Michael Kay and Ken Singleton briefly touched on Robinson Cano and his free swinging ways during the weekend series with the Orioles, but from what I remember, it was only in passing and only after the even more free swinging Vladimir Guerrero was mentioned as well. Even though Cano’s hitting well, I’m starting to get worried about just how much he is swinging.
Though it’s anecdotal (and subject to confirmation bias), I remember Cano swinging at at least three or four pitches each game that he shouldn’t have swung at. Have we already lost the patient version of Robbie Cano?
I think a fair question is “Did we ever have him in the first place?” Many point to last year’s career high in walks as evidence that Cano was finally starting to learn patience, but digging deeper, we see that might not be entirely accurate. Taking out IBBs, Cano walked 43 times in 2010. That was still a career high, as was his 6.3 uBB%. That certainly helps his case. But in 2010, Cano had a career high Out of Zone Swing%, at 36.5%. So it seems that despite his tendency to chase a lot of pitches, Cano ended up with a great-for-him walk total.
2011 has seen Cano swing at 38.3% of the out of zone pitches he’s seen thus far (not including Sunday’s game) and he’s walked just once on the season. The other results have been there, as he entered Sunday’s game hitting over .300 and slugging .577 (.389 wOBA, identical to last year’s mark). Still, I can’t help but be worried about these semi-alarming swing numbers.
Not only is Cano’s OOZ% a career high, but so is his In Zone (Z) Swing% at 81.4%, a full NINE percent above his career average. His overall swing% is also at a career high level, 56.3%, 3.9% over his career mark. So Robbie, right now, is chasing too many pitches out of the zone, is hacking at more pitches in the zone than normal, and just swinging at a higher rate than normal. Why’s this happening?
Part of it is just how Robbie is…he’s a free-swinging, high-contact making, good-hitting baseball player. Part of it could be a little frustration. Yeah, that’s a bit of psychology and projecting, but there’s at least one piece of data that backs it up. Cano is seeing a career low 41.8% of pitches in the strike zone. So far in 2011, pitchers are staying away from Robbie. Perhaps he’s getting annoyed with this and is just swinging at whatever good comes his way.
Am I just making a mountain out of a small sample mole hill? Possibly. Cano’s contact rates, both in the zone and overall, are about normal. However, his OOZ contact percentage is at 76.1%, which could be leading to some bad contact….and it kind of is.
Cano’s BABIP, .333, is actually ABOVE his career mark of .322, but I think we’ve seen a bit of luck on Robbie’s side. His line drive percentage is way down at 16.4%, so he’s not hitting the ball as hard as we’re used to (19.2% LD for his career). But, despite that, the hits are still falling. This is what has me worried about Cano’s approach. What if the lack of line drives catches up to Robbie and he’s still not taking his walks? That could be troubling. The flip side, though, is that he’s also likely to see his LD% rise. But can that happen when he’s chasing so many bad pitches?