It’s no secret that Robinson Cano has been scuffling lately. After being arguably the Yankees’ best player for the first 5 months of the season, he’s been downright terrible for the last month. His slump has come at a very inopportune time as Mark Teixeira has been on the shelf with a calf injury. He’s hitting just .204/.297/.386 in 111 plate appearances following Teix’s injury on 8/27. But what’s behind his slump?
The usual knock on Cano is that he lacks plate discipline. That doesn’t seem to be the issue here though. His BB% over this period has been an uncharacteristically high 11.7% as his career mark is just 5.6%. The plate discipline numbers also back this up. During this period, he’s swung at 48% of pitches thrown to him which is on par with his season average of 49.8%. Here’s an illustration of Cano’s swinging rates after 8/28 compared to before.
The two eyesores here are his ISO and BABIP which are both well below Cano’s career numbers. Both of these can easily be explained by the lack of line drives Cano has hit recently. It seems he’s not hitting the ball with quite as much authority as he was earlier in the year and it’s been dragging down his batting line.
So Cano’s replacing line drives with pop-ups and grounders. Is there reason to panic? Not really. Research shows that LD% is a very fluky statistic. It takes 600 balls in play for a player’s performance to be a better guess of his true talent than simply assuming league average performance. Pitch classification can’t tell us everything about a player’s performance (especially in a small sample) simply because there are more than 3 types of batted balls. It’s entirely possible that alot of the “fly balls” Cano has hit lately were pretty close to being classified as line drives. We’re looking at just 88 balls in play here so there’s little reason for concern. The good news is that there doesn’t seem to be anything fundamentally wrong with his approach as he’s not carelessly hacking any more frequently than he normally does. At this point, we just have to wait for the BABIP gods to stop frowning on Cano.