The peaks and valleys of a Major League Baseball career are inevitable and are emotionally and physically difficult on players.
A 20 game hitting streak can be followed by a 1-20 slump with one tweaked swing.
Watching Robinson Cano over the years in pinstripes, he perfectly fits the bill of a streaky, peaks and valleys player.
Cano broke into the majors in early May 2005, taking over for the veteran Tony Womack. He finished 2005 as the starting second baseman, hitting .297 with 14 home runs, 62 RBI, and 34 doubles. He finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting to Huston Street.
Then manager Joe Torre often compared Cano's swing to the likes of Hall of Famer Rod Carew, high praise for a rookie. It was at that point that the standards for Cano were set.
Cano built upon his rookie numbers in his second year, leading all American League second basemen in All-Star voting. A hamstring injury landed Cano on the disabled list for 35 games, but he returned on August 8. Cano ended 2006 with a career-best .342 batting average, 15 home runs, 78 RBI, and 41 doubles.
After a slow start to the 2007 season, Cano got back into form in July and continued to improve his batting numbers, hitting 19 home runs and 41 doubles, with 97 RBI.
Cano's worst season was in 2008, when he started off hitting .151 in April and finished the season with a .271 batting average, a career low. His other statistics took a hit as well, compiling only 14 home runs, 72 RBI, and 35 doubles.
Determined to rebound in 2009, Cano did not disappoint. Cano hit .320 with a career-high 25 home runs, 85 RBI, and 48 doubles, as the Yankees won their 27th World Series.
Cano has been considered a streaky hitter ever since his emergence in 2005. He has the talent to hit .400 in a month but the streakiness to hit .200 the next month.
Fielding has also plagued Cano in his young career. Much like his streaky hitting, Cano has the ability to make an off-balance throw from behind the second base bag to nail the runner at first, but also the ability to botch a simple ground ball. As we have seen in the past, fielding troubles can translate to hitting troubles.
However, it seems as though Cano's hitting talent outweighs his deficiencies in the field.
While Cano's numbers are impressive, most baseball experts believe Cano can still build upon them. Only 27 years old, Cano is just entering his prime.
It is expected that Cano will one day crack 30 home runs, 100 RBI, and 50 doubles. Could this be the year that Robinson Cano finally breaks through?
It is projected that Cano will now bat behind Alex Rodriguez in the five hole, giving him increased opportunities with runners on base.
When asked about Cano's spot in the 2010 Yankees' lineup, Joe Girardi responded, "I think it's always been somewhat projected that he would move up in the lineup."
The fifth spot in the lineup is not unfamiliar for Cano. Cano hit fifth in 50 games last year, managing a .299 average with eight home runs and 29 RBI.
Clearly, Cano has proved to Girardi and hitting coach Kevin Long that he can succeed in such a pressure-packed role.
"Power is not so important to me; it's the ability to hit for average," Girardi said. "I think Robbie has matured as a person and as a player. I like what I see. His work ethic is tremendous."
While Girardi may not be looking for power, I believe this is the year that Cano really breaks out and puts himself in the upper echelon of hitters.
With more RBI opportunities and protection hitting behind him in Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson, Cano should see better pitches to hit. I expect Cano to hit at least 30 home runs and drive in more than 100 runs.
If Cano can put up those kinds of numbers, you are looking at a very, very scary Yankees lineup.
Pitchers beware: Robinson Cano is a man ready to break out in an already devastating lineup.
You can follow Gavin Bedell on Twitter at twitter.com/gavinbedell
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