Monday, June 29, 2009

Cano's Bad Night

Last night was a great win, and Robinson Cano probably couldn't be happier. His atrocious effort got overshadowed by the Yankees winning their fifth straight game and Mariano Rivera notching his 500th save and doing something Cano couldn't last night - see more than three pitches in an at bat and get on base. But since today is a relatively slow off day, we might as take closer look at just how bad Robby's night was:
  • 1st inning: With no one out and runners on first and second, Robby grounded the third pitch he saw to Luis Castillo, who flipped to Alex Cora who fired to first base. The Mets probably would have had the double play at first base if Daniel Murphy had held onto the ball, but instead settled for the force out. Not content with being on base, Cano was caught stealing to end the inning. In his career, he has 16 stolen bases and has been caught 17 times.

  • 4th inning: After A-Rod led off with a single, Cano rapped a blistering 83MPH fastball again to Castillo, but this time Murphy held onto the relay from Cora for a successful double play. Two more pitches, two more outs.

  • 6th inning: With men on second and third and one out, Hernandez intentionally walked A-Rod to get to Cano. On the strength of the two ground balls Livan had induced from Cano earlier in the game, Jerry Manuel took the risk of loading the bases to create the possibility of a double play. Robby took two balls this time, before reversing the third pitch he saw towards Alex Cora for the DP the Mets were hoping for.

  • 8th inning: Once again with the bases loaded, but this time with two out, Livan Hernandez had seemingly lost his command. He had thrown 18 pitches and only four for strikes. Cano took two balls but grounded the third one to Castillo to end the inning. Had there been less than two outs, it might have been another double play.
Add that all up and what do you get? A -.304 WPA. That means having Cano in the line up yesterday made the Yankees 30% more likely to lose. In four plate appearances, he saw only 14 pitches and made 7 outs (one on the basepaths). A-Rod got on base 4 times in front of him and never made it safely to second. He came to the plate with 9 runners on base and none of them scored. He was the biggest (only?) reason that Livan Hernandez wasn't lit up like a Christmas tree last night.

Cano's biggest strength - his ability to make contact and put the ball in play - can also be his greatest weakness. He rarely works the count because he knows he can hit almost anything that is thrown is his general vicinity. As a result, he's going to have nights like this one, where he chalks up four hits in as many plate appearances, but will also have abysmal outings like last night. When you constantly put the ball in play, you rely on probability, which is why Cano is not only a streaky hitter from game to game, but year to year.

This season, he's on pace for 195 hits, but only 32 walks and 50 strikeouts. Unfortunately that pace also predicts 22 GIDP, will probably put him near the top 5 in the league in that category. Strikeouts are bad, but they are great compared to double plays.

As much as we'd love to see Cano improve his plate discipline, most statistical evidence indicates that patience isn't something hitters develop; they either come into the league with the mindset to get on base or don't. Last night was pretty lucky for the Yanks. They absorbed what might be the single worst night of Cano's season and still came away with the win. And in the end, that's all that really matters.


  1. the last four seasons he has GIDPed 18, 19, 19, and 16 times. So far this year he has 11, but I Think five of those were in the past week. The law of averges has to come into play here at some point and those hits will fall in or go through--he hit the ball hard last night, but right at people

  2. The thing that's concerning about Cano is that his GIDP percentage is way up. Currently, he hits into DPs in 22.4% of opportunities. The next highest amongst Yankee regulars is Jeter at 18.2%. According to Baseball Prospectus, Cano has hit into 5.62 more DPs than the average player with the same amount of opportunities.

    His last four seasons his GIDP Percentages were 14.5, 11.0, 16.7, and 12.3