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All that glitters is not gold: Robinson Cano's post-season hitting woes no surprise after up-and-down season

Updated on October 15, 2012

It’s hardly news to baseball fans that Robinson Cano has been struggling with his bat for the Yankees this post-season. Through the first two games of the ALCS he was 2 for 32 (.063) and hadn’t had a hit in 26 straight at bats (which means at one point he was 2 for 6). It’s true that he’s had a little bad luck and if fortune had smiled on him he’d be 4 for 32 or possibly even 5 for 32, which still falls well within the pathetic range.

Announcers and writers are astounded that this is happening to Cano, one of the best hitters in the game today. They cite his outstanding season as an example of how odd it is that he’d be struggling now. This is made even more startling by the way Cano finished the season, batting .615 with a 1.026 slugging percentage over the final nine games.

His overall numbers looked pretty good, too. His percentage numbers were .313, .379, .550 with 33 homers, 94 RBIs, 105 runs and 48 doubles. His name has been mentioned in MVP talk (as in “if not for Cabrera and Trout…). One writer, making up his mock MVP ballot, placed Cano fourth.

Cano struggled early in the season

But here’s a little secret few people realize – for a large chunk of the season, Cano’s numbers were fairly pedestrian. Not awful, but not anywhere close to MVP-type hitting stats.

Cano started the 2012 season slowly, struggling quite a bit in April but finally picking up a bit in May. Here are Cano’s numbers through his first 53 games.

Cano's first 53 games

G
BA
OBP
SLG
H
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
BB
SO
53
.284
.342
.498
60
19
1
8
36
24
19
32
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Again, not awful, pretty decent actually, but nothing that screams “MVP candidate.” But then Cano got untracked and over the next month and a half, his numbers skyrocketed. Here are his numbers over the next 46 games.

The next 46 games

G
BA
OBP
SLG
H
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
BB
SO
46
.362
.418
.655
64
10
0
14
29
32
15
27
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Then things went south again

Now those are MVP numbers. Take that times 3.5, which would constitute a full season and he’d be at 49 homers and 112 RBIs to go with that .362 batting average. No one would have even thought about Miguel Cabrera as a Triple Crown candidate.

But just when it looked like Cano would have a career year, he slumped again. This time, his numbers were even worse than how he’d started the season. Here is how the next 53 games looked.

53 more games

G
BA
OBP
SLG
H
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
BB
SO
53
.240
.336
.420
48
12
0
8
29
24
25
34
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ouch. A .240 batting average, a .420 slugging average? In fact, over the last nine games of that stretch, the nine games right before those amazing final nine games, his numbers were .205, .262, .256. Let me repeat: Right before he went .615, .628, 1.026 Cano went .205, .262., .256. During that awful stretch he had a 1 for 15 run.

Here are his numbers for the final nine games.

Final 9 games

G
BA
OBP
SLG
H
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
BB
SO
9
.615
.628
1.026
24
7
0
3
11
14
2
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

So for 55 of his games, his numbers were amazing.

G
BA
OBP
SLG
H
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
BB
SO
55
,407
.456
.722
88
17
0
17
40
46
17
30
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

But for another 106 games, his numbers were nothing special.

G
BA
OBP
SLG
H
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
BB
SO
106
.263
.339
.460
108
31
1
16
65
48
44
66
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Comparable to Aaron Hill most of the season

As someone who saw the majority of the Yankee games on TV, I can attest that there were stretches where I hoped Cano wasn’t due up in a clutch situation. He didn’t strike out an excessive amount but many of his swings resulted in feeble ground balls or pop ups. (I worked with a baseball coach once who used to razz his batters by saying “You swing like my sister Sally!” Some of Cano’s swings this season qualified for that comment as well.)

Had Cano not had his blistering final nine games he would have ended up with numbers roughly the same as Billy Butler of Kansas City, or Aaron Hill of Arizona. These aren’t players who are currently circulating in much MVP talk.

Is consistency throughout the year important?

My question is, what value does consistency have? Is it better to have someone who is above average but not fantastic in every game, or to have someone like Cano who goes from superstar to average or even below average? Does it make a difference when Cano’s hot periods came? Would it have been different if he’d started the first 106 games .263, .339, .460 and then finished with .407, .456, 1.178? Or, vice versa?

One reason Josh Hamilton has fallen out of mention for MVP status is that after his eye-popping start to the season (.404, .458, 1.296 with 18 homers and 45 RBIs in his first 35 games), he slumped (.246, .320, .493 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs) in his final 113 games. Still, his overall numbers (.285, .354, .577 with 43 homers and 128 RBIs) were amazing, the kind that in many years has earned a player MVP status.

Aaron Hill never had the superstar stretches that Cano had, but he also stayed far more consistent through the year. As a coach, you love having a guy like Cano when he’s going through the hot stretches but at other times, it’s really nice to have that Hill-type guy who you know you can count on game after game.

Cano is fielding well but hitting is a concern

Of course, one big difference Cano has is that he’s a superior fielder. Great range, great arm, unsurpassed at turning the double play. That alone could boost him toward more MVP consideration.

But right now his fielding is not of any concern. His hitting is. And while many announcers and writers are shocked by his hitting woes so far in the post-season, having seen him so much during the regular season, I unfortunately can’t muster much surprise at it.

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    • petertebin profile image

      petertebin 

      6 years ago from Maryland

      Another great hub! Voted up! The Yankees have some thing to think about in the off-season with Cano. He is due a 16 million dollar option. They could take a risk and not offer it to him and try to resign him. He has flashes of being a great player and then times he struggles. A new place to play might change him.

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