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Swing at the Strikes

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NYTimes:

"He’s got big power that never plays, because there’s so much movement," Long said. "He can’t get the barrel of the bat to the baseball with that much movement. So, basically, you’re taking a big tool and not using it."

Cano uses an open stance, and Long said he plans to square Cano’s legs from the start. He said intensive, one-on-one sessions could help Cano the way they helped Alex Rodriguez after his disappointing season in 2006.

"Could we have done that before this year started? No," Long said of changing Cano’s approach. "Anybody in their right mind would have said, ‘You don’t change this kid.’ He was able to dominate major league baseball to this point."

Can the Yanks really fix Robinson Cano?  Unless this is a ploy to protect his trade value by making his issues seem more fixable than they are, the Yanks have to try.

At first I didn't think it'd be as easy to turn Cano around as it was with Arod.  Cano is such a free swinger, while Arod is one of the most patient hitters in the league.  Or so I thought until I looked at the numbers.

 

Arod Pitches/PA Cano
3.94 2002 --
3.84 2003 --
3.95 2004 --
3.91 2005 3.05
3.82 2006 3.22
3.81 2007 3.43
3.88 2008 3.37

 

The first thing I notice is the amount of flux year to year.  This is hardly a significant sample, but a swing of a full tenth of a point from one season to the next seems normal.

The second thing I notice is that Arod has been less patient, on the whole, his last three years than he was during his final years in Texas and his first years here.

What all this served to remind me: it's not about taking pitches or not taking pitches, it's about swinging (and making solid contact with) pitches in the strike zone.  Thankfully, the incredible FanGraphs has been using Pfx to chart just that performance.

 

Arod Swinging Strikes on Balls Out of the Zone Cano
17.3%       2005 25.6%
21.4%       2006 30.8%
23.2%       2007 34.4%
23.0%      2008 30.5%

 

Those are some eyepopping numbers, and they reaffirmed my gut reaction about Arod and Cano's selectivity.  Cano is half-again more likely to swing at a pitch out of the zone.  It means he gives pitchers a greater margin for error- if they never have to plan to throw a strike, whether they hit their spot or not becomes less important.

Cano is turning average pitchers into great ones by chasing- and while K. Long might be able to help him regain his power, I have my doubts that Cano can grow up enough to dominate the league.