, hes not a good enough defensive player, base runner, nor gets on base enough during slumps to be consistently productive.

        • Mike Axisa says:

          If Cano’s not a good enough complementary player for you, then I don’t know what to say. He’s an above-average big leaguer, especially at his position.

          Also:

          “…nor gets on base enough during slumps to be consistently productive.”

          I don’t get that at all. No one gets on base enough during a slump, that’s why it’s a slump.

        • Slugger27 says:

          dude, u gotta be kidding me. the dude hit 320 as a 2nd baseman and put up a 4.4 WAR season… hes not good enough as a “complementary player” for you??

          if cano isnt even a complementary player in your book, who in the hell is an all-star?

          • Don says:

            Im not kidding, Ive said it all season long, and its no coincidence word is leaking out the Yanks are open to trading him.

            The Yanks can get greater value out of a CF or SP of equal value.

            • Salty Buggah says:

              “Im not kidding, Ive said it all season long, and its no coincidence word is leaking out the Yanks are open to trading him.”

              Who said that? I haven’t heard of any reports saying the Yanks are willing to trade Cano. Don’t make things up.

              “The Yanks can get greater value out of a CF or SP of equal value.”

              If the CF or SP is of an equal value, how does he have greater value?

            • Slugger27 says:

              its no coincidence word is leaking out the Yanks are open to trading him.

              link??

              if u think the yanks can get greater value for him in a trade than hes worth to him, thats one thing, but to say hes not a good enough complementary player for this lineup i think is lunacy

              plus u bring up derosa and figgins to replace him, both have a lower career OPS than cano, and its not particularly close

              • Slugger27 says:

                ^^worth to THEM

              • Don says:

                I never he said he wasnt a good enough complimentary player, I said Id rather trade him for a better piece for our team for the future.

                I think he has great value and we should use that value to acquire someone who contributes in more ways than Cano does. Its as simple as that.

                Cano’s terrible postseason and career of failures when hitting with RISP (OPS+ of 69) are reason enough to trade him in the right deal.

                Im not advocating trading him for a 35 year old slugger or SP, but I am advocating dealing him for a player of similar age but with greater value to this particular team. I make this point when there are 3 valuable 2B to be had on the market right now.

                • pat says:

                  So if you have one of the 4 most valuable 2b in the game you trade him for another position player of similar value?

                  WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY???????

                  It just doesn’t make any sense to create a hole at 2b to try and fill another spot. It’s the same process either way. Keep the elite 2b and sign a stopgap cf or trade the elite 2b for a sp/cf and sign a stopgap 2b.

                • Don says:

                  Im making the point this is highest value, hes reached his peak as a player. His value will only decrease with time.

                  That is why you trade him now. That is WHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  I think he has great value and we should use that value to acquire someone who contributes in more ways than Cano does. Its as simple as that.

                  Which GM would be idiotic enough to trade someone with more value than Cano for Cano?

                  Look at all the facts and think deeply about your proposal. It’s atrocious

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Im making the point this is highest value, hes reached his peak as a player. His value will only decrease with time.

                  WTF? How do you know? He just put up a great season as a maturing 27 year old. Players do not decline until like 32 or 33 generally. In fact, if you’ve followed baseball, players ENTER their prime and improve after/around age 27.

            • pat says:

              its no coincidence word is leaking out the Yanks are open to trading him.

              Weird because I just did a quick check on MLBTR and Cano hasn’t been mentioned in a trade rumor since October 2008.

              The Yanks can get greater value out of a CF or SP of equal value.

              Wait, what? They can get better value froma cf or sp of the same value? That’s kind of a contradiction dude. Why would we open a hole at 2b to strengthen another spot. There’s nobody in the farm that could replace his production nor is there anybody in the trade market.

              Think about what you’re saying. Just for a minute.

              • pat says:

                oops, didn’t close a tag.

              • Don says:

                The point Im making is the jump in value from Melky/Gardner to what we can get from trading Cano is greater than the drop in value to a Derosa, Hudson, or Figgins.

                There are no CFers on the market of similar value over Melky and Gardner.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Again, Cano alone isn’t going to cut it. You gotta account for the value of that other piece too. So not only do you give up at least 2 significant pieces, you spend some significant money for declining and basically already average/slightly above average veterans.

                  HORRIBLE baseball and business decision

                • pat says:

                  Except Mike Cameron.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  And to make matters even worse, the Yanks might have to give up a 1st or 2nd round pick to get those guys ON TOP OF everything I stated before.

                  That proposal would make no sense whatsoever.

                • Don says:

                  I disagree, but lets see what the Yanks do. My money is on them dealing him this offseason, especially if a big time, yound SP becomes available, say Edwin Jackson.

                  What about a package centered around Cano for Jackson if the Tigers want to improve their middle infield offense.

                • Don says:

                  I’ll tell you who Cano is, hes Carlos Baerga.

                  Trade him now before he flames out the way Baerga did in the late 90s.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Hells no. That would really crippling. Why do you think the Tigers are trading Jackson? If he was really great, they’d keep him. The guy basically fell off a cliff in the 2nd half last year.

