Robinson Cano entered the 2012 seasons with big expectations. After hitting 28 home runs, a career-high 118 RBI and a .302 batting average, many people (including myself) were expecting him to do big things, especially since he's hitting in the third spot in the lineup.
So far, that hasn't been the case. He's hitting .268 this season, with just one home run and three RBI.
However, what's even worse is that he's hitting just .214 against left-handed pitchers.
Why has hitting against left-handed pitchers been so difficult for Cano? Here are three reasons.
The reason why it's nice to have left-handed hitters in your lineup is because they have can be very effective against right-handed pitchers. Batting opposite from the pitcher will generally give batters an advantage. Cano himself is a left-handed hitter, which gives him additional value as a player.
However, if a left-handed hitter is facing a left-handed pitcher, the pitcher generally has an advantage. This is because when a right-handed pitcher throws, for example, a curveball or a slider, it breaks to the left, from his own point of view, which causes it to cross the plate with its lateral movement.
The ball is being thrown away from a right-handed batter's perspective, but toward a left-handed batter (and vice-versa for a left-handed pitcher), and batters generally find it easier to hit a ball that is over the plate.
In addition, since a majority of pitchers in baseball are right-handed, left-handed batters generally have less experience squaring off against left-handed pitchers.
That's not to say Cano does a bad job against left-handers. In his career, he's hit .298 against left-handed hitters. However, it pales in comparison to his .311 batting average against right-handed pitchers (and .307 overall).
Another factor is that Cano has generally slow starts in the season.
While he can hit homers and drive in runs just fine in the opening months of the season, the problem for Cano is making contact with the ball and getting on base.
In March/April, he's hit .294, and has an on-base percentage of .337 in his career. And in May, it actually gets worse: .279 batting average and a .312 on-base percentage.
But fret not, Yankee fans, because when the summer comes is when Cano is at his best. His on-base percentage from May to June alone jumps about 40 points. In July, he's hit .325, and has an on-base percentage of .365.
Perhaps this is just another case of Cano having a slow start to the season. We'll see how it is when the summer starts.
Young pitchers can be a wild card, especially if they are pitching in their first several games of their careers. However, a number of them can prove to be successful, and that has been the case so far for some of the pitchers Cano has faced.
First, there's Wei-Yin Chen of the Baltimore Orioles. Before signing with the Orioles this season, Chen had pitched in Japan, for the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball. In 2009, he captured the Central League's ERA title, recording an ERA of 1.84, the lowest of any pitcher in NPB since 1968. So far, he's done well for the Orioles. In three starts, he's won one game, and has allowed five runs in 17.1 innings.
In three plate appearances, Cano has made contact once.
Another is Felix Doubront of the Boston Red Sox. Although Doubront has made appearances since 2010, they were mostly in relief and late in the season. It's only now that he's part of the starting rotation. He's been decent. In three games, he's allowed seven runs over the course of 16 innings.
In four career plate appearances, Cano has yet to record a hit off of him. He's struck out three times (the fourth at-bat was a walk).
A third pitcher to mention is David Price. Though more experienced than both Chen and Doubront, I added him on here because he's still very young, at 26 years old. We all know how talented David Price is; he's already a two-time All-Star, and finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting. But how he has stacked up against Cano?
In 34 career at-bats against Price, Cano has hit just seven times, for a batting average of just .204. In three plate appearances this season, he's hitless.
Other young left-handed pitchers that have troubled Cano are the Baltimore Orioles' Troy Patton (4 career AB, 0 H, 1 BB) and the Tampa Bay Rays' Jake McGee (4 career AB, 0 H, 1 BB).