Cano: the Hitter

1280px-Robinson_Cano_batting_in_Sept_2012

==Yes, He Is That Good==

Stat highlight reel:

Robinson Cano has been one of the very best hitters in baseball for four years running.

— During that stretch

==== his low OPS is .882

==== his low SLG is .516

==== his low ISO is .202

==== his low RC/27 is 6.5

==== his low wOBA is .374

That, my friends, is sustained excellence.

Here’s the whole thing:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2005 22 NYY AL 132 551 522 78 155 34 4 14 62 1 3 16 68 .297 .320 .458 .778 106
2006 23 NYY AL 122 508 482 62 165 41 1 15 78 5 2 18 54 .342 .365 .525 .890 126
2007 24 NYY AL 160 669 617 93 189 41 7 19 97 4 5 39 85 .306 .353 .488 .841 119
2008 25 NYY AL 159 634 597 70 162 35 3 14 72 2 4 26 65 .271 .305 .410 .715 86
2009 26 NYY AL 161 674 637 103 204 48 2 25 85 5 7 30 63 .320 .352 .520 .871 121
2010 27 NYY AL 160 696 626 103 200 41 3 29 109 3 2 57 77 .319 .381 .534 .914 141
2011 28 NYY AL 159 681 623 104 188 46 7 28 118 8 2 38 96 .302 .349 .533 .882 133
2012 29 NYY AL 161 697 627 105 196 48 1 33 94 3 2 61 96 .313 .379 .550 .929 148
2013 30 NYY AL 160 681 605 81 190 41 0 27 107 7 1 65 85 .314 .383 .516 .899 145
9 Yrs 1374 5791 5336 799 1649 375 28 204 822 38 28 350 689 .309 .355 .504 .860 125
162 Game Avg. 162 683 629 94 194 44 3 24 97 4 3 41 81 .309 .355 .504 .860 125
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/17/2014.

 

***

He’s been getting better, which I find very interesting and actually pretty unusual.

— Cano started out as a low-strikeout specialist.  His first five seasons, his K% never went above 12.7%.  That is very low.  MLB average these days is more like 20%.

— But in those early days, he didn’t walk a ton (BB% in the 3-5% range; MLB average is around 8%), and, while he hit the ball hard, he wasn’t an elite slugger (ISO in the .160-.180 range in the beginning).

— Key for Cano: he kept the low K% while adding  power.  That’s huge, and not a trick that you see from “ordinary” hitters.  His ISO, HR% and XBH% all climbed, but his whiff rate stayed rock-bottom.

— His “plate discipline” numbers at fangraphs have stayed right around his career averages (72.5% “zone swing” percentage; 94.2% “zone contact” percentage) even as his ISO has climbed well over .200.  Trust me, that’s not something you usually see.

— And, then, the coup-de-grace, he went from a below-average walk rate to an above-average walk rate.  In 2013, it was a career-high 9.5%.

— At the end of his evolution, Cano now checks off every box you want to see in an elite hitter.  And that’s how he got those results that I ticked off above, and how he was no lower than 6th in the MVP voting each of those four seasons.

So, from 2010 to 2013 he’s pretty much David Ortiz except with athleticism and playing second base.

***

Is he a product of Yankee Stadium?  No.  His career OPS is actually slightly higher on the road.

How about Safeco?  163 PAs: .309/.350/.487.  Almost identical to his career totals, except in the SLG department (.309/.355/.504).  Not really enough of a difference to draw any real conclusions.

***

So do you go 8/$200+ to get him?

Well, if you’d signed Ortiz to an eight-year deal at age 31 you’d be a happy camper.  If you’d signed Albert Pujols to an eight-year deal at age 31 you’d be … oh wait.

Past performance not necessarily indicative of future results.  As I said in a shout, Pujols had an 11-year track record of sustained excellence.  Cano has four.

But if you’re going to break the bank, I don’t see any obvious “for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy-don’t-sign-this-guy” red flags.

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