5 Lessons Learned from Robinson Cano's 1st Half

Bill StollContributor IIIJuly 20, 2013

5 Lessons Learned from Robinson Cano's 1st Half

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    New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is off to another stellar year.

    Though the Yankees have struggled this year and been decimated by injuries to their lineup, with last season's regulars Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson each missing extended time this year, the greatest bright spot has been Cano.

    Despite the adversity the Yankees have faced, Cano has evolved into a leader and has been without a doubt the best player on the Bronx Bombers. Though acting with a relatively weak supporting cast, Robbie Cano has powered the Yankees to an above .500 record. While their playoff hopes may be continually dimming, his play has kept them in contention thus far.

    We all know of Cano's looming contract issues that will come into play at the conclusion of this season, but let's take a look at the lessons we've learned from his great first half.

5. His Plate Discipline Is Superb

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    Early in his career, Cano was occasionally criticized for not walking enough and for swinging at early pitches. 

    Steadily his on-base percentage has increased throughout his career, and this year is no exception.

    Right now, his OBP is .386, which would be a career high for the Yankees slugger. However, it's notable how he has achieved this, as his batting average is currently .302, which is tied for his lowest in the last five years. His on-base percentage is so high because he has walked a total of 48 times this season.

    Not only is his walk total already the third-highest of his career, but over the course of a 162-game season he is on pace to walk a whopping 82 times, more than double his career yearly average of around 35.

    Cano has developed into a patient hitter, and on this Yankees team ravaged by injuries, any player getting on base is more than welcome.

4. He Can Put the Team on His Back

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    Robbie Cano puts the team on his back!

    He has been far and away the best player to throw on the pinstripes this season, and this is evident by the old-fashioned statistics and new metrics.

    Cano leads the Yankees in pretty much every good offensive category: batting average (.302), home runs (21), runs batted in (65), walks (48), on-base percentage etc. Really the only stats he doesn't lead are stolen bases, doubles, triples and strikeouts.

    Cano also has by far the best Offensive Wins Above Replacement on the Yankees as well, with 4.8, and the next highest Yankee is Brett Gardner, with 2.3. It's actually very unlikely the Yankees will have more than two players with an OWAR of higher than 2, which would be the first season that has happened in well over a decade.

    Despite the Yankees fielding one of their weakest teams in recent memory, Cano has been phenomenal. He is currently 10th in the majors in home runs and fifth in the nation in WAR. This despite only being 34th in the majors in at-bats. To put it in terms plain and certain, Cano is doing more with less.

    It's pretty safe to say that without Cano, the Yankees wouldn't even be close to playoff contention.

     

     

3. He's the Best Yankee Second Baseman Ever

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    Undoubtedly, this year has put to rest the debate over who the best second baseman in Yankee history is. It's Robinson Cano.

    Though only eight major league seasons under his belt, Cano has demonstrated enough to stand out amongst Yankee legends at his position.

    The other contenders are Willie Randolph, who played from 1976 to 1988 with the Yankees. Despite playing four fewer seasons with the Bronx Bombers, Cano's numbers already dwarf Randolph's. The other candidates are Tony Lazzeri, who played with Ruth and Gehrig on the Murderer's Row teams, and Gil McDougald, who played with Mickey Mantle.

    What sets Cano apart from these legends is that he is outperforming them without the protection of MVP-caliber teammates flanking them in the lineup. No, Robinson Cano is the best Yankee second baseman because right now, and arguably over the last few years, he has been the best player on his team.

2. He Has All the Leverage in Negotiating a New Contract

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    Over the last few weeks, there has been much debate about whether the Yankees should pursue the long and expensive contract that Robinson Cano would assuredly require. You can read about the debate in depth here or here.

    Essentially, the Yankees are hesitant to sign yet another player to a multi-year megadeal (see A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia) after previous issues.

    However, they really don't have much of a choice but to pay the man.

    Their team is old and laden with huge contracts for players well past their prime. Cano is the only player who keeps them in any semblance of contention.

    Considering the Yankees are already saddled with the tough contracts of A-Rod, Tex and Vernon Wells, contracts that are basically immovable, their only option is to pay Cano and try to win with this core until a full rebuild would be possible.

1. He Could Be the Next Captain of the Yankees

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    The New York Yankees have had 14 captains in their incredible history. Robbie Cano should be No. 15.

    He's already the face of the franchise and their most superior offensive threat.

    Unfortunately for the Yankees, it's time to face the facts. Derek Jeter is never going to be the same player, probably because he's going to be entering his fifth decade on Earth next year.

    Traditionally the Yankees have allowed a couple years before naming another captain, and have also made a habit of captaincies that last two or three seasons at most, with Derek Jeter being the obvious exception.

    Jeter will retire soon. In the gap between the Yankees finding their next young, early-20's superstar to hand over the keys to the franchise, Robbie Cano would be a suitable team captain as the team transitions to a new era.

    Of every player on the Yankees roster, there isn't a more deserving leader of such an honor.