                • Slugger27 says:

                  especially if a big time, yound SP becomes available, say Edwin Jackson

                  big time???? he’d be our no. 5, if that… dudes got a career whip over 1.5 and a career ERA+ of 96

                  and i understand what you’re saying about the whole value dropoff thing regarding CF… the problem is u cant just say “they should trade him for a young, in-his-prime CFer and then sign a 2B in FA” … u have to actually MAKE THE TRADE SUGGESTION… otherwise ppl roll their eyes knowing that teams dont just trade away good, young, cheap CFers

                • Don says:

                  Right, because no one wants a 26 y/o hard thrower who pitched to a 3.62 Era and 1.26 WHIP in the AL…

                • Don says:

                  I couldnt be more ecstatic about the Championship, but my 1 wish for this offseason is to deal Cano for a player of similar age with more value to this particular team in 2010.

                  PS. Peep this…

                  http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....hings-2009

                  You know what’s almost as fun as figuring out who is the best at something? That’s right: finding out who is the worst. Here are the bottom five out of 154 qualified 2009 batters:

                  150. Alex Rodriguez -1.04
                  151. Magglio Ordonez -1.12
                  152. Michael Cuddyer -1.17
                  153. Derek Jeter -1.42
                  154. Robinson Cano -1.52

                  Cano is not Jeter nor A-Rod when it comes to their other offensive abilities/skill set, so this reflects much worse on him.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Yea, you’re right. I definitely want a 26 year old RHP hard-thrower,which we none of, who has been below average overall in his career and had perhaps a fluky year in which he fell off a cliff in the 2nd half. over a 27 year well-above average career-wise and still improving, power hitting, 3rd best offensive 2B, which we have a lot of in our system and are dime a dozen. Yea, that’s exactly what everyone wants.

                • Don says:

                  When the Tigers ask for more than Cano in the deal, you’ll know who is more valued around the league.

                • Slugger27 says:

                  sigh… we’re getting way off topic, but edwin jackson just isnt that good… the dude had one good season last year, and even THAT good season dropped off a cliff in the 2nd half when his BABIP started regressing to a normal level

                  u think we should trade cano for him? hell, we’d be better off signing justin duchscherer and getting better production without giving up our young, cheap, 4 WAR middle infielder in the process

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Useless (for our purposes) cherry-picked stat. If we go by that list, why dont we get Brad Hawpe instead. He is #2 on the list and will be way cheaper in terms of resources.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  I’m sorry Don, you seem like a nice enough guy and all. But your stance on Cano and your “explanation” and justification for your stance get a certified OAKTAG

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  When the Tigers ask for more than Cano in the deal, you’ll know who is more valued around the league.

                  Wait a second. Are you one of those anonymous scouts/executives/baseball insiders? Only they say wrong stuff like that.

                • Don says:

                  Would you have dealt Cano for Grienke after 2008 if we could, because Grienke’s 08 is awful similar to Jackson’s 09 and oh look theyre the same age.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  Again, another OAKTAG for your poor attempt to compare Edwin Jackson to Zach Greinke.

                • Don says:

                  No but I have worked in the game and not too long ago. Ive overheard the conversations about Cano and theyre very similar to what Im expressing here.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  May I ask what you did in the game? What you said there again sounds like one of those anonymous insiders that columnists like Jayson Stark use

                • pat says:

                  Hahahah we’re supposed to take a stat seriously when Cano, Jeter, and Arod all rank in the bottom 5 and freaking CASEY BLAKE is #1? I’m all for advanced metrics but come on dude.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  CANO = CARLOS BAERGA
                  Casey Blake = Lou Gehrig

                  duh

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Perhaps. Greinke has never really walked a lot of guys, except for one season and has struck a lot. Jackson has always struck out less and walked way more than Greinke, this year being the exception (and it’s still not that good and his 2009 K/BB, in a season that was supposedly his best, is lower than Greinke’s career K/BB, in which he has been awful at times.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Seriously, Greinke’s 2009 K/BB is more than doubled Jackson’s. Also, Greinke’s career K/BB is also more than double Jackson’s.

                  Greinke>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Jackson easily and he pretty much always was, even when he struggled.

                • Don says:

                  Ok Mr. OAKTAG, hows this for comparison sake:

                  Grienke ’08:
                  BAA: .261
                  WHIP: 1.28
                  K/9: 8.1
                  LD%: 19%
                  GB/FB: 1.11
                  WPA/LI: 1.49
                  Contact%: 79.5%
                  WAR: 4.9

                  Jackson ’09
                  BAA: .249
                  WHIP: 1.26
                  K/9: 6.8
                  LD%: 18.4%
                  GB/FB: .92
                  WPA/LI: 1.57
                  Contact%: 79.2%
                  WAR: 3.5

                  Looks pretty close to me. Are they an exact match, no they are not, but Edwin Jackson is not Zack Grienke as few are. However, but to acquire of the same age who is close in ability in performance at similar stages of their career, it is well worth it. It especially worth it for a .300+ hitting, 40+ double, 2b who has never driven in 100 runs nor walked more than 39 times.

