During the seventh inning of last night’s game it looked like Robinson Cano did not want to take a walk. He had already earned a free pass in the first inning, and to take another walk would give him as many in one game as he had earned in the entire season to that point. The at-bat lasted eight pitches, the final one a weak fastball that ran way too far inside. Not even Cano would take a hack. He took his base for the second time that night.
Cano, as he does so often, made the at-bat longer than it needed to be. Not one of the pitches from Edwar Ramirez ended up in the strike zone — least of all pitches six and seven, both changeups low and away, both fouled off. Both, also, had Cano taken them, would have put him on first base. Thankfully, Cano has a penchant for fouling off bad pitches, so he was able to extend the at-bat without any real damage. Here’s the Gameday view of his PA:
That wasn’t Cano’s first long at-bat of the night, either. In the first he worked the count on A’s starter Gio Gonzalez, taking that one to eight pitches as well. Gonzalez threw far more pitches in or near the zone than Edwar — and Robbie actually took one of them, a third pitch fastball for a strike after the first two pitches missed inside for balls. I’m actually surprised that Cano didn’t crush the sixth pitch, a fastball at the heart of the plate. He managed to only foul it away, though. He did the same on the next pitch before deciding that the at-bat’s final fastball, low and inside, wasn’t worth the hack.
By the ninth inning the Yankees had the game well in hand. Still, Cano came to the plate for one last appearance, this time against the side-arming Brad Ziegler. Like most side-armers, Ziegler fares far worse against lefties, a .868 OPS against. Against righties he fares much better, just a .569 OPS against. To this end, Ziegler worked carefully to Cano. As you can see in the Gameday plot below, only a few of the pitches came anywhere near the strike zone. It’s a shame that he swung at the fourth pitch, but other than that he displayed a pretty good batting eye in this plate appearances.
Looking at all three pitch plots, it appears that Robbie does not like the low inside pitch. It is the pitch he takes most frequently, even when it’s closer to the strike zone than other pitches in the at-bat at which he swung. This has been a trend all season for Cano. Check out the following plots, courtesy of Texas Leaguers. The first is a plot of the pitches Cano has swung at. The second is a plot of the pitches he’s taken.
Throw it low and inside, and Cano’s eye seems as good as anyone else’s. Throw it low or away, and he’s probably going to hack. This seems like a positive development. It might not last all season — Cano did hack at his share of low and inside pitches outside the strikezone last season — but so far it has been a definite positive for Cano.
Surprisingly, last night was not the first time Cano drew three walks in a game. It was actually the fourth. In 2007 he did it twice within a couple of weeks. The first came on July 24 against the Royals, and the second came on August 7 against the Blue Jays. He then did it in 2008, in August against the Rangers.