clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Robinson Cano's decline or lack thereof

The star second baseman has seen his numbers fall the last couple of seasons, but there have been reasons every time. So what does it mean?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Practical application is important. So I'm starting my look at Robinson Cano, 2016 edition, with where I took him in our slow (slooooooow) 15-team mock, currently ongoing on the site

Cano was my pick (woo!) in the fourth round, No. 53 overall. Among second basemen, Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon went earlier, with guys that qualify at the position in at least some leagues like Matt Carpenter, Brian Dozier, Anthony Rendon and Rougned Odor all going by the end of the fifth. More or less, that aligns with our consensus rankings, with Cano coming in third and the aforementioned guys following him in short order.

It's been a steady fall for Cano the last few years. Last year, he was our consensus No. 2 second baseman, and he, Rendon and Altuve formed their own three-player tier. In 2014, he was almost unanimously No. 1, with seven of eight rankers having him first.

It paints a picture of a Cano that has been on a steady decline (his OPS+, games played, doubles and select other stats have all fallen for four years running) that might or might not be fair.

We remember Cano joining Seattle for 2014, and his numbers suffering as a result. Only, as I noted at the start of last year, those suffering numbers were almost entirely power, and at that, almost entirely tied to his first half. Second-half-of-2014 Robinson Cano was exactly what we had traditionally expected for him, leading to some reason for optimism for 2015.

Which made it all the more frustrating when Cano started 2015 like he had won a "Be a big leaguer for a month" contest and had no place there. In the first half of last season, Cano hit .251/.290/.370, had six home runs, basically looked lost. If the season had ended at the All-Star break, these rankings would have Cano as a borderline top-10 second baseman at best, and even that would only have been on reputation.

Of course, Cano had his second half. In that second half, he hit .331/.387/.540. He had 15 home runs. His season-long BABIP of .316 tied his career-low for a year, but considering it was at .290 for that first half, things only went up the rest of the way.

There are reasons for the slump and subsequent improvement, of course. Or, at least, there are theoretical, correlation-without-causation reasons that could explain Cano's struggles. Cano dealt with some serious acid reflux during the first half of the season that supposedly kept him in check. At the end of the season, he had surgery to repair a sports hernia. Almost certainly, one or both of these ailments had an effect on how he played in the games.

In two seasons in Seattle, four half-seasons, Robinson Cano has disappointed twice and blown us away twice. All told, 2015 was the second-worst season of his career, with an OPS+ of 118 breaking up a five-year trend of huge numbers. Even then, his second half was Cano-esque, if not better than that.

Cano is now a 33-year-old second baseman. His numbers have held steady or gotten first for four straight years in several categories. There was a Robinson Cano who finished in the top six of the MVP voting for five straight years, from 2010 to 2014. That guy's gone.

But I got him in the fourth round of a deep mock. I picked him as the third second baseman off the board. I took him with the 53rd pick, and felt like I had won a prize. He's not the superstar he used to be. But he's among the elite second basemen still, and needs to be taken as such.