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Thinking About Robbie Cano

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An article by Tyler Kepner in the Times got me thinking about Robinson Cano.

Canó also made an important mechanical adjustment, scrapping the open stance he had lapsed into and reducing the movement before his swing. Long said he knew the swing would be in order when he visited Canó for six days during the week of Nov. 9, but he had no idea Canó would be in such good shape.

“He’s got a personal trainer, and he’s probably down to 10 or 11 percent body fat,” Long said. “This kid is focused, he’s determined. I’ve never seen him like this."

How important is Cano to the Yankees' lineup and to their position in the standings?

Last season, Cano batted .271/.305/.410.  If he had matched his best season instead, what would the Yanks' season have really looked like?

While Cano hit an eye-popping .342/.365/.525 in 2006, I don't think of that as his best season because those stellar numbers depended on him swinging at everything and being lucky enough to have every liner find a gap.  I think 2007 was Cano's more impressive season because in hitting .306/.353/.488 he doubles his number of walks and he put nearly 50 points of separation between his batting average and his OBP.  OBP+ thinks the two seasons were comparable, too; 2006 registered 126, while 2007 clocked in at 120. 

So, if Cano had managed to keep his OBP in the .350s rather than the .300s, could it have saved the Yankees' season?

Perhaps.  In a 600 AB season, a hitter with a .300 OBP reaches base 180 times while a .350 OBP reaches base 210 times.  So, if Cano's success had brought a more talented hitter to the plate I'd think sure it could matter.  But Cano spent most of the season batting in front of the likes of Wilson Betemit and Melky Cabrera.  Not a lot of fear there.  It doesn't seem to me that moving the lineup an extra batter 30 times (even if for the whole game) could produce a drastic change in the outcome of the season.

But when I look at the advanced metrics like WARP3 (Wins Above Replacement Player), that is just what it suggests.  Robbie's offense and defense were worth 6.5 wins last, when they had been 10.9 wins in 2007.  4 wins would have moved the Yankees to 93 wins, 2 behind Boston.  Since the Yanks pretty much packed it in after they were eliminated, it's not a stretch to imagine picking up an extra win along the way.

Cano figures to be even more important in 2009.  I think any talk of Cano batting 3rd is just posturing, and while I could see him hitting 5th or 6th, I expect Robinson to bat 7th or 8th until he proves himself again.

Damon- Jeter- Matsui- Arod- Posada- Swisher- Nady- Cano- Gardner

Damon- Jeter- Matsui- Arod- Posada- Swisher- Cano- Nady- Melky