Robinson Cano’s ground ball problem

5/3-5/6 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals
Notes: Chavez, Hughes, Joba, Gardner, Andy
Miss the good version of Cano. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Given how dominant he’s been the last two seasons, I think it’s fair to say Robinson Cano has been the most disappointing player on the Yankees this season, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Expectations were relatively low for Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Russell Martin, but I think everyone assumed Cano would continue to be the hitter he’s been over the last two years. Needless to say, a .255/.308/.367 batting line (.297 wOBA) after the first month of the season is a surprise.

Everyone is going to have a theory about why a player is slumping when they’re slumping. Some resort of old diatribes like “he can’t hit good pitching” or “he can’t hit breaking balls” while others write it off as part of the typical ups and downs of the 162-game season. Occasionally we’ll get an actual answer, whether it be a nagging injury we didn’t know about or a mechanical issue or something else entirely. During last night’s broadcast, Jack Curry he spoke to hitting coach Kevin Long about Cano, and he indicated that he’s not getting his hands in the right place before swinging. Sounds reasonable, who am I to disagree?

Whether or not the hand issue is the root cause of the problem isn’t for us to decide. Whatever’s ailing Cano is causing him to hit a ton of ground balls, 52.9% to be exact. That is the 30th highest ground ball rate out of 184 qualified hitters and comes after a four-year stretch with a 46.2% ground ball rate and a two-year stretch with a 45.4% ground ball rate. Just to drive home the point, here’s the day-to-day graph…

Grean is grounders, red is line drives, blue is fly balls.

A 6-8% difference isn’t a huge red flag, but it does help explain why Cano has hit for so little power — .112 ISO — this season. Robinson’s not a ground ball/singles hitter, he’s a guy that rips line drives all over the field for extra bases. We’ve been watching hi do it for years, but he we have yet to see that guy in 2012 and who knows why. Maybe he really can’t hit good pitching or maybe it’s just some stupid little mechanical issue that will be ironed out in time. Your guess is as good as mine.

The Yankees scored just three total runs during a three-game series at home against the Orioles, and part of the reason why is Cano’s anemic bat. He’s gone 30 plate appearances without an extra-base hit — since the Yu Darvish game — after averaging one extra-base hit for every 8.9 plate appearances during the last two seasons*. For whatever reason, he simply has not been hitting the ball with much authority in recent weeks and it’s incredibly frustrating. We all want to assign blame when the Yankees lose, and right now some of that blame definitely falls on Robinson’s shoulders.

* He also hasn’t drawn a walk in 38 plate appearances after drawing eight in his first 70 plate appearances of the season, but that isn’t terribly surprising. Cano’s never been a fan of ball four.

5/3-5/6 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals
Notes: Chavez, Hughes, Joba, Gardner, Andy
  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    Just gotta wait for these guys to come around. Maybe it is time for pay for production contracts you don’t hit you don’t get moolah

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Dear Ton,


      Michael Weiner

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Unconfirmed theory: He misses Kim Jones.

    • Deep Thoughts

      Where is Jose Lima’s widow these days?

  • Reggie C.

    I guess we can table any extend Cano related posts till he actually re-finds his power stroke. Cano usually takes to Long’s instructions pretty quick, so the turn around should happen soon.

    Then again, Pujols hasnt done anything so maybe 2012 is the year two of the best (top 10) hitting position players in baseball simply bomb.

  • jjyank

    Robbie’s then one guy on offense that you can really be confident about turning it around. I do think guys like Tex and A-Rod will too, but there’s really no reason to be pessimistic about Cano. Hopefully he and K-Long are on the case and we’ll start seeing some improvement tonight!

  • Kosmo

    I don´t agree “expectations were relatively low for Tex,Arod and Martin“ comment.
    Wasn´t there talk of a contract ext. for Martin ?
    Tex and Arod are being counted on to help carry the offense.
    I don´t know what to make of Cano , I just hope it´s not 2008 all over again.

  • Tipsie


    Just wondering if you see detailed trends (like above) which might mirror 2008 Cano. I’m worried, annoyed.

