Smoke and mirrors: Robinson Cano

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Things didn’t really break the way Cano and his owners hoped in 2008. Will 2009 be better? (Icon/SMI)

At this time last year, Robinson Cano was being discussed as a top-five second baseman and was being selected in the fourth round of traditional mixed-league drafts, sometimes even earlier. After all, how can you go wrong with a .300+, 20 home run hitter batting in the most potent lineup in baseball, entering the prime of his career, at a scarce position? Well, here’s how:

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | HR | RBI | R  | SB |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
| 2008 |  25 | Yankees | 597 | 0.271 | 14 |  72 | 70 |  2 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+

A very disappointing season, to say the least. So what happened? Were we overrating Cano to begin with? Is this a legitimate step back? Or was it bad luck? Let’s take a look.

Power

If you’re new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I’m using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player’s talent, so it’s well worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| 2006 |  23 | Yankees | 482 | 15 |  19 |    14 |     18 |     16 | 6.6 |     25 |
| 2007 |  24 | Yankees | 617 | 19 |  21 |    12 |     13 |     13 | 1.9 |     29 |
| 2008 |  25 | Yankees | 597 | 14 |  24 |     9 |     15 |     15 | 0.6 |     31 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+

While Cano’s HR/FB is on a three-year decline and fell into the single-digits in 2008, this decline looks mostly like bad luck. His tHR/FB was strong this year at 15 percent, right around his three-year average and above his 2007 level.

In addition, his outfield fly rate seems to have established a new level of about 30 percent or so, up from 26 and 25 percent in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Put this all together—and the fact that he’ll be a year closer to his prime at 26 years old—and Cano looks like a threat to hit 25 home runs in 2009.

We need to be aware that he won’t be playing in the same stadium in 2009, but as we’ve discussed before, the only real concern is the wind.

Contact

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| 2006 |  23 | Yankees | 482 | 0.342 | 0.336 |  89 | 0.363 |  0.346 |  20 |     29 |      23 |
| 2007 |  24 | Yankees | 617 | 0.306 | 0.318 |  86 | 0.331 |  0.342 |  17 |     28 |      25 |
| 2008 |  25 | Yankees | 597 | 0.271 | 0.315 |  89 | 0.286 |  0.317 |  19 |     38 |      22 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+

While Cano hit .271 this year, his True Batting Average has been quite stable and was a very healthy .315. His low average this year was a combination of a lower-than-normal BABIP and the aformentioned decreased power.

We’ve already discussed the power, and Marcels projects his BABIP at .317 (0.031 above his 2008 BABIP). Bill James comes in at .313 and CHONE at .318. Peter Bendix and Chris Dutton’s system is slightly less optimistic at .301 but still well ahead of Cano’s 2008 figure. If he ends up that low again, I will be quite surprised.

It’s also worth noting that his contact rate fell three points in 2007 but bounced back in 2008. Let’s also take a quick look at his plate discipline numbers to see if we can find an explanation:

+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2005 |  22 | Yankees | 522 |  87 |        103 | 0.32 |          95 |       61 |
| 2006 |  23 | Yankees | 482 |  89 |        103 | 0.47 |          95 |       63 |
| 2007 |  24 | Yankees | 617 |  86 |        101 | 0.44 |          95 |       69 |
| 2008 |  25 | Yankees | 597 |  89 |        116 | 0.31 |          94 |       75 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

From 2005 to 2008, Cano’s numbers look pretty stable, and he seemed to establish a contact rate of around 88 percent. 2007 looks like a bit of an outlier, and we actually see his numbers jump in 2008. His Judgment increased by 15 points and his Bad Ball Hitting increased by six points. I can’t say for certain that his contact rate should have been higher than 89 percent, but it certainly looks like there could be some upside in 2009.

Overall, a batting average over .310 should be expected, with plenty of room for growth.

RBI and runs

Cano has batted mostly 6th, 7th, and 8th over the past few years, but he still managed 97 RBIs and 93 runs in 2007. In 2008, those numbers dropped because of his decreased power output and his 0.048 point OBP drop (most of which can be attributed to his batting average drop, though he did walk a little less). When those bounce back in 2009, I’d expect Cano to go maybe 85/85. If he’s really lucky, he’ll move into the second spot in the order at some point in the year and go 100/100, though I’m not sure how likely that is.

