Thursday, July 9, 2009

Checking Up On the 'Year of Robinson'

Sometimes, in life, you have to be willing to go out of your way to embarrass yourself, and today is one of those days. Way back on April the 10th, I wrote a post in this blog called "2009: The Year of Robinson." I began by listing his lifetime accomplishments, segued into an extended lamentation of last year's poor performance, and then jumpred right into the 'falling all over myself in fawning worship' segment. This last part is the most interesting, since I made a lot of predictions which can easily be checked for accuracy here on July 9th.

First, let me clear the air; it's not like Robbie Baseball has had a bad year. This will not be a complete humiliation. But the extent of my ravings is comical enough that the contrast between prognostication and reality should be good for a chuckle. So let's go point by point with the original post (in italics and bold).

And now it's happened. After a blistering spring, Cano went 6-11 in the Orioles series, and at least three of those outs were line drives right at the defense. Best of all was this stat line: 3 BB.

3 walks! He's on pace to walk 162 times this year, which would be 5th all time! A 600% increase over last year's totals! He's also on pace to hit over 50 home runs!!!

Since those original three walks, he's managed 13 more in 81 games. His walks per plate appearance percentage is .044, which is 159th out of 166 MLB hitters. Pretty godawful. There's something in Robbie's character that almost refuses to walk. I can't count the number of times I've seen him work a 3-1 count only to swing at a low, outside pitch and hit a weak grounder to second base. He just does not want to take a free pass, and the early results- stunningly, for a 3-game sample- were an anomaly.

Bottom line: Sweet Robbie is finally reaching his potential. It's going to be an amazing year, and I have zero reservations about the following predictions:

Oh boy.

1) An OBP above .390.

.336, horribly low for someone hitting over .300. For perspective, A-Rod is batting .246, but his OBP is .411. A more moderate example: Nick Swisher is hitting .243, and his OBP is .371. Yuck, Robinson.

2) An All-Star game appearance.

Nope. Kinsler and Pedroia fought it out among AL second basemen.

3) A Silver Slugger award.

Still technically possible. He's leading all AL second basemen with a .305 average, but in my mind, Aaron Hill is the best offensive 2B at the moment, with 20 home runs and 59 RBI compared to 13 and 45 for Robbie. Ian Kinsler is probably second, despite his poor average.

4) A fielding % above .990.

Of all the ridiculous, gushing predictions, this was probably the least likely, and guess what? His fielding % is .992. I guess I'm a genius.

5) Top 5 in the MVP voting.

Would take a miracle second half. Almost no chance.

Crazy enough for you? No? Then brace yourself for #6:

Don't do it, man. Don't...please, just go home...go home and get some rest, think about things, come back tomorrow with your head in order...

6) An AL batting title.

GutPunch. He's currently 16th, not terribly far down the list, but there are two slight problems, and they are called Joe Mauer and Ichiro Suzuki. With .388 and .356 averages, respectively, they're so far ahead that it would take an injury or the most unlikely slump in history to bring them down to Robbie's level. And that's ignoring the 13 other dudes in between. But I've been watching Mauer the past two games, and the sad reality is that Robbie Cano is just not an elite hitter yet.

I thought this would be his break-out year, but halfway through the season the old habits are restraining hard. No selectivity, reaching to pull outside pitches, grounding into double plays, etc. And a new monster has emerged: Robbie is miserable with runners in scoring position. He recently went on an 0-for-21 slide in that department, and for the year he's hitting .202. That number drops to .182 with two outs. It got so bad that Girardi recently dropped him from the 5th spot in the order, and now he's batting 7th.

Are there any upsides? Yes. He's still young. He is hitting .305 with some power, which is great for a second baseman, and great for a team's 7th hitter. Also, he goes back to the Dominican Republic every All-Star break, and works with his dad Jose (former major leaguer) on technique. I don't know what the old man says or does, or why Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long can't do the same, but, like clockwork, Robbie comes out scorching hot in the second half. So we can probably look forward to that.

Still, to watch a guy with so much talent hindered by habits that should have disappeared by now is almost painful. As I've mentioned before, he's my favorite player, and the fact that the Yanks have to hide him in the line-up because he's incapable of protecting the better hitters is a true downer. I'll keep wearing my Cano #24 t-shirt, but the depressing truth is that the Yanks might be wise to keep one eye on the market, and be aware that a talented-but-possibly-fatally-flawed second basemean can fetch a lot of value on the trading block, especially if he's packaged with other dispensable up-and-comers like Melky Cabrera. I'm not gonna name names, but...

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