If I had a dollar for every time a sports analyst said that Robinson Cano was a future batting title winner, I'd be writing this article from the Waldorf-Astoria with a bottle of Ace of Spades "Midas" champagne. Looking at all the awards Robinson Cano has piled up in his young career, you'd think he was a Hall of Famer in the making. He's a World Series winner, a three-time All-Star, a three-time Silver Slugger winner and a one-time Gold Glove winner who's finished in the top six in MVP voting each of the last two years. But how many of those awards did he actually deserve?
In 2009, Robinson Cano earned a World Series title with the Yankees in the way that Eric Gagne earned one with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. The New York Yankees did not win a World Series because of Robinson Cano, they won one despite him. Throughout the 2009 postseason, Cano hit .172 with one double, two triples and zero home runs.
Cano also managed to save his worst for the World Series. In the 2009 World Series, Cano hit a cool .136 with no walks, no extra base hits, just one RBI and five strikeouts. He also managed to strand an impressive 12 runners in just six games.
But what about his Gold Glove award? Surely, he deserved that. He's a human highlight real who makes everything look easy and has a rocket for a arm. Or, at least, that's what sports analysts seem to think. But the numbers tell a very different story.
Robinson Cano has a negative -39.9 UZR and has had a negative value in each of the last four years. His selection as a Gold Glove winner in 2010 is almost as comical as Derek Jeter or Rafael Palmeiro.
Well, if he's so overrated, you may ask, then why has he done so well in MVP voting the last two years? For one, he plays for the New York Yankees. The same New York Yankees that have had multiple MVP award winners in seasons where members of other teams hit for the triple crown. He also has a high average, which traditional voters seem to love and flashy home run totals.
When Robinson Cano finished third in the MVP voting in 2010, he was sixth in the American League in WAR. That's not so bad considering that different writers value players in different ways. But last year, when Robinson Cano finished sixth in the voting, he was a comical 16th in the American League in WAR. The best part is that he wasn't even the best player at his position... or the second-best...or the third-best. Cano ranked fifth among American League second baseman in WAR.
At least Robinson Cano can hit, though. He really did deserve his Silver Slugger awards.
In 2006, Cano legitimately was the best hitting second baseman in the American League. He led all players at his position in AVG, SLG and OPS. In 2010, Cano again outpaced the competition with the best offensive season of his career. In 2011, the competition was much closer. Dustin Pedroia had a better AVG and OBP, but Cano had the better OPS, making him a fair choice.
But what about Cano's offense when it really counts? He's a career .324/.363/.530 hitter with the bases empty, and it's all downhill from there. Once runners gets on base, he's a career .289/.330/.458 hitter, and once runners get in scoring position, he's a career .274/.322/.448 hitter. His numbers with runners in scoring position and two outs are even worse.
That's the issue with Cano. He does all the flashy things that grab attention. He plays for the New York Yankees, he puts up gaudy offensive numbers and he makes strong throws. But he doesn't do the basic things that are truly valuable, like hitting well when it matters or having good range defensively.
History may be kind to Cano. In 30 years when he's considered for the Hall of Fame, voters may simply look at his offensive numbers as a whole and decide that he was one of the game's best. But those who see him play every day should know better.