Certain proclamations and projections seem to follow players around. Take Robinson Cano. It seems futile to watch a national broadcast and expect to not hear the announcer talk about Cano is a future batting title winner. Where that sentiment came from is unknown, but it stuck to Cano. The oddest part of that assumption is that Cano’s minor league batting average is .278, and in Triple-A it was only .284. In fact, he never topped .300 throughout a full season until a shortened 2005 season.
Nevertheless, if the season ended today, Cano would finish second in the batting title race behind a guy the Yankees traded this off-season. Cano has been better than that though. He’s currently third in wOBA (behind Andre Ethier and Justin Morneau) and he’s been the Yankees’ best offensive player. He’s second in on-base percentage — Marcus Thames’ .552 on-base percentage looks more out of place than Johnny Gee – and first in slugging and ISO.
Cano has served as the tongue of the Yankees’ offense so far. He’s been in complete control while Nick Johnson and Mark Teixeira are struggling to find the .300 wOBA mark, Alex Rodriguez is doing his best impression of a league average batter, Curtis Granderson is on the disabled list, and Randy Winn is doing everything in his power to limit Michael Kay from making the worst pun possible about his last name on a routine basis.
Whenever someone has a career high batting average, the usual culprit is an increase in batting average on balls in play. True, nearly 35% of Cano’s in play balls are turning into hits, but the real suspect here is Cano’s increased home run rate. More than a quarter of the fly balls he’s hit have turned into home runs. His previous career high is 13% set last season. It’s not unbelievable that a 27-year-old with ferocious bat speed would begin to hit more jacks as he grew, but not at a Ryan Howard rate.
All of Cano’s homers have exited via stage right field and HitTracker has the average true distance at 391 feet. That’s almost identical to the 391.3 feet from 2009 and falls well shy of the 398.4 feet from 2008. This isn’t a Joe Mauer situation where Cano is suddenly going the other way. He’s just ripping the ball down the right field line. While it’s unrealistic to continue this power surge to continue, that should not stop this from being a special season for Cano and it probably won’t stop the talks of his surely inevitable assault on the league’s batting averages.