                • Don says:

                  For SB, I worked in sales & marketing but had many friends in baseball ops.

                • Don says:

                  Its late, sorry for the grammatical errors.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Hah, you proved my point. In a year which was his best so far, Jackson still had about 1 and half less WAR than Greinke, in which he supposedly struggled a bit.

                  Also, don’t cherry pick 2 years as they can be fluky. Look at every other year too. There are pretty big differences.

                • Don says:

                  Only time will tell.

                  Im betting against Cano, I have an instinct the Yanks will too, and the 2010 Yanks will be better for it when all is complete.

                  Night fellas.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  “but Edwin Jackson is not Zack Grienke as few are.”

                  Okay. Fine. Then don’t bring up Zack Greinke in a conversation about Cano vs. Edwin Jackson and act like they have some kind of connection. Thanks.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Actually, I’ll accept the Jackson thing. Basically, you are willing to bank on Edwin Jackson becoming Zach Greinke despite the overall differences in their track records and physical capabilities rahter than keep a guy who was one of the best 2B and is visibly improving and is about to enter his prime.

                  If that doesn’t scream irrational and really stupid to you, I don’t know what will.

                • pat says:

                  Again this is all beside the point as:

                  Robbie has been more valuable WAR wise than Edwin Jackson.

                  Robbie is only one year older.

                  Robbie has a history of repeating last year’s performance.

                  and most importantly, Detroit is trying to CUT salary, they’re allegedly listening to offers for Granderson, they’re sure as hell not going to take on Cano’s salary.

                • pat says:

                  Goodnight Don, I respect your convictions and opinions not matter how batshit insane we think they are.

                • Don says:

                  They do have a connection, in that Im advocating trading Cano for a mid 20s high potential SP.

                  Zack Grienke elevated his game to CY Young levels this year, time will tell if Edwin Jackson can do the same.

                  You win Championships with power pitching as indicated this year. The more we can have, the better off we’ll be in the future.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Im betting against Cano, I have an instinct the Yanks will too, and the 2010 Yanks will be better for it when all is complete.

                  Man, you must really trust your instincts. Just don’t go to Vegas or bet your house. I am surprised (well, not really) that you ignored all of the most logical reasoning we all provided, essentially rendering your earlier statements completely wrong, and decided to go with your instinct. Well done.

                • Don says:

                  I’ll be sure to jump on here this offseason when Cash fleeces someone in dealing away Cano.

                • Don says:

                  SB, go buy some oaktag and learn the game, not just what fangraphs teaches you.

                • pat says:

                  Well you better hope Edwin can elevate his game otherwise you just traded one of the best 2b in the world for a guy that had one good half of one season.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  They do have a connection, in that Im advocating trading Cano for a mid 20s high potential SP.
                  Zack Grienke elevated his game to CY Young levels this year, time will tell if Edwin Jackson can do the same.

                  Again, you are willing to trade a sure piece, a piece that is one of the best already and is improving, for a slight chance of a pitcher without any significant successful track record becoming a Cy Young. That is really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really dumb, really really dumb.

                • Don says:

                  PS. The pitcher I first mentioned in this rant was Matt Cain, hes whom Ive always wanted in a package deal with Cano.

                  I brought up Edwin Jackson only as an example.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  USE YOUR EYES SB, NOT YOUR DAMN FINAGLED SPREADSHEETS

                • Don says:

                  How high was Grienke’s ceiling when he left the game behind due to unfortunate bouts with depression?

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  SB, go buy some oaktag and learn the game, not just what fangraphs teaches you.

                  Oh, the irony.

                • Don says:

                  Point is, things can change quickly.

                  See Grienke and for 2B, see Edgardo Alfonso and Carlos Baerga. It happens in an instant.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  “Well you better hope Edwin can elevate his game otherwise you just traded one of the best 2b in the world for a guy that had one good half of one season.”

                  Don’t worry Pat. Cashmoney runs the team, thank Mo. That shit aint gonna happen.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  Dustin Pedroia elevated his game to MVP levels last year, time will tell if Robinson Cano can do the same.

                  See what I did there? Except my comparison is probably more legitimate in terms of Cano reaching Pedroia’s level as opposed to Jackson reaching Greinke’s.

                • Don says:

                  And in a down year, Pedroia was still more valuable than Cano.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Point is, things can change quickly.
                  See Grienke and for 2B, see Edgardo Alfonso and Carlos Baerga. It happens in an instant.

                  Yea, sure. Let’s all name the rare extremes instead of what happens the most. Chances of Cano being Baerga are very low (it’s possible but not probable). Chances of Cano continuing to improve or at least produce at the same level are very high.

                • Don says:

                  Cano wont even elevate his game to Pedroia levels in the year after the MVP season.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  That’s only because of Pedroia’s awesome defense. Robbie is still reaching for consistency for his defense. Cano beats Pedroia offensively and will probably age way better than Pedroia.

                • Don says:

                  How low are they? Their career trajectories look pretty similar.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Point is, things can change quickly.
                  See Grienke and for 2B, see Edgardo Alfonso and Carlos Baerga. It happens in an instant.