Market value

We’re starting to get a little more to look at, and for Cano, they all seem to be saying the same thing, so I’m just about ready to stop including the usual disclaimer about small-ish sample sizes and year-end data. That being said, here’s what Cano’s market value is shaping up as:

CBS Sportsline Expert Draft No. 1: 8th 2B (76th Overall/R7)
CBS Sportsline Mock Draft No. 1: 8th 2B (83rd Overall/R7)
Mock Draft No. 1: 8th 2B (93rd Overall/R8)
CBS Sportsline Expert Draft No. 2: 8th 2B (96th Overall/R8)
CBS Sportsline: 8th 2B (97th Overall)
FOX Sports: 8th 2B
Rotoworld Expert Mock Draft: 9th 2B (87th Overall/R8 — I selected him)
ProTrade Value: 14th 2B

The consensus seems to be that Cano is the eighth second baseman that should be taken in 2009, and he might have fallen even farther in the Rotoworld draft had I not selected him. I completely disagree with this assessment and think Cano makes for a great value in the eighth round. If you agree with my evaluation of him, I’d wait until the beginning of round seven and then pull the trigger.

Concluding thoughts

All-in-all, I think Cano should be good for a line of .310/20/80/80/5 at the very least. A line like that would make Cano worthy of a fifth round pick, and he could be worthy of a third or fourth rounder if he puts up a line closer to .320/25/85/85/5. Either way, Cano is a guy I figure I’ll own in a lot of leagues this year, selecting him in the seventh round (or the sixth if my seventh-round pick doesn’t come until the end of the round).

Smoke and mirrors? Absolutely.

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Comments

  1. Brad said...

    Great Stuff as usual Derek,
    I have been looking for a database of some of these stats (True Homeruns), but have not been able to find them. Where do you get these stats from?

  2. alskor said...

    “We’ve already discussed the power, and Marcels projects his BABIP at .317”

    Marcel projects that because its a simple mathematical projection based on previous years – in this case, Cano’s crazy lucky BABIPs.

    “While Cano’s HR/FB is on a three-year decline and fell into the single-digits in 2008, this decline looks mostly like bad luck. His tHR/FB was strong this year at 15 percent, right around his three-year average and above his 2007 level.

    In addition, his outfield fly rate seems to have established a new level of about 30 percent or so, up from 26 and 25 percent in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Put this all together—and the fact that he’ll be a year closer to his prime at 26 years old—and Cano looks like a threat to hit 25 home runs in 2009.”

    I dont see how that data led you to that conclusion.

    “Overall, a batting average over .310 should be expected, with plenty of room for growth.”

    Seriously? Again, youre taking his previous BABIPs as some sort of true talent marker and I firmly disagree with that notion. With his lack of patience (4.3% walk rate), uninspiring K rate (12.3%) and a flyball rate that I would not view as a strength he seems like a particularly poor bet to hit much more than .300. Find me another player who strikes out >12% of the time, walks <4.5% and you would project for “over .310… expected, with plenty of room for growth.” Cano is just too impatient a hitter for those kind of projections. The guys who can hit .310+ while walking 4.3% of the time are far and few between. Further, his work habits are a major question mark you ignored.

    I usually love these columns and respect your opinion a great deal, but I think you missed the boat here. I dont know how you can look at this guy and his components and see a player who you would project for an average over .310 and 25+ HRs. I agree with your overall point – he is being undervalued in fantasy drafts, but you seem to be taking the rosiest possible view of every aspect of Cano. I like his CHONE projection as his upside, personally, .300/.340/.468 with 16 HRs. Id add in some risk because of his concentration issues and off the field stuff partying rumors – true or not, its a data point for risk in fantasy. A good fantasy option, but anyone looking for >.310 and ~25HRs is going to be severely disappointed IMHO.

    Most of all, I dont know how you can look at the major projection systems out there and then project the player to have a batting average higher than they are projecting his BABIP. When I end up with numbers like that in my projections I immediately erase them and start over because I have to assume a favoritism or prejudice of mine has skewed my projection.

    So… he’s on your favorite fantasy keeper team, right…?

  3. Derek Carty said...

    Thanks, Brad.  tHR is a stat I created myself, so that’s why you haven’t been able to find them anywhere.  Nowhere else uses them.  I may put out a database in the future.

    alksor,
    Let me see if I can explain my view a little further and address your points.

