The slump that holds back Cano

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Any excuse to reuse this photo. (Jeff Gross/Getty)

It was inevitable that Robinson Cano would disappoint on some level this season. In 2010 he put together a career year, hitting .319/.381/.534. That included a career high walk rate and career high ISO, which left us with a hope that this was the new Cano — the No. 3 hitter that we all envisioned when he debuted his sweet swing in 2005. In that way, 2011 has fallen below those lofty expectations. His wOBA is down 20 points and his walk rate is down to right around his career mark. The only thing he’s retained is his power. Yet that doesn’t tell the whole story. Seasons go in phases, and Cano appears to be hitting his stride. In fact, he’s been hitting it for a few months now.

Cano started off the season impressively, hitting .320/.340/.639 in April. His walk rate was clearly low — he walked only three times in April, once on Opening Day and twice in one game on the 27th — but everything else seemed to be working. If he just laid off a few more bad pitches he could have been well on his way to another star-level season. But that lack of discipline soon came back to haunt him.

The team traveled to Detroit on May 3rd, and that’s when Cano’s slump began. For the next 34 games he hit .237/.294/.405 in 143 PA. He walked in just 4.2 percent of his plate appearances, and the lack of discipline apparently led to poor contact. His BABIP of .245 was far out of line with his established level. The slump might have drawn more comparisons to 2008 had Cano not continued to hit for power. In those 143 PA he still had 12 extra base hits, a .168 ISO.

Cano eventually broke out of the slump once Boston left town. Cleveland was next on the circuit, and Cano opened that series with a 3 for 4 performance that included an unintentional walk. That was on June 10th. Since then he has come to the plate 228 times and has hit .320/.377/.510, which is close to his 2010 production. The only difference is in the power department, where his .190 ISO since June 10th is a tick below his marks from the previous two years (.199 and .214).

The above, of course, merely dices Cano’s season into convenient segments. All players streak and slump, and Cano is no different. What we can see, though, is that his mid-season slump has really dragged down his numbers. If you look through his 2010 game logs you won’t see any slump that severe or that long. It’s one major reason why he put together an MVP-worthy season. Without any prolonged slumps he was able to produce from start to finish and remain a prominent part of the conversation.

This year Cano has experienced a prolonged slump, which make his overall numbers look a bit worse. Combined with his refusal to take a pitch in April, it has led to a below expectations season to date. But it does appear something clicked in June, and since then he’s back to producing elite numbers. He probably won’t get his numbers back up to 2010 levels, but that’s not what’s important to the Yankees right now. As long as he hits at those 2010 levels the rest of the way, the offense will continue to steamroll opponents.

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  • YankeesJunkie

    While Cano may never repeat his 2010 season again he has consistently been a 4-5 fWAR player since 09′. Even though it would be nice to see him not hack at everything near or far from the plate he still capable of striking fear in that #5 spot in the Yankee lineup.

  • Boo Radley

    Robbie Cano dontcha know isn’t being held back by anything. He’s been one of our best players this season and is the cornerstone of the Yankees going forward. If someone asked me would you rather have SI Cover man Dustin Pedroia or Robbie Cano dontcha know I’d pick Robbie every single time.

    • Xstar7

      As much as I HATE to say it, that little troll has been much better than Cano this season.

      • mike

        Troll will have a better peak career, but its likely his huge swing will come back to haunt him. Small guys who swing from the heels will likely not age well – Cano will likely have a longer career of more predictable production.

        at the end of their careers, i suppose their #’s will look the same, but Pedroia will have the better individual seasons and more accolades

        • BklynJT

          Cano has many things Pedroia will NEVER have…

          … a brother with a clean record
          … a home run derby trophy
          … hair atop his head

          … the list goes on

        • nsalem


          is there any evidence to this that you can present, or is it something you sorta made up?

        • nsalem


          is there any evidence to this that you can present, or is it something you sorta made up?

      • Stevis

        Cano’s problem is not his talent, its his head.
        whomever said it at the start of the season was correct…when he swings at pitches in the zone he’s great….if he swings as he has at bullshit pitches he is very ordinary

        • Jim S

          His head: part of his talent. You can’t separate mental ability from overall talent. His head is probably what led him to be able to repeat his swing over and over, allowing him to be who he is.

          Some people have better batter’s eyes than others. Cano’s is definitely below average.

        • CP

          That’s a matter of talent, not his head.

