January 15, 2013
Cano's Southpaw Struggles
Robinson Cano had a rather amazing 2012 season. In terms of his WARP, his 6.4 score was the best of his career. In fantasy dollars, it was his third consecutive season of earning $30 or more in AL-only leagues, further cementing his status as a first round pick in either AL-only or mixed-league formats.
Yet, Cano’s 2012 season was not without flaw. It actually was not tough to find the major flaw in his season despite the overall numbers. It was his amazing .359/.423/.685 slash line against right-handed pitching that masked a batting average against lefties that was 61 points below his career average, an on-base percentage that fell 34 points, and a slugging percentage that fell 138 points. The .239/.309/.337 slash line Cano had versus left-handed pitching in 2012 was well below the .300/.343/.475 line he had established in his previous 1393 plate appearances against portsiders.
By no means should single-season splits be considered predictive, however; the bigger picture is still infinitely more important. If we look back at 2010, Wilson Betemit hit .312 against lefties after a career of futility from that side of the plate and proceeded to return to those doldrums each of the following two seasons. Cano’s 269 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers in 2012 represent just 16 percent of his career total. So are his 2012 struggles against lefties just single-season noise or has the league picked up on something that Cano will have to adjust to? Let’s review some obvious questions that come up when players pull a stinker out of their hat.
Has he gotten pull-happy?
Cano is indeed pulling the ball a bit more than he has in the past, but not that much higher than he did as a rookie. The dimensions in Yankee Stadium to his side of the field are nearly equal to what they were in the old building, so this is not, however, a matter of him changing his approach to take advantage of those very inviting seats in right field.
Is he being more selective?