    In regard to this comment: “I dont see how that data led you to that conclusion.”  Why not?  Give Cano 600 at-bats, a 12% K%, 30% OF%, 15% HR/FB and you get 24 HRs.  What about the data suggests he can’t post any of those numbers?

    You’re absolutely right that Marcels is using previous years’ numbers to project 2009’s BABIP.  That’s what all projection systems do, and they all treat that as a “true talent marker.”  As I noted, CHONE (which you later quoted) had him almost identical to Marcels in this regard.  What would you use as a true talent marker?

    Also, you used the word “lucky” in regard to his previous BABIPs.  Why?  Just because a BABIP is high does not automatically qualify it as lucky.  Many players are capable of posting much higher than average BABIPs.  Cano had been above .320 for three years before it fell to .286.  If anything is unlucky or out of place, it would seem like last year’s is… and his projected BABIPs are all below that .320 mark (meaning if 2008 was just bad luck, they’re all undershooting).  Please explain if you still disagree.

    You mention his BB% a lot, but I’m not quite sure why.  While patience is important for real baseball, it is much less so for fantasy. Are you saying that a low BB% will lead to a low BABIP?  Or just a low AVG in general?  Either way, BB% isn’t that important.  You also mention his FB% in regard to him posting a low average, but again, why?  FB% will have an effect on BABIP, but he’s shown he can post high BABIPs, so I’m not sure what the argument is.  Please explain your stance on these two things.

    Sure, Cano has a unique blend of talents that isn’t found in many other players, but they are definitely there and combining them gives you the numbers I mentioned.

    As far as his final average goes, all I’m doing is putting together the various components.  If you argue with what the components should be, that’s fine, but putting them together puts Cano around a .310 average, and definitely over .300.

    Lastly, I can assure you there is no favoritism here.  I treat everything I write about 100% objectively with no biases whatsoever.  I don’t own Cano on any keeper team, plus I’m a Mets fan.

  4. alskor said...

    Thank you for your timely response.

    -W/regards to the fantasy team comment, that was just a joke. As I said, Im a regular reader who enjoys your columns. I meant no offense and was merely making an attempt at levity.

    ———————————————————————————————————

    -“Why not?  Give Cano 600 at-bats, a 12% K%, 30% OF%, 15% HR/FB and you get 24 HRs.  What about the data suggests he can’t post any of those numbers?”

    Fangraphs has Cano’s career HR/FB% as 10.4%. It has his career high as 12.3%. They have him at 7.9% this year – and just looking at their numbers it doesnt appear to be a miscalculation (14 HR/178 FB = 7.86). Are you using different numbers…? Now that youve mentioned it, I seem to recall someone having this problem with the FB/GB/LD numbers on fangraphs in the past…

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=3269&position=2B

    I also don’t agree with your reasons for bumping him up (ie. nearing prime age, “increased” FB%). The risk given his questionable work habits, etc… would seem to mitigate any potential boosts.

    ———————————————————————————————————

    -On the subject of FB%, you said this:

    “In addition, his outfield fly rate seems to have established a new level of about 30 percent or so, up from 26 and 25 percent in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Put this all together—and the fact that he’ll be a year closer to his prime at 26 years old—and Cano looks like a threat to hit 25 home runs in 2009.”

    By fangraphs:

    05: 29.3
    06: 28.2
    07: 30.9
    08: 33.2

    Probably another difference over the input…

    ———————————————————————————————————

    -“You’re absolutely right that Marcels is using previous years’ numbers to project 2009’s BABIP.  That’s what all projection systems do, and they all treat that as a “true talent marker.” As I noted, CHONE (which you later quoted) had him almost identical to Marcels in this regard.  What would you use as a true talent marker? “

    By this I was just pointing out that if Cano’s previous BABIP’s were indeed lucky Marcel would not notice. It is, after all, named after a monkey because its so simple/stupid.

    It seems a mistake to me to assume 2006 was a legitimate data point for his BABIP but not 2008. The projection systems are correctly including both, but you seem to be throwing out 2008 as a data point(More on this below).

    ———————————————————————————————————

    -“Also, you used the word “lucky” in regard to his previous BABIPs.  Why?  Just because a BABIP is high does not automatically qualify it as lucky.  Many players are capable of posting much higher than average BABIPs.  Cano had been above .320 for three years before it fell to .286.  If anything is unlucky or out of place, it would seem like last year’s is… and his projected BABIPs are all below that .320 mark (meaning if 2008 was just bad luck, they’re all undershooting).  Please explain if you still disagree.”