                  More wild and inane assumptions. If you can say that, I can also say that Cano will once be the best 2B in the game.

                • Don says:

                  Ah so back to my original point of the holes in Cano’s game – defense, base running/speed, lack of plate discipline/on base skills and hitting with RISP.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Considering the physical tools and their swings (and the fact that most of Pedroia’s offense comes from Fenway while Robbie can hit outside of YSIII), Cano will easily age better. You should know this if you worked in the game. This is basic scouting. You don’t need Fangraphs to tell you anything (BTW, why did you use all of those stats from Fangraphs earlier if like concluding through your vision?), your eyes can sufficiently be used to say that.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  And in a down year, Pedroia was still more valuable than Cano.

                  And in Greinke’s down 2008 year, he was still more valuable than Edwin Jackson according to WAR. So let’s not bring up Greinke and Edwin Jackson in the same sentence when you choose to only equate Cano with Baerga.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Ignore the RISP numbers, they’re pretty meaningless unless they continue for like 3-4 more years. Yea, Cano is not good those things but so what? His value comes from his power and average and his defense will improve.

                • pat says:

                  From your original point back to ours:

                  Even with all these flaws he’s still a TOP 5 IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

                • Don says:

                  You said eyes, I didnt. Its one thing to read stats as we all do, another to understand stats and the game itself.

                  2008 wasnt a down year for Grienke, it was his best year before his breakout year.

                • Don says:

                  Says you, Id take Utley, Hill, Kinsler, Zobrist, Roberts and yes Pedroia over him anyday and I cant stand Pedroia.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  “Its one thing to read stats as we all do, another to understand stats and the game itself.”

                  You should think about taking your own advice

                • Don says:

                  “Ignore the RISP numbers, they’re pretty meaningless unless they continue for like 3-4 more years. Yea, Cano is not good those things but so what? His value comes from his power and average and his defense will improve.”

                  Hes had 794 ABs with RISP his slash line is 256/291/398. That is a large enough sample size and is plain pathetic.

                  So what to defense, base running, and hitting with RISP?

                • pat says:

                  Haha, well then you’re just straight up biased against Robbie b/c he out WAR’d Hill and Roberts and is younger than both.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  Utley? Of course
                  Zobrist? Probably
                  Pedroia? Ummmm…no.
                  Hill? Hells no
                  Kinsler? OH HELLS TO THE MUTHAFUCKIN NO. Completely overrated.

                • Salty Buggah says:

                  As Pat said, he is still one of the top 5 in the majors (you’ll notice if you look without your bias against Robbie) despite those flaws. And he is only improving in those areas so yea, he’s gonna be way better.

                • Don says:

                  Has Robbie ever hit 30 homers or driven in 100? No

                  Has Robbie ever gone 30/30 or consistently scored more than 100 runs? No

                  Will he ever have a .400+ OBP? No

                  Has he ever had back to back year of double digit UZR? No

                  I’ll stick with the above players.

                • Don says:

                  So just tell me hes Alfonso Soriano without the speed or 30 home run power and lets be done with it.

                • pat says:

                  Hahah this is Ian Kinsler outside of Arlington for his career:

                  .248/.318/.412 :(

                  That shit’s SUB-BAERGAN YO!!
                  (.291/.332/.423)

                • Don says:

                  And in ’08 he hit 303/356/530 on the road.

                  Whats your point?

                  Check out Teix’s numbers away from Arlington in his best year there in 2005.

                • V says:

                  Wow, this stuff is massive OAKTAG.

                  Who are you going to replace Cano with? DeRosa? Really?

                  You do realize the Yankees have this guy named Austin Jackson in AAA, right? Why trade Cano for a CF then have to sell Austin Jackson for pennies on the dollar?

                  You have some insane belief that Cano is going to suddenly forget how to hit and be a worthless player for the rest of his career… and that anyone you can trade him for will become a superstar forever. Really?

                  The Yankees don’t NEED a CF for the long-term. They need a short-term stopgap. The Yankees don’t NEED an SP. IF Joba AND Hughes don’t pan out, they’ll need a short-term stopgap until the big dogs (Felix Hernandez, etc.) are free agents. As we saw between Santana and Sabathia, it’s cheaper to fill your needs with free agency than through trades.

                • Short Porch says:

                  That.

                  Don, like that other pitbull Sarah Palin is both persistent and inane.

                  But one must grant that Cano is a bit of an enigma.

                  I spoke to Rod Carew about him a couple of times — he was at my nephews’ Bar Mitzvahs in 2007 and 2008, both around the All Star Break.

                  Both times (and Carew was tutoring him the first time around) we predicted big second halfs. He delivered both times.

                  His blessing and curse is that he puts the bat on the ball like no one else.

                  The past two years .250+ batting after 0-2 for instance. But because he can hit anything, he is not selective. When in tight situations (RISP) pitchers bear down and try to expand the strike zone, Robbie lets them.

                  He figures out how to work the count just a little, and he’s driving in 120 a year and hitting 35 HRs.

