Appreciating Robinson Canó

With the Yankees’ victory last night over Tampa (and losses by the Dodgers and the Red Sox), the Yankees are now tied for the best record in baseball (with LA), and sit 3.5 games ahead of Boston in the AL East.   While the additions of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett have made a tremendous difference to the Yankees this season (Moshe already discussed the impact of Derek Jeter), another important reason for the Yankees possessing the best record in baseball is the resurgence of Robinson Canó.

At age 23 in 2006, Canó just missed out on winning the batting title, hitting .342/.365/.525 with 15 homers and 62 RBI’s in an injury-shortened 122-game season.  He looked like he could be a perennial all-star and regular contender for the batting title, and he was compared to a young Rod Carew.  In a full, healthy 2007, Canó was not quite as impressive, but still had a great season, going .306/.353/.488 with 19 homers and 97 RBI.  He made great strides in plate discipline, increasing his walk rate by more than 50%.  Canó’s defense, slightly below average in 2006, made great strides in ’07, posting a UZR/150 of 11.3, compared with -3.1 in 2006.

In 2008, Canó took a big step back in all facets of his game.  With a horrific beginning to the season (hitting around .200 in April and May), Canó ended up with a .271/.305/.410 line with 14 homers.  His plate discipline suffered, as his walk rate dropped from 5.9% to 4.2%, and his defense was also atrocious.  His UZR/150 was -7 in 2008, and his struggles in the field were attributed to his frustration at the plate.

In 2009, Canó has so far looked more like the player he was in 2007 rather than the frustrating, undisciplined hacker we saw in 2008.  In 100 games, Canó has a .306/.343/.498 line, and has 16 homers so far.  His walk rate is up to 5%, which is not quite at the 2007 level, but is a significant improvement over last season.  He is also showing more power than he has at any time in his career, with an isolated power of .194 thus far, and is on pace to hit surpass 20 home runs for the first time in his career.  Canó’s defense has also improved this season, as his UZR is 1.6.

For the season, Canó has been a 2.8 WAR (Wins above replacement) player.  Let’s see how that stacks up against the top 2nd basemen in the league:

Ian Kinsler: 2.8
Dustin Pedroia: 3.2
Aaron Hill: 2.9
Chase Utley: 5.3
Brian Roberts: 2.1
Brandon Phillips: 2.0
Ben Zobrist: 5.1

While Utley is on another planet and Zobrist is having a ridiculous season, Canó’s season stacks up nicely against the other top 2nd basemen in the league. At 26, Canó is at the beginning of what is likely his offensive peak, and we could see more impressive seasons from him. It seems that as long as he is hitting well, he is capable of playing good defense. With a lineup filled with expensive, over-30 stars, a young, relatively affordable Canó playing at the level he has been is a significant reason for the Yankees’ success.

All stats from Fangraphs.

12 thoughts on “Appreciating Robinson Canó

  1. The other Chris H

    I’ve thought of Robby as one of the next big stars since he was called up I’m actually a little surprised doesn’t get more recognition he has 25 HR power and it’s still developing, he is a great singles and doubles average guy and his defense has improved drastically since his rookie year. Why the Yankees were rumored to trade him I have no idea.

  2. Moshe Mandel

    I love Robbie, and I think his defense has been awesome this season. He turns the DP as good as anyone I have seen.

  3. Steve B.

    Cano hit .151 in April 2009….hit .297 the rest of the way.

    It was only one month that wrecked his overall season numbers

  4. StandingO'Neill

    Cano’s price tag does rise a bit over the next two years ($9M & $10M) but that’s not bad if he can continue at this productive rate.

    However he becomes expensive for a second baseman if the Yankees pick up both of his options in 2012 & 2013. Guess I’ll worry about that then.

  5. The other Chris H

    The funny thing about robby is he still isn’t living up to all of his potential so as good as he is now he still has a lot he can improve on to develop into a more consistent hitter.

  6. The Scout

    On the plus side, add that his strike-out rate has dropped by quite a bit. On the negative side, he still struggles with RISP.

    • The other Chris H

      Yeah you make a great point Robinson has never been good with runners on base in his career,he has a .270 or so average or less with one GS with the bases loaded career.

  7. leftylarry

    His defense is very under rated.His clutch hitting or lack thereof is major problem.No biggie hitting .300 but failing when needed in a big game or in the playoffs.
    What have Yankees won with him? Nada.
    He’ll never a winning player until he learns the strike zone.In a big spot with 2 strikes, he might work it to 3 balls but then he’s swinging at everything every pitch no matter where it is, until he strikes out or grounds into a double play.

    • Chris H.

      I agree. He tries too hard when he’s got runners on. He’s shown some improvements lately, though.

  8. The other Chris H

    Larry he is a young Dominican player the idea of walking and taking pitches is adverse to what he was taught growing up (the old saying you don’t walk off the island) with time he will learn, and if you watch his at bats he already is. Before he would swing at every pitch with the bases loaded from the first strike to the last ball now he is tarting to take the first pitch a lot more and taking pitches overall he would have swung at before he just hasn’t gotten his eye to the level of a guy like Swisher or Giambi who have had years to learn strike zones and umps.

  9. Cano is a very good three tool player.
    His speed will never improve but, he could develop into a four tool player with a lot of work…and that ain’t bad.
    I think the only 2nd baseman I would rather have is; Utley.
    I really don’t think the Yankees were going to trade him last year, I think that whole thing was media/fans driven.

  10. leftylarry

    The other Chris H: Larry he is a young Dominican player the idea of walking and taking pitches is adverse to what he was taught growing up (the old saying you don’t walk off the island) with time he will learn, and if you watch his at bats he already is. Before he would swing at every pitch with the bases loaded from the first strike to the last ball now he is tarting to take the first pitch a lot more and taking pitches overall he would have swung at before he just hasn’t gotten his eye to the level of a guy like Swisher or Giambi who have had years to learn strike zones and umps.

    Posada was pretty much the same way for 10 years.Different Island, same result.Anyway who cares what the reason is?He is not yet a winning player like a Pedroia.

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