    Basically, I firmly disagree with the seemingly common assumption among baseball fans that Cano has shown some inherent ability to hit for a high BABIP/AVG.

    Expected BABIP by the “old system” (LD% + 120):

    05: 20.6 LD% + 120 = .326 projected BABIP vs. .320 actual
    06: 19.9 LD% + 120 = .319 projected BABIP vs. .363 actual
    07: 16.9 LD% + 120 = .289 projected BABIP vs. .331 actual
    08: 19.4 LD% + 120 = .314 projected BABIP vs. .286 actual

    What AVG does a hitter with this profile look to hit for? Certainly less than Cano has. In all likelihood he will never approach his 06 numbers again, IMHO.

    In the highly regarded HBT article by Chris Dutton and Peter Bendix (found here http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/batters-and-babip/ ) they actually have Cano’s expected BABIP for 2008 at .299. Data for other seasons is not available. Given what they used for component factors (more on this below) it seems extremely doubtful Cano would be helped…

    ———————————————————————————————————

    -“You mention his BB% a lot, but I’m not quite sure why.  While patience is important for real baseball, it is much less so for fantasy. Are you saying that a low BB% will lead to a low BABIP?  Or just a low AVG in general?  Either way, BB% isn’t that important.  You also mention his FB% in regard to him posting a low average, but again, why?  FB% will have an effect on BABIP, but he’s shown he can post high BABIPs, so I’m not sure what the argument is.  Please explain your stance on these two things.”

    In this article – http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/examining-the-components-of-batting-average-and-babip/ – you said this:

    “2) Walk rate correlation with BABIP2 — 0.05
    3) (Called Strikes + Balls)/(Total Pitches) with BABIP2 — 0.03
    4) Walks/Strikeouts (BB/K) correlation with BABIP2 — -0.02
    5) Line drive rate correlation with BABIP2 — 0.45
    6) Outfield fly ball BABIP correlation with BABIP2 — 0.52
    9) 3 year, unweighted BABIP2 correlation with Year 4 BABIP2 — 0.39
    10) 2 year, unweighted BABIP2 correlation with Year 3 BABIP2 — 0.37
    11) 3 year, weighted BABIP2 correlation with Year 4 BABIP2 — 0.38”

    …showing walk rate as having a relatively high correlation with BABIP2(no bunts & based on a three year sample IIRC). I mentioned his walk rate above as an indicator of his ability to be a selective hitter. He is not a selective hitter, clearly. I think its pretty intuitive that the less selective a hitter one is, the harder it is for them to consistently hit for a high AVG(and obviously BABIP). We know that batters hit pitches in the strike zone for a higher AVG than pitches outside the strike zone.

    BB rate is a good measure(in context with other measures) of someone’s ability to control the strikezone, IMHO. A guy who isnt walking a good amount of the time is not a selective hitter. A player who isnt a selective hitter

    I mentioned BB rate in correlation with K rate and LD/GB/FB rates because I felt the argument could be made that if Cano excelled at not striking out his BB rate would not be such a concern. Equally, if he hit a exceptional amount of LDs we might make the same claim. He doesnt appear to do either. He doesnt strikes out all that much, but nothing special. His LD% is good, but nothing spectacular either. Essentially, if he put the ball in play an unusually high amount of the time or hit an unusually amount of LDs/hard hit balls I could buy that his high BABIP year was closer to the norm…

    One other way I could believe a hitter with a profile like this could hit for such a high BABIP is if he possessed unusually good speed (ie. Ichiro speed – the ability to turn ground balls in the hole into singles). I dont think anyone is making that case for Cano.

    Also, In the “Batters and BABIP” article referenced above (by Dutton and Bendix) they also said this:

    “We endeavored to take a more scientific look at batted ball data to develop a better method of finding a hitter’s expected BABIP. Using Baseball Prospectus data from 2002-2008, we calculated a range of variables that we considered to be the primary factors in determining BABIP…”

    Among these, they included:

    “Hitter_Eye   A measure of plate discipline and knowledge of the strike zone, calculated as (BB rate/SO rate).”

    “Pitches_perEBH   Pitches per extra base hit, which is a measure of how often a hitter makes solid contact (pitches/(doub+trip+hr)).” (Im making the logical leap here that more patient hitters will have more pitchers per EBH…)

    This would seem to indicate they agree there is a correlation between discipline/walk rate/selectivity and BABIP/AVG.