    • Jno

      Totally in agreement however, the route of the problem with our beloved team is micro-manager, Joe Gigardi. He never leaves the line-up alone whereas a player cannot get comfortable in certain spot. You cannot have Grandy in the 2 or 3 hole because he strikes out too much. This doesn’t change my love for him but he would be in my 6 or 7 hole preferably 7. Robbie should be in the 3 hole, not 4th and or 5th. When Alex gets back he will be in the 4th but, I move Tex to the 5 hole, Swish 6th, Grandy 7th, DH 8th (Chavez, et. el) then Russell Martin 9th. Russell has to catch any and all important games. The platoon @ the top w/Gardner should stop! He is my lead-off guy and Jeter should hit 2nd. It was great to see those two bunting to start a game. Funny, you manufacture runs against a mediocre team but, not against a strong team like the sox? Enough ranting, Robbie third and he will be a .325 hitter.

      • Boo Radley

        I don’t agree with moving our best player this yera down to 7th. That will never happen. When A-Rod comes back someone has gotta hit 6th and that will probably be Robbie. Teix is a good 5 hitter. I agree with keeping Gardner at the top against all pitchers.

      • Jerome S.

        Batshit insane.

  • Betty Humpter

    So Cano is able to go in slumps just like everyone else?


    • David, Jr.

      Agree. I have always felt Cano is the ideal #3.

      • why do you feel this way


        • David, Jr.

          Assuming lots of baserunners from the first two, and given Gardner’s awesome speed, which will open up the infield, you want the third guy as somebody who gets the ball in play and rarely strikes out. Cano fits that bill perfectly. Again assuming plenty of baserunners, they wouldn’t want to walk him with the protection of ARod and Tex, so he would get plenty to hit. Like the guy said, in the #3 hole you would see his average markedly go up.

  • Jesse

    I bet Cano goes on a HUGE tear the rest of the year and through the playoffs.

  • BklynJT

    Cano’s natural batting talent is a double edged sword. Imagine how much better Cano would be if he was as selective as Pedroia.

    • El Maestro

      Absolutely. The fact that he knows he can hit well any ball thew at him goes against him sometimes. He has great eye, but he thinks that even if the pitch is not a strike, he can put a good contact. A modern day Vlad Guerrero.

  • Brian S.

    I’m still angry at Cano for this last weekend. He was arguably the worst player on the field with his rally killing groundouts, getting on base about two times, and attempting to barehand like three different groundballs going to right to Jeter.

    • Jerome S.

      I don’t hold it against him. Everyone has a bad series, it’s part of the game.

  • Hendo

    Trade him!

  • Chris in Maine

    I find it hard to believe that “we” all envisioned Cano as a number 3 hitter when he came up in 2005. He’s certainly turned into that, but envisioned in 2005? I don’t think so.

    • Cuso

      It was bandied about quite a bit in 2005 along with all the ‘multiple batting title’ talk.

      Maybe you didn’t hear about because you were busy eating lobster?

      …or watching NESN, maybe?

      • Chris in Maine

        Gotta love the lobster, but no, the Yankees could’t trade the guy away. No takers. They even had him play 3rd in AAA to entice some teams with a need at the position. NESN? Only 19 games or so a year when the Yankees are on.

      • Chris in Maine

        here is a great article on a blog about Cano and how the Yankees tried to trade him several times. Apparently he never even topped out on the various prospect top 100 lists. Don’t get me wrong, I love him as a player, but he did not project out to the player he is today.

  • Michael

    I don’t understand the obsession with labeling Cano as #3 hitter. Pound sign and 3 on the same key?

    • David, Jr.

      See above. Very obvious. Ideal #3 hitter.

  • steve s

    Is Cano’s performance post All-Star game another example of the curse of the Home Run Derby winner?

  • the Other Steve S.

    Pedroia is not a troll, he’s a twerp.

    • SDM

      He’s more of a “gremlin” or an “imp” in my opinion

  • Luis Polonia on steroids

    …Cano needs to prove he can deliver tough at bats against quality pitchers in the playoffs and against the Sox. Right now, he’s like A-Rod before the 2009 series run.

    • Jim S

      He’s like the guy with the 144 wRC+ in 2009 before the playoffs? Or the guy who, in the postseason in 04 and 07 had an OPS above 1.000?

      Well then. We’re pretty damn lucky he’s on the team.

    • Xstar7

      Where were you during the 2010 ALCS?