June was a pretty mediocre month for Robinson Cano by his standards (.275/.395/.418, .345 wOBA). The elevated BB rate was nice, but the low average and lack of power were crippling in the middle of the batting order when almost everybody else around him was regressing at the speed of sound. And Robbie started to hear about it from the fans. The calls for the Yankees to not re-sign him, foolish as they may be, became greater and the whispers about trading him at the deadline grew louder.
Cano has predictably turned things around quickly in the last handful of days. He’s 12-21 in his last 5 games with 4 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R, 1 BB, and not a single strikeout. The switch has been flipped and he’s locked in again. But what was the real cause of his June swoon? The guys in the ESPN broadcast booth on Sunday night, John Kruk in particular, were convinced that Robbie was struggling due to him expanding his strike zone and trying to do too much with everybody else around him slumping. This made little sense to me considering Robbie’s BB rate in June was as high as we’ve ever seen it as 15.8% in 114 PA, and including intentional walks he was given 23 free passes. You just don’t walk that much as a notorious free swinger if you’re expanding your strike zone, and the pitch plots from last month agree:
As you can see, Cano’s swing plot from June up top almost mirrors that of his season-long swing plot. The highest concentration is on fastballs middle of the zone and up, with a noticeable dividing line between where the fastball and offspeed swings happen, and he’s still willing to reach out and try to protect the outside corner. There’s some bad swings way low out of the strike zone – nothing new for Robbie – and you could say that there were a few more at low sliders in June, but nothing that qualifies at expanding the zone.
Robbie’s plate discipline and swing approach don’t appear to have differentiated from one month to the next this season, regardless of how well he hit. Whatever he was missing in his game last month has been found and he’s back to tearing the cover off the ball, at a critical time for the team heading into the All Star Break no less. The lesson, as always, is have faith in Robbie Cano. And don’t listen to anything John Kruk says.
(Plots courtesy of Texas Leaguers)