    ———————————————————————————————————

    Mostly, I dont understand why given three seasons, one high AVG(.342), one relatively low AVG(.271) and one in the middle(.306) so many people are inclined to believe the first year(least recent) is closest to the player’s true talent and that the third year(most recent) doesnt matter. I do not think you are alone in making this assumption, either. Again, in terms of BABIP – you mentioned that you think Cano has shown the ability to regularly hit for a high BABIP. I ask you why? What makes those 482 ABs in 2006 determinative? The major projection systems dont seem to think it is. That migh be because they are too simple to recognize Cano was unlucky in 08. Im just not ready to reach that conclusion at this point in time. For the reasons above I think its equally likely that his 06 was unusually lucky.

    There is also the intangible risk factors with Cano. Im speaking here w/regards to his lack of concentration and alleged off-field partying with Melky Cabrera. I have no way to confirm or deny any of it of course, but it has been reported in NY newspapers from what I understand. As a fantasy owner this would oobviously be a concern to me… just as if the star RB of my fantasy football team got arrested for drunk driving or was seen arguing with his coach on the sidelines. Not to compare Cano hitting the bars late with either of these, but I think you see my point. Does Ian Kinsler carry the same risk, for instance? Right or wrong, I certainly take these things into consideration when I draft.

    The projections in your article make sense as results if you make the initial assumption that Cano has shown the ability to hit for a high BABIP – but I dont believe it is fair to make that assumption at this point in time. So really, I guess we do disagree on the components here. Thanks again for your time and response… and uh… apologize for the length of mine.

  5. Derek Carty said...

    Alright, lots going on here, so I’ll address them by section:

    1) FanGraphs uses HR/All FB.  I’m using HR/OF FB.  Since an IF FB has no chance of going for a homer and is more of a mistake, it seems counterintuitive to count it as a fly ball in either FB% or HR/FB.

    Regardless, I’m really not “bumping him up.”  His tHR/FB has been 18%, 13%, and 15% over the past three years.  15% in 2009 is really not a stretch, I don’t think.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————
    2) As you said, a difference over the input.  Those include IF FB.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————
    3) You’re correct that Marcels would not notice in this sense.  But no projection system that uses actual BABIP would, since all data is considered.  I definitely was not intending to throw out any data points, as this shouldn’t be done.  Both are legitimate, and 2008 will actually be weighted more than the others (which is why his projections are all lower than the .320 figure I mentioned in my first comment).

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————
    4) I believe I’ve mentioned it on occasion, but I absolutely hate using that LD% + .120 to predict BABIP.  A simple Marcels is much more effective, and I pay very little attention to the LD% + .120 formula.  LD% should be taken into consideration, but not so rigidly.

    I mentioned the Dutton/Bendix BABIP in the article, although I haven’t run any tests on these BABIPs yet.  I’ve been meaning to talk with them about it, and I’ll probably send an e-mail later today.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————
    5) I think you’re misreading those findings.  BB% has just an 0.05 correlation with BABIP2 (maybe you’re reading it as 0.50).  That means just 0.25% of BABIP variation can be explain by BB%.  That’s incredibly small.

    Also, I don’t necessarily agree that being a selective hitter automatically means a hitter will post a high BABIP.  You seem to be taking more of a macro view, whereupon all selective hitters will hit for a high BABIP and all impatient hitters will hit for a low BABIP.  We need to view this from a micro perspective and treat each player individually.  Every player has his own unique set of skills, which manifest themselves more clearly the more data we get.  For Cano, we have four years worth of data.  Regardless of what kind of patience he’s shown, he has hit over .320 (BABIP) three of four years.  If a player changes his patience, then we need to reevaluate, but Cano has shown a Marcels “true” BABIP of .316 with his current level of patience.  It’s too simplistic to think his BABIP will drop simply because he’s impatient when he’s been doing fine as is for years now.  The same goes for his LD%, FB%, K%, or whatever other stats you want to mention.  They’ve all been pretty stable, and expecting some drastic deviation from his projected BABIP just isn’t a sound judgment.

    Furthermore, I don’t believe Cano has poor plate discipline.  His Judgment was 119 this year, and he swung at 30% of out-of-zone pitches.  That’s not incredibly high, and several high BABIP batters profile similarly (Matt Holliday and Ichiro Suzuki come to mind, and both post much higher BABIPs than Cano).

