Monday, August 11, 2014

Robinson Cano don't you know

The heading comes from Yankees' radio play by play man, John Sterling, used whenever Robinson Cano hit a homer. The homers for Robinson Cano have been harder to come by playing up in Seattle's Safeco Field. But the loss of power is the only blip on Robinson Cano's season, a season that has seen him be just as valuable a player as he was on the Yankees.
Yes, the power numbers are down. Cano put up an ISO average of over .200 for his last four years with the Yankees and was at .199 the year before those. It currently sits at .135. His home run total will likely finish half of what his average year with the Yankees was. But don't let that fool you into thinking that Cano has not been as valuable a player for the Mariners. He is right there giving the Mariners the same kind of value he provided for the Yankees.
Robinson Cano was credited with 6.0 fWAR last season. He is credited with 4.6 this season. The projections of both ZiPS and Steamer have him finishing the season at 6.1. To use full disclosure, had him at 7.6 last year and at 4.9 this year. It does not seem likely that Cano will finish as high according to that site to his value from last year.
But WAR isn't the only calculation to look at. According to the two sites, Cano is having a very good year running the bases. Cano has a career high nine stolen bases in eleven attempts and his fielding is its usual fine self. So if the base running is better and the fielding is as good, what about the batting?
People always predicted that Robinson Cano would win a batting title someday. He might just do that this season as he is batting .330. That is his highest mark since his second season in baseball back in 2006. But batting average isn't the same stat it used to be in the minds of experts. Let's look at some other things.
First, there is his on-base percentage. At .399 this season, if he was to maintain that for the last month and a half of the season, it would be his highest OBP of his career. He has walked 47 times (15 intentional walks) giving him a walk rate that is the highest of his career.
Meanwhile, in this strikeout prone era, he has only struck out 51 times. While his 10.5% strikeout rate was bettered in 2008 and 2009, as a percentage of the league average, it is much more impressive this year.
The walk rate, the strikeout rate and his on-base percentage have helped his wOBA to be right in the ballpark of last season. He finished last season at .384 and he is at .373 this season. That figure is above his career average of .369.
There certainly is a ballpark difference between Yankee Stadium III and Safeco. Because of that park difference, his wRC+ of 141 is right there with his figure last year of 142 and above his career average of 127.
But there is something else to think about there. With the Yankees, most of the time, Cano was just another All Star bat in the midst of a lineup filled with All Stars. In Seattle, he toils in a lineup that only has two other regulars with a wRC+ over 100. Seattle ranks 14th in runs scored in he American League out of 15 teams and 15th in OPS. Cano's OPS of .864 is 190 points above the team's average.
In other words, despite being a rock star in the midst of amateur garage bands, he is having just as valuable a season as he had with the Yankees surrounded by a lineup of All Stars most of the time he was there.
I was one among many who joked that Cano was going to a team without the tradition of winning after being on one where winning is the only option. We all look silly as the Mariners are a game ahead of the Yankees in the wild card chase and have the kind of pitching that could keep them there for the second wild card spot. Whose laughing now?
It is not surprising that Cano's slugging is down playing in the vast expanses of Safeco for half his games (and away games at Oakland and Anaheim). But don't let that fool you into thinking is he is a less valuable player. He is not and has been worth every penny and then some to the Mariners. Yeah, you have to think about the back end of that deal. But for right now, Cano has been terrific and the Mariners have to be thrilled.

No comments: