Life is good for Robinson Cano. He likes his new city, and his new city likes him back. He’s secured the contract of a man’s wildest dreams, and he’s a leading vote-getter for the 2014 All-Star Game. He owns one of the top batting averages in all of baseball, and while Cano’s new team isn’t leading its division, it is in the race for the first time in years, with more total wins than Cano’s old team. There isn’t a lot of disappointment to be found anywhere. Ten-year contracts tend to lead to disappointment, but generally not in Year One, and this many months in, Cano is all smiles.
And Cano has been one of the better players in baseball. He has been the Mariners’ best position player, among a unit that needed a player like him. There’s just that one part of his statistical profile. Time and time again, people have been told that Cano is a line-drive hitter, not a power hitter. Well, it’s almost July, and Cano has four home runs. A year ago, he hit 27. Right now he has as many homers as Billy Hamilton, and we’re no longer dealing with insignificant sample sizes. Cano has never been considered a true power hitter, but he’s never been further from being a true power hitter as he is today.
Naturally, one gets to wondering. It’s not like Cano’s skills have eroded. His overall approach is the same, and he’s still drilling liners. You just wonder about the balls flying over the fence. Leaving New York doesn’t explain everything — a year ago, Cano actually hit five more dingers on the road. Seattle has long played lefty-friendly. There has to be more behind the power drought.
The easiest place to start is with Cano’s balls in play. Last year, 44 percent of them were grounders. He spent the prime of his career hovering in the mid-40s. This year, he’s up to 55 percent, and while it looked like Cano was coming out of it with a more air-friendly May, he’s gone back to hitting grounders in June. A change this sudden, to this degree, is notable, and obviously you can’t hit the ball out on a grounder or most liners. You turn your attention to Cano’s swing.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.