    Furthermore, you said that if he “hit an unusually amount of LDs/hard hit balls” you would buy his BABIP.  We have no idea how hard he is hitting balls.  LDs are based on the plane the ball takes.  For LDs, that plane is closer to the ground so it’s more difficult to catch.  It has nothing to do with speed off bat.  A hard hit FB can be just as difficult to catch as a weaker hit LD.  I would wager he’s hitting a good deal more hard hit balls than league average, though we don’t have this data so we can’t say with any kind of certainty.

    As far as those last few measures you mention, I very much dislike Eye (BB/K).  I’d check out this piece by Pizza Cutter (http://www.philbirnbaum.com/btn2007-02.pdf).  He explains it very well.

    I’ve never worked with the second one, but Cano’s 2008 figure of 40.9 is better than league average of 48.3.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————
    5) Again, I’m not one of these people.  We need to look at all data and weight accordingly.  This brings us to .316 using a simple Marcels, and if we included 2005 that would probably be a little closer to .320.

    I think you’re misunderstanding what I mean by a “high BABIP.”  By high BABIP, I mean relatively high BABIP compared to league average.  Three out of four years he’s been above .320, which in this case I consider high.

    I do not think Cano will reach 2006 levels again.  I think he’ll hit closer to a .315 BABIP, much lower, and below three of his four years.  I don’t think that’s ultra-optimistic at all.  I’m in agreement with the “major projection systems,” not against them as you seem to think.

    Finally, it is fine to take those intangible things into consideration if you wish, but I won’t be docking him too much for it.  There’s just too little evidence of it.

  6. Beanster said...

    Very interesting – thanks.  If you consider Cano’s miserable April last year (.446 OPS!) then Derek’s projections are not much of a stretch.  Cano made some technical adjustments at the break with help from his Dad and his post-ASB OPS was .815 compared to .643 before. 

    Keep in mind that Robbie starts out horrendously every year – career OPS of .612 in April and .699 in May – but here’s hoping playing in the WBC with his buddy Melky on the DR team will help!

    CBS Sports has him ranked 137th – I’ve picked him up dirt cheap in May each of the past 2 years because of his awful starts but have no problem drafting him here or even quite a bit earlier.  Even better – this means not wasting a Top 30 pick on Kinsler, Pedroia or a questionable Utley so I see this as one of the best value picks in the draft.

  7. Beanster said...

    One more thought – so assuming the CBS ranking is reasonable and you can draft Cano at 137, even if you have a big dropoff from Pedroia and Kinsler particularly in steals, you get this potentially bigger benefit in return: instead of taking, say, Yovani Gallardo or Brett Myers in that spot (they’re ranked immediately ahead of Cano) you can instead use your newly available Top 30 pick on Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy or Cole Hamels who are all ranked lower than Pedroia or Kinsler.

    So I don’t need Cano to be that good – just better than the gap between Gallardo/Myers and whichever ace I end up taking.

  8. Beanster said...

    Cano was probably a 4th round pick last year and completely overrated in the draft, but he was not bad after April.  Here are post-ASB stats (BA/OPS/HR/SB) for 3 players:

    Player A: .307/.815/8/1
    Player B: .292/.855/8/4
    Player C: .258/.717/4/3

    A was Cano.  He was very close to B, Chase Utley and way ahead of C, Ian Kinsler even before he went down for the season.

    I’ve won my league with Cano (for at least 2/3 of the season) 3 years running and would have no problem taking him this year after the 10th round.  Knowing he starts slow is actually a plus so I can plan accordingly or get him very cheap.

  9. Derek Carty said...

    Seattle Zen,
    I’m not sure where such pessimism is coming from.  Sure “Bad attitude, poor work ethic, partying” is a concern, but that’s far… far… from a “sure certainty that he will stink up the joint.”  At most it means we decrease his expected output by maybe 10 or 15 percent, at most.

    I thought I addressed alksor’s points pretty thoroughly, but if your (or anyone else, really, for that matter) still disagrees, I’m more than willing to hear the other side of the argument.

