(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod. Stats have not been updated to include last night's game)
It was a great day at the ballpark for Robinson Cano on Tuesday. He had 6 hits and 5 RBI in the 2 games, the biggest overall offensive contributor to the team's doubleheader sweep. The strong 2-game showing continued a very strong 10-game stretch for Cano that has contributed to August being his best offensive month to date (.397/.481/.559 in 79 PA). Robbie has 21 hits in his last 10 games (5 for extra bases), 7 R scored, 8 RBI, and more walks than strikeouts (4 to 3). He's raised his season batting line back up to .308/.390/.510 and has dragged the Yankees back into the tail end of the playoff race in the process. All signs point to another big Robbie hot streak on the horizon, and the stage is set perfectly for him to finish his season and head into free agency on a high note.
You might look at that 10-game sample and think, "wait, why does Robbie need to heat up again if he's got 21 hits in 10 games?" Fair question. Robbie has hit the ball very well in the last few weeks, but not quite at the same power level as when he's totally locked in (16 singles out of 21 H) and not in an overwhelmingly dominant fashion. He has 2 4-hit games in the last 10, a couple of 1-4s, and even an 0-fer mixed in. When Robbie is really, truly hot, he rattles off something similar to what Alfonso Soriano did last week and we haven't seen a quick little stretch like that from Robbie yet.
Yesterday's Tuesday's 6-hit day could be the start of that.
And how critical would this one last hot streak be in helping Robbie's free agency market? It certainly wouldn't hurt, that's for sure. He's having another terrific year, no doubt about it. It just hasn't been as good as last year, which is his career best season. His power is down slightly from 2012 and the last 3 seasons (.201 ISO) and he'll be hard-pressed to match last year's HR total of 33. He should get to 100 RBI, but will fall well short of 100 R scored for the first time since '08. A lot of that has to do with the weak team he's had hitting behind him this year, something that no intelligent baseball person will fail to consider when evaluating him as a free agent target.
The end result of that evaluation, however, is going to be a 2013 season that wasn't as good as 2012, offensively or defensively. As a guy already in his 30s, that slight downtrend in production could signal the beginning of a decline to other teams and limit Cano's earning potential. His other potential areas of concern have been a mixed bag this season. He's hit left-handed pitching better than last season, although the .775 OPS in 204 PA comes with significantly less power than against righties and still suggests room for decline. On the other hand, his improvement in the patience and BB department this year (career best 11.3% BB rate) gives reason to believe Cano can maintain a respectable level of productivity when he does start to lose bat speed. He's given plenty of reason for teams to be interested in him but none to really warrant consideration for the kind of monster big money/big years deal he's looking for. Not at age 31.
That's where the hot finish can help. If Robbie continues to mash into September and drives his numbers north of where they currently are, he should finish with a .385-.390 wOBA, 6.0+ WAR campaign, something that would give him either his 2nd or 3rd best career season. It would show that Robbie isn't slowing down yet, has plenty left in the tank, and is worthy of $25 million AAV. It would also show he's the type of guy who can carry a team if it helps the Yankees stay in the race and quiet some of the still present and still annoying complaints about him jogging to first base on grounders. There are dollars and cents on the line for Robbie in the next 5+ weeks. Another big hot streak and a strong finish and he'll end up getting the money shown to him one way or another this offseason.
(Photo courtesy of the AP)