Robinson Cano Fitting Well in The Five-Slot For New York Yankees
I know it's only two games into the season, and just like Red Sox DH David Ortiz said during his tirade last night: "There's a 160 games left, relax." But, I'm still very impressed with what I have seen from Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, thus far.
Cano has wasted no time in reassuring the Yankees that they made the correct decision placing him behind Alex Rodriguez in the lineup.
Through his first eight at-bats, Cano has picked up four hits. Two of them for extra bases including the ninth-inning, solo-shot blast during last night's 6-4 victory over Boston.
When the Yankees opted to part ways with former slugger Hideki Matsui, there was concern as to who would step up into his place in the lineup.
Matsui, who was pretty much a mainstay at the No. 5 spot, always provided the Yankees with a consistent, powerful bat, despite age and injury.
Cano might have unknowingly been auditioning for his current role, last season.
While Matsui and Jorge Posada battled injury, Cano took 214 of his 637 at-bats from the fifth position.
En route to his current spot in the lineup, Cano raised his average from .271 to .320, while his slugging percentage went up 110 points from 2008.
The one area that drew concern, however, was Cano's ability to hit with runners in scoring position.
It's not like Cano misses a step or two with ducks on the pond—he pretty much falls down a flight of stairs.
Cano's average last season when it was just him and the pitcher was a staggering .376. However, when there was a baserunner on, his average dropped to .255.
Wait, it gets worse.
When there were runners in scoring position, Cano plummeted to the Mendoza Line, hitting an abysmal .207.
Those aren't numbers you generally want from your No. 5 hitter.
In comparison, Matsui hit .309 with runners on and .303 with runners in scoring position, last season.
If Cano is going to keep his position in the middle of order, he must improve those pressure numbers.
It's one thing to get hits and produce when there is no pressure on you. It's another thing to do it when you have the chance to make a difference in the game.
All the Yankees are looking for Cano to do is hit consistently when there are runners on, thus making it difficult for pitchers to pitch around A-Rod. Just look at the difference in Teixeira's '09 stats when Rodriguez started hitting behind him.
Cano's improved power numbers last season were a bonus to him hitting in the fifth slot. He hit a career-high in homers, sending 25 balls over the fence.
It's not like the Yankees are deprived of power, with Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira easily capable of hitting 40-plus homeruns, while Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson could eclipse the 30 plateau.
If Cano struggles, it's not like the Yankees don't have other options. Like I said, Swisher and Granderson could fill that position, as could Posada.
If Robbie wants to remain where he is, he must continue to prove that he's ready.
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