    As to your point about putting up “such terrible stats for months at a time,” what months are those?  Cano was bad in April (unnaturally, undeniably unluckily bad in April) last year and perfectly fine afterwards.  In 2007 his power was absent for the first couple of months, but in 2006 and 2005 he seemed fine.  Unless I’m missing something, it sounds like you’re letting preconceived feelings about Cano cloud your better, rational judgment.  Again, I could be completely wrong (and please correct me if I am), but as fantasy owners we must stay objective or risk losing out on a quality player (or worse, selecting a poor player).

  10. Adam said...

    The analysis is very interesting, and obviously with the low BABIP I think a bounceback of some sort can be expected for Cano.  And he may well be undervalued… though not being a roto guy I can’t comment on ADP etc.

    However, I do side with alskor that expectations may need to be tempered somewhat, particularly with respect to batting average.  With the exception of about three or four guys in baseball I’m very wary when I hear any projections like: “Overall, a batting average over .310 should be expected, with plenty of room for growth.”

    An “over .310” batting average is an extremely high projection.

    I think Cano *could* hit over .310 next year.  But should a BA over .310 be “expected”?  To put that in context, only 12 batters in baseball (qualified) hit .310 or over last year:  Chipper, Pujols, Mauer, Pedroia, Bradley, Holliday, Kinsler, Ordonez, C. Guzman, Berkman, Youkilis, Suzuki.  [Incidentally, and FWIW, half of them may have debatable HOF cases when all is said and done.]

    In any given year I can accept that 10-15 batters will end up hitting over .310, as happened last year, due to the inevitability that some batters will exceed their projected BA and finish higher up on the curve than we would have expected.

    But does that mean that you can project 10-15 batters to hit over .310 in a given year?  No, because in order to hit over .310 in a year it is often necessary to be the beneficiary of some luck on top of a certain baseline of ability.  Baseline ability + luck allows these 10-15 batters per year to exceed a .310 batting average.  Does Cano truly have a baseline ability of over .310BA?  I can’t buy that.

    Last year PECOTA projected only three hitters to hit over .310:  Pujols, Holliday and Chipper (and Holliday is only there because of the park).

    If you’re saying that Cano “should” hit over .310 you’re effectively saying that he is one of the top 3 or 4 hitters for average in the majors.  Is this what you’re saying?

    Even if we were to give Cano full credit for his higher-than-expected BABIPs, he still looks to me like more of a .295 hitter to me.  And, granted, he could get lucky like he did in ‘06, and hit over .310, but I would not project that as the likely case.

  11. Seattle Zen said...

    Outstanding posts by alskor, I couldn’t agree with him more. Robinson Cano was the most overrated player last pre-season and it was easy to see his awful season coming. Whenever someone can put up such terrible stats for months at a time, they should be avoided completely. His career April stats scream “radioactive”, yet New York market fantasy writers ignore it, asking, “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

    Bad attitude, poor work ethic, partying… the sure certainty that he will stink up the joint in the early months, what is there to like? I think the CBS ranking of Mr. Cano at 137 is reasonable. When you consider that he was, at best, the 20th best fantasy second baseman in 2008, behind the mighty Mike Aviles, that 137th ranking is highly optimistic regarding his chances of improving. He should have been on your waiver wire all of last year.

  12. Seattle Zen said...

    I admit that my post left out statistical analysis as I could not approach the quality of alskor’s post. Perhaps I should have said, “I’m with him”, I simply found his arguments more compelling and persuasive than yours. Here are the points I agree with him rather than you: Cano should not be considered one of the rare players who has a naturally high BABIP, last year’s numbers should be weighed properly, which you weren’t doing. Cano’s inability to be selective at the plate makes it difficult to maintain a high average.

    Cano can and has stunk for months at a time. He reminds me of a second base version of Aubrey Huff, he simply is a below average first half player. I don’t know why, maybe he really struggles in cold weather, maybe it takes three months to get into shape. He is one of the few players whose whole career is shaped by this duality. Therefore, I believe he is one of the few players who one should avoid using year averages in order to predict his future. If the data is out there, one should look at each month.

    I looked into his boring, simple stats by month and here is what I found. In 2005, he was called up in May and hit .253 2/11/10/0, but he also had an awful August .207 1/6/10/1.

    In 2006, his great year, he had a .292 2/20/26/0 April and May. That’s nothing to write home about. After he returned from injury until the rest of the year he put up numbers were phenomenal, but because he did it for the Yankees, I argue that this small sample is the sole reason he is even the subject of this article.