                  When he’s out of whack, he is way out of whack because he is not selective, up there to hack. If Kevin Long can teach him how to work a count, that’s MVP and a batting title. As it is, I will gladly pencil him in as my #6 / #7 hitter the next ten years.

                • Don says:

                  Cano is simply a react hitter. He takes 1st pitch strikes as Joseph eloquently wrote for one simple reason, he is clueless at the plate.

                  Unlike Chone Figgins who made strong plate discipline adjustments this year while playing with Abreu (overrated I know), it never took with Cano.

                  He is a player without a clue at the plate and those players get exposed by good pitching as evidence by his performance this postseason and his career performance with RISP, which is flat out awful.

                • Don says:

                  PS. I find it inane that knowledgeable Yankees fans could be so blind that one of their own is vastly overrated as a player.

                  Below average defensive 2b who can’t run, nor hit with RISP/”in the clutch” are not as valuable as people on here think.

                • “Unlike Chone Figgins who made strong plate discipline adjustments this year while playing with Abreu”

                  Untrue. Yes, Figgins saw more pitches per plate appearance this year, but he’s always been around or above 4.00, which is excellent. So it’s not like he was an impatient player who all the sudden learned from Abreu. Figgins has always been disciplined at the plate.

                • “I find it inane that knowledgeable Yankees fans could be so blind that one of their own is vastly overrated as a player.”

                  Perhaps it is you who is blind.

                • Don says:

                  Good point, but his walks jumped by 39 year over year, after he had never walked more than 65 times in one year.

                  That is quite a leap for someone mid career.

                • He also had over 200 more plate appearances this year than in the past 2. Come on, man.

                • Don says:

                  I dont believe so Joe, and the fact that Im getting personally attacked for advocating trading a #7 hitter, is more telling about some of the readers here than myself.

                • Don says:

                  Then what happened in 04, 05, and 06 when he had plate appearances of 638, 720, and 683 respectively.

                • No one ever mentioned those years. You said he was more disciplined with Abreu in the lineup, and I said that’s not so. Then you brought up the walks, and I said that no, that’s in large part due to tons more plate appearances.

                  Guys change as they age. Figgins’s game has obviously matured. But I think attributing it to Abreu in any way is wrong.

                • “I dont believe so Joe, and the fact that Im getting personally attacked for advocating trading a #7 hitter, is more telling about some of the readers here than myself.”

                  You shouldn’t be attacked, but your argument is specious at best. You said that they should trade Cano for someone of more value. So you’re basically saying, let’s go find a dumb GM and see if he’ll give up more value for Cano than Cano is actually worth. While that can happen, you can’t bank on it. Further, I think trading for Jackson is a bad idea, and I think the other commenters pointed that out well. Dude had a great first half, but didn’t come close to matching it in the second.

                  When a guy has a great half year and then reverts to somewhere around his career averages in the second half, I’m not apt to think he’s a good option to repeat the first half.

                • Don says:

                  I mentioned it was overrated, but Im not getting bogged down in that.

                  When Cano jumps his walk total by close to 40 from one career high to the next, i’ll be a believer hes a disciplined hitter.

                  Until then, hes an excellent bottom of the order hitter who for me doesnt do nearly enough as an all around player. That has always been my point on Cano.

                • Don says:

                  My argument for who to trade Cano for is specious because I dont possess the inside knowledge to know who is truly available on the trade market.

                  However, my arguments against Cano as a player are simply ground in facts.

                  Undisciplined (walks/pitchs per pa)
                  Subpar defense (uzr)
                  Poor baserunner (sb%/run totals for career)
                  Terrible hitting with RISP (OPS+ of 69)

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  He’s a 7 hitter for a lineup like the Yankees. For most teams, he’s batting somewhere in the meat of the lineup and to have a second baseman who is not a liability at the plate is a greater luxury than you seem to realize. If Cano was a corner outfielder, sure he’s not productive enough to justify holding onto so tightly but he’s a goddamn second baseman.

          • toad says:

            Hey. He didn’t say “complementary.” He said “complimentary.” Cano just needs to tell the other guys, “Great job” or something more often and he’ll be fine.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Since others have argued against your points about Cano being a ocmplementary player, I’ll ignore that.

      Getting a guy like Kemp with Cano alone isn’t obviously enough. You have to give up another fairly significant piece to get him. And honestly, no matter how good Kemp is/may get, giving up 2 pieces 2 fill one “hole” (I say it like that because CF is not really a hole with Gardbrera filling in adequately there) is not a smart thing to do.

    • sk says:

      the Yanks should probably trade all of young talent for aging all stars, get one more title in 2010 then go through the ’80s dry spell all over again. that’d be fantastic. maybe they should look into trading him for dale murray or ken phelps. they should get a balboni, an espinosa and an andy hawkins while they’re at it.

  4. Free Mike Vick says:

    Cano being Cano i guess.

    Cano starring at the 1st pitch doesn’t bother me. If Cano was striking out like crazy then it would. Make that for damn sure…if he was striking out like 120 times like a nick swisher then it would make me go ape sh**. But he’s not so it really doesn’t bother me.

    i guess some of it has to do with watching bobby abreu do the same thing…although he looked a little move aggressive then Cano does…but we all knew Abreu wasn’t swinging either. He might aswell been in the batters box with no bat to start the AB.