  • rek4gehrig

    “..since the Yu Darvish game”

    It’s all Yu’s fault

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    probably because he was used to getting bp from his dad all off season

  • Keith Scott

    Could be hes upset after a breakout year not getting his contract renegotiated and is slacking to prove a point (Boras). Probably not though just a theory, I think he’ll come around in due time hes too good not to, just my two cents.

    • jjyank

      Boras isn’t that stupid. If you didn’t get an extension, why would you slack, and thus hurt your value for a possible future extension or free agent deal. I highly, highly doubt that this ever even crossed Boras or Cano’s mind.

  • J

    Man the number of depressing articles is just piling up of late…

  • Batting Stance Guy

    It might be just me but I think Robbie has started this season with his stance a little more open than in years past (similar to when he struggled in 08). After he closed it more in 09 I remember he said it helped him a great deal limiting the his head and total body movement before the pitch. While this year isn’t as open as his 08 stance, I do believe it is more open than his past couple years which I think could be causing the timing issue with his hands.

    I don’t have any pictures to back it up so I could be wrong but it was just a thought I had.

  • http://nope Ton Lon Ton Jr

    Trade Cano for …… I don’t know …,, Scarlet J

  • http://nope Ton Lon Ton Jr

    Trade Canoe and Nova for Justin Upton

    • jjyank

      Only if the Yankees throw in the paddles for that canoe.

      • Mike HC

        We should offer Hamels 300 million dollhairs this off season to see if he bites.

  • Drew

    This post should be retitled “Robinson Cano’s needs to stop swinging at the first f**king pitch he sees with runners in scoring position especially when the pitcher walked 2 batters in the inning so far problem”

    • http://twitter/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      Cano’s always done that, though. It usually hasn’t been that big of an issue because he makes contact at a ridiculous contact, and good contact as well.

    • Bo Knows

      Cano hasn’t been swinging at the “first f**king pitch” he’s been more disciplined, but he’s rolling over pitches he normally crushes at the moment.

      • blooper

        Yeah, if anything Cano is taking too many pitches — at least by his standards. There’s stuff coming right into the zone he’s not swinging at, either because he’s not seeing it well or just tentative because he isn’t getting good swings, I have no idea.

    • LiterallyFigurative

      Which Robinson Cano have you been watching? If anything he takes too many pitches and lets good ones go by.

  • Mike HC

    Cano has had these types of slumps in his career before. I think he will be around his career numbers by the end of the year. I guess I fall into the “others write it off as part of the typical ups and downs of the 162-game season.”

    But the truth is you can’t predict the future. I surely didn’t think Tex would fall off like he has in the AVG/OBP department. And maybe he gets his mojo back too at some point. Who knows.

  • Ross the Albatross

    Does anyone ever look at groups of players who are slumping, to see if there are common threads? Maybe _all_ slumps correlate with increasing ground ball rates.

    Just wondering.

    We’re at the point of his career where we are going to find out if Cano is a hall of fame caliber player or just a very good player. He’s had several seasons playing almost every game. He hasn’t missed much time due to injury, but we know ALL athletes accumulate injuries during a career. Is this just a momentary slump, or is he going to have an off-year? We hear that second basemen often flame out quickly….is this the start of Cano’s flame out? He’s one of the best hitters I’ve seen in about 38 years of watching baseball regularly. He has more weaknesses than guys like Manny Ramirez or George Brett, but he has that ability to be able to hit almost any good pitch thrown by any pitcher, and he can hit line drives and homers to just about any part of any ballpark. I sure hope he returns to form and proves to be a hall of famer.

  • Peter North

    The bright side if he doesn’t shake the slump: could save the Yanks $140mn from 2014-2021!

    • Scarlet Jo

      We needs that money for Hamels And Felix

      • blooper

        And a second baseman.

  • blooper

    I have to say Cano does me have a bit worried this year. You can see the frustration on his face when he fouls off pitches that, before he swings, I’m sure are going to end up screaming like drives. Plus he took a couple of swings last night that were just awful, nothing at all like the sweet and consistent stroke of the last few years. Probably it is just something with his hands that Long will have fixed by Sunday, but I hate that when he comes up right now with runners on it feels hopeless.

  • eephus_pitch

    Cano and Teixeira both seem to have a problem of trying to pull the ball too much.

  • MarkyMapo

    Cano will come around don’t you know!