Monday, June 22, 2009

Robinson Cano Somehow Escaping Ridicule for Failures in the Clutch

Yankees 2B Robinson Cano has been credited with having a very productive season—currently on pace for 28 HR, 99 RBI, 108 R, 200 hits, and a .300 batting average.

The problem, however, is that many fans are overlooking the stark differences in Cano’s performance in the heart of a clutch situation.

Time and time again, the talented young slugger will roll over an outside pitch—resulting in a double play or feeble groundout.

The biggest moments seem to paralyze Cano.

He is always one of the first players out of the dugout to hug Melky Cabrera after a thrilling last-second victory, but is never the Yankee wielding a bat when those moments manifest themselves.

Cano has dethroned Alex Rodriguez as the “King of the Meaningless RBI,” as he consistently piles up statistics in games often confused with football scores.

In Yankee victories, Cano is hitting a robust .377 with 23 extra base hits and 39 runs scored. In losses, he has hit just .219 with 6 extra base hits, a .246 OBP, and scored 7 runs.

Though these numbers are alarming and thought-provoking, they do not tell the entire story—as perhaps Cano has been a major catalyst in important, nail-biting victories.

Unfortunately, the numbers agree with the always important “eye test” that this is not the case.

With two outs and runners in scoring position, Cano is hitting just .212—unable to drive in virtually any of the back-breaking runs that help to grind out close games.

To further emphasize Cano’s inability to rise to the occasion, he hits .384 with no outs in an inning, and a startling .391 when the Yankees lead or trail by four or more runs.

Twenty-five percent of his home runs and runs batted in have been generated in these “blowout games.”

When removing these meaningless hits, Cano becomes nothing short of ordinary. He would be just a .288 hitter with a .324 OBP—on pace for 21 HR and 74 RBI.

Many hitters would have similar drop-offs in power numbers when removing blowout victories from their stat lines—and it is unfair to do so—but it is important to show the impact on Cano’s batting average and on-base percentage.

Cano has also failed miserably in key American League East matchups. After excluding games against the hapless Orioles, Cano is batting .228 (18-for-79) against divisional opponents.

Games against Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto often determine the Yankees playoff fate—as they face these three teams a combined 54 times.

Largely responsible for protecting A-Rod for the majority of the season, Cano has had a bevy of important RBI opportunities.

The successes of Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira—coupled with the recent failures of A-Rod—have placed key at bats with RISP in the hands of Cano. If he was able to come through at higher rates, the Yankees would be able to capture a few more of the recent closer and heart-breaking losses.

Cano is playing just his fifth Major league season, and has plenty of time to evolve into a dangerous middle of the order hitter. However, it appears as though he might not be ready to carry that torch at this stage of his career.

Although Cano carries himself as a cool, smooth, laid back performer without a care in the world, he needs to find a way to remove the lump from his throat in game-changing situations.

The Yankees need you, and it is time to elevate your game and progression to the next level.


  1. Disturbing trend for Cano. I was at Wednesday's game against the Nats and he grounded into a DP to end the game. And didn't he do the same against the Marlins over the weekend? Even Jeter is failing in the clutch right now, so they ALL need to step up before the season slips away.

  2. Cano is the least of our worries. The clutch hits will come.

  3. A closer look at his numbers suggests that he doesn't freeze up in pressure situations. He's batting .356 in late and close situations. I think his success in wins and lack of success in losses just highlights how much the Yankees need him to do well - when he hits, they win. Cano's biggest issue is hitting with RISP in general, regardless of the number of outs. I believe there are a couple of reasons for this. First, pitchers are throwing him pitches a little further off the plate when he bats with RISP because he rarely walks and becomes even more anxious to hit with RISP. Second, he tries to pull the ball more with RISP in order to get the runs in. Trying to pull an outside pitch usually results in a weak grounder or popup. Third, the shortstop and second baseman generally play more up the middle with a runner on second in order to hold the runner close. Most of Cano's hits are up the middle (60%). If you look at his split stats with runners on, you'll see that his owest batting averages come with men on second. Having said all that, I would like to see him come through more often in key situations (and everyone else in the lineup). Hint Robbie: Either lay off the outside pitches, or try to shoot them the other way.

  4. Thanks for the input everyone...I really appreciate the feedback.

    I was at that Wednesday game as well Jane, so I share your disgust with its conclusion.

    As far as the "close and late stat," I am not a huge fan of it ignores the propensity for the Yankees to obliterate BAD bullpens like Cleveland, Baltimore, etc. in the 7th and 8th to break open closer games--while not putting a premium on do-or-die at bats with 2 outs or in the 9th inning.

    I hate sabermetrics...but he is hitting just .211 in "high leverage" situations, which shows his inability to perform in the "do-or-die" scenarios I am discussing.


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