  5. sk says:

    K-Long needs to take a trip to the Dominican and work with Robbie and Melky again. Cano is only going to get better. I hope he’s the 21st century’s first career Yankee. However, I noticed something odd while looking through the year-end wrap up stuff: there are barley any Cano pictures or mentions in the articles(except for the cliche “when Shane Victorino lined out softly to Robinson Cano…”). The parade coverage also barely featured Cano. I know the guy sucked in the post season but he was a big part of the regular season. It’s almost like a soon-to-be divorced husband cutting his wife out of all of the pictures. Hope that’s not the case

    • iYankees says:

      Maybe another coach should go down there. Robbie’s hitting is fine, it’s his fielding that’s his main problem. He’s terribly inconsistent, although lately he’s looked consistently mediocre.

  6. sabes says:

    So you want him to swing more at the first pitch because of his high BA & SLG when he *does* swing at the first pitch. Maybe his BA & SLG are so high because he doesn’t do it that often. Your argument seems like it’s a fallacy. You should also compare his numbers when he is 1-0 and 0-1 to league average to where he falls. Comparing it to his first pitch swing numbers doesn’t really mean much at all.

  7. Slugger27 says:

    mike, i dont get it either…

    melky does the same thing, except instead of just resting the bat on his shoulders, he does the half-hearted fake bunt. whats even more perplexing is WHEN he fake-bunts. he does it with 2 outs nobody on, 1 out and runners in scoring position, or nobody out and bases loaded. its as if he (as cano) just decides on certain at bats he wont swing at the first pitch but in some strange way thinks a fake-bunt makes it less obvious

    very confusing.

  8. brian g says:

    man o man….sadly a ton of anti-robbie-ing going on these days…this dude is the second baseman for the yanks and he hits .300 and has serious pop and he’s young…what do you all want?….i loved willie randolph, but would you like cano better if he was hitting .270 with 40 RBI like most other second basemen?…sure he’s casual as hell and it sometimes bites him on the ass but he is a great ballplayer and i see him getting better..he slumped in the post season a bit but he had some big hits against the angels..he made some big plays in the field….tex had a tough post season obviously but no one is kicking his ass as much…would you rather see ramiro pena as the everyday second basemen?….as much as i like him, i wouldn’t. i think robbie is a joy to watch and an exciting player overall…..you can’t field a line-up any better than the yankees and he is a huge, huge part of that. i’m showin’ him the love….!

  9. Renny Baseball says:

    +24

  10. Drew says:

    Robbie is an enigma. He’s still young and is figuring it out.

    The way I see it, if he hadn’t disappeared with RISP this year he’d be an MVP candidate.

    So long as he keeps the same approach next year, but improves the problem that is RISP, all is well in Robbie Land.

  11. no.28 says:

    If Edwin Jackson repeated his 2009 for 10 years, he’d be a good pitcher.

    If Cano repeated his 2009 for 10 years he’d be one of the best second basemen ever.

    • Renny Baseball says:

      Agreed.

    • TLVP says:

      Agreed, however just a caveat: a good pitcher for 10 years pretty valuable – maybe as valueable as a great 2nd baseman for 10 years

      That doesn’t mean i think we should trade Cano, who i think is a lot likelier to repeat his 2009 than Jackson is.

    • donttradecano says:

      Why not just trade cano back to our farm team for Ross Ohlendorf? He could possibly, maybe, probably not turn into Zach Grienke

  12. Renny Baseball says:

    Off topic (how many demerits?), has anyone — anyone still on this — seen this about John Wetteland late tonight?

    Hospitalized for mental health reasons, suicide threat reported…
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/n.....DNrwlcwleP

    Hope for the best.

  13. JeffG says:

    I think his new approach has been a success therefor it is odd to think that you would be opposed. Other teams surely scout his approach therefore you’d think they would want their pitchers to throw him good pitches and therefor he has a good pitch to hit opposed to just starting him off with junk that he was normally making contact with and creating early outs. As you mentioned 51 hits on first pitches this year is pretty damn good. Entice the pitcher to throw you something down the middle and your job becomes easier.
    Really for me it just boils down to his results this year – I’m fine with the hitting strategy that got him there.

  14. larryf says:

    Don’t think that a free swinger taking the first pitch is such a bad thing. It would be interesting to compare this with the other Yankee starters. Gardner takes a ton of strikes and that is frustrating. Robbie swings plenty. I like him and would not trade him in any of the scenarios discussed. What would Cano’s #’s be if he batted second in front of Tex? Even better than last year for sure. Would anyone consider doing that if Damon isn’t back next year? I also love the way Robbie gets rid of the ball on the double play.

    Don’t think the vets would/will let him get away with a casual approach & attitude. He fits in well enough….

  15. Rose says:

    I can understand this first time seeing the pitcher on the night (or day) but once you become more comfortable…seeing the pitches and fully understanding what may come…then swinging at the first pitch comes more prevalent. I’m guessing this is when most of Robbie’s 51 hits and 7 HR’s came? Not the first time seeing the pitcher during the game…

    If he’s taking more pitches afterwords, maybe he’s not comfortable and needs a better look.

