What Went Wrong: Robinson Cano’s splits

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Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

While the 2012 season was a massive overall success for Robinson Cano, he was not without his faults this year. Faults that hadn’t previously existed either, so they were completely unexpected. I might be nitpicking here, but Robbie had season-long trouble in two areas that he had previously dominated, and I think they’re worth highlighting.

Runners in Scoring Position
The Yankees as a team suffered through (sometimes extreme) bouts of RISPFAIL, and Cano was public enemy number one. He hit a robust .320/.391/.571 with men on second and/or third from 2010-2011, but slid down to .268/.393/.436 in 2012. That doesn’t seem all that bad and it really isn’t, but prior to his insane 24-for-39 finish to the season, he’d hit a much more pedestrian .239/.374/.373 with runners in scoring position. Robbie was still getting on-base, but ten of his 30 walks in those situations were intentional and he simply wasn’t getting hits. That’s what Cano does, he piles up hits.

I think we can all understand the limited analytical value of RBI, though it was telling that Cano was unable to crack the 100 RBI plateau even though he set career bests in almost every other offensive category. He just didn’t hit when there were ducks on the pond. Instead of plating runner after runner, he was stranding them. Considering that he was the team’s only middle of the order bat to stay healthy all season, Cano’s inability to hit with runners in scoring position was a big negative in 2012.

Left-Handed Pitchers
This one was the real surprise, at least to me. Cano came into the 2012 season as a .308/.347/.496 career hitter, which was broken down into .311/.349/.505 against righties and .300/.343/.475 against lefties. Over the last two seasons, it was .310/.369/.532 against righties and .294/.340/.481 against lefties. He had a platoon split but it was not significant. This season though, Cano hit just .239/.309/.337 against lefties in 269 plate appearances. That’s not the hugest sample size in the world, but it happened nonetheless. Robbie didn’t produce against lefties in 2012.

It’s worth noting that although Cano’s performance against southpaws suffered this season, there was not a huge change in his batted ball performance compared to recent years…

2010-2011 46.8% 33.3% 19.8% 17.4% 0.303
2012 47.2% 24.4% 28.4% 12.5% 0.272

Batted ball data can be tricky because one man’s fly ball is another’s line drive, but a ground ball is a ground ball and the important thing is that Robbie’s ground ball rate didn’t spike. The big jump in line drives means his BABIP should have increased significantly (in theory), but instead it went down. Does that automatically mean his performance against lefties is guaranteed to rebound next season? No, of course not. This is an indication that something other than a deterioration of skills may have been behind the performance slide though, which is good news. Considering his upcoming free agency, Robbie better hope he rebounds against lefties next year. That was a huge part of his value.

Cashman talks Martin, Ibanez
Mason Williams cleared to resume workouts following shoulder surgery
  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Homer Happy.

    The answer to crappy splits.

  • Reuben Sierra’s Chains

    “28 in 2013” will like this post much better then the previous one.

    • jjyank

      Heh. I feel like we got enough negativity in the supposedly positive thread.

      • http://yanksgoyard.com Joe F

        Cano hate isn’t cool.

        • jjyank

          I was legitimately taken aback with all the flames thrown at Cano. I mean, I know there’s been some grumbling on the lack of hustle, but holy crap. There are 29 other teams what would love to be bitching about Cano right now.

  • Eddard

    Kevin Long created a monster, a big left handed hairy one, with his HR drills. He ruined Robbie’s smooth swing, he ruined MVP Curtis Granderson, he ruined .280+ hitter Mark Teixera because he instructed these guys to swing for the fences. They all became pull hitters when their successful years were when they would hit to all fields. That short porch in RF is the bain of our existence.

    • gc

      No politics!

      • Pat D

        Nicely done. Wonder if anyone else caught it.

        • jjyank

          Bain Capital, right?

          • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

            Damnit JJ when you explain the joke it’s not as funny =P

            • Pat D

              Indeed. Way to ruin things, jj.

              I am disappoint.

              • jjyank

                Sorry guys. I thought it was, but I wanted to be sure!

    • NJ_Andy

      He…ruined…MVP Curtis? Didn’t he first create him?

      Hasn’t he told Tex to try and hit the other way? Tex has said he doesn’t like that sort of instruction.

      • Jobu

        Kevin Long giveth a he taketh away. How I will miss you MVP Granderson, you shined so bright and faded too soon.

      • http://yanksgoyard.com Joe F

        It’s Eddard bro.

    • WhittakerWalt

      He ruined Robbie so bad that he led the league in XBH. What a bum. If only he bunted more!
      Like the Giants did last night, right Ed?

  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    Trade cano now before he regresses. Brian can play 2nd base til corban is ready

    • Jobu

      I can only assume that “Brian” is Brian Cashman. I am fully behind this plan for two reasons. First, it is about time Cashman started pulling his weight in the organization . . . on the field. Second, given his diminutive size and impressive baldness, he would be the grittiest gritter who ever gritted it out at second base. Eat your heart out Dustin!

  • Hall and Nokes

    This is going to be one of those threads where the comments ignore the statistical analysis that the article goes to the trouble of doing.

    I see that Robbie’s strikeout rate also went up against lefties, although not dramatically so. Besides that, it’s hard to read the split as related to anything in his skills or approach.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

      Yep, since even the statistically inclined posters can’t find any reason for his drop off against LHP everybody’s going to be coming out of the woodwork (a la Eddard) blaming Kevin Long, and saying that Robby is lackadaisical and that’s why his numbers declined. Until the end of next year I’m personally writing this season off as a statistical anomaly.

      • WhittakerWalt

        I’m just hoping for more vaguely racist “lazy Dominican” stuff.

  • Thunder Road Runner

    Agreed, watching him bat he seemed unfocused sometimes..that is my purely subjective, unscientific observation

  • Pat D

    Ha! I knew that the next post would be something about Cano. I just incorrectly guessed it would be his playoff performance.

    Well played, Axisa.

  • gehrig27

    Good analysis, for the regular season…So “the 2012 season was a massive overall success for Robinson Cano” it seems to me that the latter sentence does not take into account the MASSIVE disaster produced by said player during the postseason…And I used to believe that, if you are a Yankee player, the season does not end in September; maybe I am just delusional, and I better start thinking as if the Yankees are the Royals, the Mariners, or any other team…and we should be very happy because the team once again made it to the postseason, and that´s all….

    • WhittakerWalt

      Anyone can have a bad postseason. ANYONE. Robbie has had great postseasons before. This one was just awful, for reasons unknown.

  • StillInMourning

    The data would seem to suggest a difference in approach rather than batted ball profile. Clearly Robbie became homer happy this year. The statistic that would confirm this would be what % of the line drive and fly ball contact result in outs to right field. Robbie has historically taken lefties the other way to left.

  • pounder

    Trade him.