Thursday, July 9, 2009

Robinson Cano Likes his bases unfilled

Going into last night's game against the Minnesota Twins, Robinson Cano had stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded 102 times in his Yankees career and had a measly OPS of .596 in those situations. He added another at bat with the bags full on Wednesday night, and as usual, the at bat ended in failure.

Using Baseball-Reference to pull up Cano's sub- .600 OPS with the bases loaded left us wondering - is Robinson Cano historically bad with the bases loaded? Our research (courtesy of a Twitter pal who happens to be a research guru at ESPN) shows that among Yankees players with 100 career at bats with the bases loaded, Robinson Cano is in fact the worst. He ranks 13th out of 13 Yankees players to have ammased 100 plate appearances (since 1974) in that enviable situation. Pretty bad, huh? You haven't seen anything yet.

We decided to lower the plate appearance minimum to expand the range of sucky batters who would appear on our list. When lowering that number to 50 plate appearances, Cano was no longer the worst - but he was still close. Out of 25 Yankees players with 50 or more bases loaded plate appearances since 1974, Robinson Cano ranks 24th in OPS. The only player behind him on that list is the immortal Pat Kelly, who somehow managed a .536 OPS in 54 bases loaded at bats while with the Yankees.

The Yankees historically have good offensive teams. Maybe, JUST maybe Robinson Cano is bad with the bases loaded, but the perception of him being one of the worst in baseball history only exists because Yankees players are better than most with the bases full. We expanded the player pool to the rest of major league baseball as a test. Since 1974, there have been 473 players to have over 100 at bats with the bases loaded. Robinson Cano ranks 442nd on that list in terms of OPS. Hey, at least 31 players were worse than him! For the record, former Florida Marlin and Jeff Weaver Yankee career-ender Alex Gonzalez has the distinct honor of being the worst bases loaded hitter ever with a .442 OPS. It will be tough for Cano's bases loaded OPS to ever sink that low.

There have been whispers about Robinson Cano being lazy and being a bit too carefree at times. We think he may have a different, unexpected problem - anxiety. Think about it - his career numbers with runners in scoring position are bad (under .700 OPS) and the bases loaded numbers are obviously worse. We have seen him come up to the plate in these situations time and time again without an approach and hacking at anything. It makes his normally free-swinging approach look patient.

Recently, players such as Zack Greinke, Khalil Greene and Joey Votto have had to step away from the game of baseball due to stress or anxiety. We're not doctors, and we have never met Robinson, so we have no clue if he has a diagnosable medical condition. What we do know is that something different is happening in his head in situations that typically favor the batter. Heck, he has a .931 OPS in 95 plate appearances with runners on first and third! Something about the pitcher having nowhere to put him changes him from "the next Rod Carew" to "the next Pat Kelly." It makes us all want to bang our heads against the wall, but we'd bet that he isn't too happy about it either. All we can do is hope that this is all just a result of a relatively small sample size and that he can crank his OPS up above .800 in his next 100 ABs with the bases loaded.
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