    Either way, he had 200 hits and had a very nice season for himself. I’ll take it every year.

  16. pete says:

    i’m not concerned about the pitch thing. seeing more pitches now, even if his performance is negatively affected (and by negatively, i mean hitting .320 with 25 hrs) slightly, will improve his pitch recognition in the long run, could eventually lead to his being a #5 type hitter. The one thing i’d really like him to improve is his defense. He is capable of making incredible plays, but he’s painfully inconsistent out there. Balls go under his glove all the time and it seems like he isn’t capable of diving after a ball. Defense should be his main priority this offseason, along with keeping up with the hitting.

    • “eeing more pitches now, even if his performance is negatively affected (and by negatively, i mean hitting .320 with 25 hrs) slightly, will improve his pitch recognition in the long run,”

      Now here’s a point I wanted to make, but I didn’t know how to make it clearly and convincingly in the article, so I left it out.

      When Robbie passively takes that pitch, I’m not sure it’s helping his pitch recognition. It’s not like he’s standing in there, locked in on the pitch like he is when he intends to swing. He kind of stands there, bat on shoulders, unable to swing even if he wants to because he’s not loaded up. I would think that standing up there just like you would when you intend to swing, even if you don’t intend to swing, would be okay, at least better than standing there, clearly showing you’re not going to swing.

      I don’t know. I’m not Cano, so I don’t know how he recognizes pitches. I would think, though, that if the intent was to recognize pitches that he’d stay in there just as if he intended to swing. In the situations I’m talking about, he’s not as locked in, he’s, to use a dumb phrase that kind of illustrates what I’m talking about, loosey goosey. The bat is at his sides sometimes before the catcher even gets the ball.

      It’s obvious why I didn’t include any of this, but it’s something I’m wondering. If the idea is to recognize pitches, then why not stay in there like you were going to swing? If he does that, then I don’t even have anything on which to base this article.

      • Raf says:

        he might just not need to be locked into his stance to be concentrated on recognizing the pitch. obviously this is something we’ll never know but he might be comfortable just standing up there looking like hes not ready to swing.

      • Rose says:

        “Not being locked in with the bat on his shoulders” may be his most comfortable position at the plate where he can recognize the pitches the best. You just never know.

      • pete says:

        i only say this because i know it’s a pretty common drill that hitters do. You basically stand up there and watch as a pitcher pitches to you. I know that manny ramirez used to do this as part of his “eye training” regimen

    • Rose says:

      As for his defense? He still has pretty good defense (despite UZR or whatever else tells you). It may not be superb…but he makes hard plays some wouldn’t, and he turns one of the best double plays I’ve ever seen. If he lets a few balls go under his glove, I won’t be happy about it…but it’s part of the game.

      It’s kind of like what Pedroia and Youkilis said before the All Star Game at Yankee Stadium in 2008. (Not verbatim) but it was something like “Those guys over there (Jeter and Arod) have so much talent they don’t necessarily have to work as hard…we aren’t as talented but we make up for it by working really hard at what we do.” Now Jeter and Arod work just as hard as those guys do but maybe because they are significantly older now, they don’t look as flashy with their gloves is what they should have said…but in a sense this can be said about Cano.

      The guy is very talented. He’s a great hitter (albeit lacking patience), he has a strong arm, he’s got some power, etc. The guy tries hard…but he makes some hard plays look easy. And because of that…he makes the bad plays he messes up look as though they were easy too. And sometimes they might be…but sometimes they may not be. It’s hard to get a read on Cano because he does his own thing…but he’s successful in doing so. If he can improve with his patience and defense of course I’d love it…but as of right now I’ll take what we have and appreciate it.

      • pete says:

        “despite what uzr or whatever else tells you”…UZR tells me that robinson cano doesn’t make as many plays as the average 2B. Watching balls trickle under his glove all year, color me unsurprised. UZR says nothing, however, about cano’s defensive ability or talent, it just reports his results. The fact that cano is capable of making great plays is all the more reason to advocate a defensive focus for him this offseason.

  17. Raf says:

    i just find it batshit crazy someone would advocate trading Cano for Edwin Jackson. his struggles have been frustrating but at the same time hes the 3rd best offensive 2b in the league and he hits in the bottom of the Yankees lineup. plus anyone that thinks it’ll be easy to land a Kemp, Cain or even Jackson with just Cano isnt paying attention.

    • Rob in CT says:

      I agree with all but the Jackson part. Edwin Jackson was a fluke last year. He had a ridiculous 1st half and then regressed right back to career norms. Cano for him would be an overpay.

  18. Why does Robinson Cano passively watch the first pitch?

    He’s lazy.

    (Seriously, though, there are plenty of other players who passively watch the first pitch. I’m just saying.)

  19. Rose says:

    The first pitch to anybody is usually the fastball…and I’d be willing to believe if you took the BA of anybody’s first pitch contact swings…it would be pretty good…no?