    Let’s remember that every fantasy commentator is human. It is human to have the more resent past linger in the mind more so than the distant past. I believe that was some of the reason that people forgot that Cano was awful for the first half of 2007 as well. For the first three months of the season, he hit .269 3/33/33/1. Three home runs. Let me state the obvious, he would destroy your team if you play head-to-head, you could not recover. We all know that he recovered and went .343 13/57/53/2 after the AS break and that got everyone all excited again. There is nothing easier for a lazy fantasy sports writer, present company excluded (of course) than to praise all those players who had great second halves, arguing that they portend great years to come.

    We all remember how bad he was last April. In past years, he would get scorching hot in the second half, bringing up his numbers and salvaging his season. That didn’t happen in 2008 and his mediocre finish was drugged into the muck by his poor April.

    When someone is incapable of having hot streaks in April and May, there is a significantly shorter timeframe in which he can get hot. When you have averaged 4.5 homers for the first three months of the season, why should we start to believe that this year will be any different? Are you suggesting he will hit 20 home runs in July, August, and September?  In short, you are taking year-long averages and applying them to each month equally when it apparent that Cano does not behave that way himself. He is Jekyll and Hyde. 

    Looking at his career, he is a .300 hitter because he can get white hot for a month or more, hitting at a .380 clip, and that cancels the .270 months. Have a year when he doesn’t turn into Superman for a month, like 2008, and those .270 months are the real reflection of the man. Perhaps his .380 months are bolstered by a highly lucky BABIP?

    My outlook for Cano is not based on any sabermetric formula, but based on some gut instincts, maybe they have no place here, I’m new. I think that the Yanks are under a HUGE amount of stress to succeed this year and Joe Girardi is going to be a beast when they suffer through their early season doldrums. We can chalk up a slow start for Robbie and a visit to the doghouse. I don’t know the man, by my sense is that he does not respond well to doghouse banishments. As for the second half of the season, if the Yankees are rolling, winning and having a great time, Robbie will heat up and have another great second half, ending up with a .299 16/79/80/4. If the Yankees struggle and are realistically out of the playoff chase in August, he will coast and the resentment between him, Joe, and management will make things worse. He hits .270 again with even fewer homers and rbi/ runs than 2008.

    No one thought Kelly Johnson would be a better second baseman than Cano preseason 2008, yet he was. No one predicts it will happen again. It will.

    One final thing, just an inch from this statement: “I treat everything I write about 100% objectively with no biases whatsoever.” You wrote: “Sure, Cano has a unique blend of talents that isn’t found in many other players, but they are definitely there and combining them gives you the numbers I mentioned.”

    Well, “unique talent” is a judgment call and every decision you make in how you “combine” his statistics is inherently biased.  It’s unwise to proclaim anyone is free of bias, it’s impossible.

  13. Derek Carty said...

    Thanks, Seattle Zen.

    I still have to disagree with your main points, though.  “Cano should not be considered one of the rare players who has a naturally high BABIP, last year’s numbers should be weighed properly, which you weren’t doing.”  Well, he’s posted a naturally high BABIP 3 of 4 years in the majors.  Also, I was weighing them properly.  I let Marcels do it for me, and it says he’s a .317 BABIP hitter.  And as I noted, several other projections systems have almost identical figures as well.

    Also, even if Cano is a slow starter (which I don’t believe there is conclusive evidence of yet), the final numbers are what matter.  However he does it, his underlying numbers have been pretty stable, and I’m comfortable with that (though you may have a point in H2H.  Again, though, I’m not sold on the half splits).

    As far as the “unique talent” line, that was in regard to his ability to hit for high contact, moderate power, and a better-than-average BABIP.  Very, very few players can do that, so I don’t think it’s a judgment call.  In 2008, just Albert Pujols, Carlos Lee, and Vernon Wells posted a CT% above 88% and a AB/HR below 30.  Throw in a BABIP provision and you’ll cut out Wells and possibly Lee.

    I do agree, though, that no one can be completely objective.  I try to be as objective as possible, and the long-time readers, I think, will attest that my opinions almost always coincide with the numbers I present.  That’s what I meant by objective.  Cano definitely was not the subject of this article because of some bias in regard to his 2006 or anything like that, though.  He’s the subject of the article because I think he’s undervalued for 2009.

    Thanks again, Seattle!

  14. Seattle Zen said...

    I appreciate the polite response. Let’s see how he starts this year, perhaps you’ll agree with me come June.

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