  20. Rob in CT says:

    What timing. I was just thinking about this today. It was one of the most frustrating things about watching him this season (and last, as you noted). So many times he gets up there, digs in, and CLEARLY has absolutely no intention of swinging at the first pitch (looking at the way he’s standing, he’s not even “set” to hit). It seemed (untrue, of course) that those pitches were all meatballs down the middle that he could’ve hammered.

    I hope he hasn’t gotten it in his head that “patience” means just taking the 1st pitch and then hacking away. That’s what worries me.

  21. Rob in CT says:

    Oh, and Cano for Edwin Jackson is batshit insane.

    • Don says:

      I disagree as I did last night.

      Please find me any other 25-27 year old power arms on the market – trade or free agency right now or next year.

      I can only think of Matt Cain (soon to be free agent), maybe Chad Billingsley, and now Jackson.

      These are rare pieces. We have enough offense and can always find more. You can never, ever have enough pitching.

      PS. King Felix will cost close to $200 million in 2 years.

      • Doug says:

        I just read the thread, and I have a question for you. You wrote:

        PS. Peep this…
        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs…..hings-2009
        You know what’s almost as fun as figuring out who is the best at something? That’s right: finding out who is the worst. Here are the bottom five out of 154 qualified 2009 batters:

        150. Alex Rodriguez -1.04
        151. Magglio Ordonez -1.12
        152. Michael Cuddyer -1.17
        153. Derek Jeter -1.42
        154. Robinson Cano -1.52

        Cano is not Jeter nor A-Rod when it comes to their other offensive abilities/skill set, so this reflects much worse on him.

        You quoted the “King of Little Things” column. I’m not sure if you read it, because it is screamingly obvious that it’s satire.

        The top five of that list:

        1. Casey Blake 1.50
        2. Jorge Cantu 1.39
        3. Joey Votto 1.25
        4. Derrek Lee 1.22
        5. Brian McCann 1.21

        Really. You cited a humor column that ranked players based on their WPA minus their batting wins. A column that ranked players based on their abilities at sacrifices, reaching on errors, and ‘productive’ GIDPs in the clutch and nothing to do with walks or hits or home runs in clutch situations. You know, shit that actually matters. Casey Blake and Jorge Cantu are 1-2. That really tell you enough.

        Did you go to Fangraphs and copy/paste from the first column you read?

        If you were in on the joke the whole time, then never mind, but it looks like to me you were completely earnest.

      • Please find me any other 25-27 year old power arms on the market – trade or free agency right now or next year.

        No. You know why? We have oodles of power arms ON OUR TEAM AND IN OUR SYSTEM RIGHT NOW. We don’t NEED to trade Cano for pitching, because we A) already have pitching and B) don’t have a replacement for Cano.

        The point of baseball is not to trade your guys at the peak of their value. It’s not the stock market. The point of baseball is to build a great team so you can win titles. “Building a great team” and “trading guys at the peak of their value” are not synonymous. Trading Cano for Jackson WEAKENS THIS TEAM, because we have a greater need for Cano than we do for Jackson, both now and in the future.

        I can only think of Matt Cain (soon to be free agent), maybe Chad Billingsley, and now Jackson. These are rare pieces.

        Robbie Cano: Also a rare piece. Probably a more rare piece than Cain, Billingsley, and Jackson, all things considered.

        We have enough offense and can always find more.

        False. We actually have enough PITCHING and can find more. Moreover, it’s easier to find elite pitchers via free agency or the draft (for us) than it is to find elite second basemen through free agency or the draft. We’ve had oodles and oodles of chances over the past two decades to just buy a starting pitcher on the market who is equal to or greater than Edwin Jackson, and we’ve bought several of them. We’ve also found great starting pitchers on the international market and at the bottom of the draft.

        The elite hitting middle infielders we’ve seen are much fewer and further between.

        You can never, ever have enough pitching.

        You can never, ever have enough offensive plus middle infielders. Those are rarer commodities than elite starting pitchers.

        PS. King Felix will cost close to $200 million in 2 years.

        And he’s much better than Edwin Jackson. We should pay him that money rather than trade away the more rare and more valuable Robbie Cano for the less rare and less valuable Edwin Jackson.

  22. themgmt says:

    He did this a lot in 2008 too. Sometimes he would take pitches but would have it made up in his mind that he was going to take the pitch before it was thrown. You can tell by his posture when the ball is crossing the plate. Cano has elite contact rates so he should have no problem becoming a better 2 strike hitter. He can afford to take borderline pitches. He doesn’t chase pitches away as much as he does pitches inside. If he could clean up his approach on pitches inside I think his BB rate will go up

  23. A.D. says:

    I always figured it was a “gauge the pitcher” thing or something were the scouting report says that given pitcher doesn’t necessarily throw out something to hit early in the count.

    Either way I agree it seems he just completely doesn’t attempt on some good looking strike 1′s. However I have to assume that it’s so obvious he must get some gain out of it, i.e. picking up something in a pitchers delivery.

  24. [...] you would like him to work the count a little better, but we saw earlier this morning that Cano excels at swinging early in the count. It’s in his DNA, he’s just not ever going to be a very patient [...]

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