It’s being written that Mets second baseman Robinson Cano is not as good a hitter as he has been in the past. Here is some evidence that supports that assertion:
- He never had an OBP under .300. His previous low was .305 in 2008. In 2019 it is .277. His lowest batting average was .271 in 2008. This season he is hitting .228.
- His lowest slugging percentage was .410 in 2008. This season, it is .369.
- His OPS is .646. He never before had an OPS below .700.
Is that evidence sufficient for someone to conclude that Cano is not the same hitter he was in previous seasons? Not yet.
Cano could be unlucky.
His xBA (Expected Batting Average) for 2019 is .268, 40 points higher than his actual batting average; however, that is under his prior season low of .271 in 2008.
In addition, this season, his BABIP is .270 (43 for 159). Fewer batted balls are resulting in hits. Only twice before (2008 and 2017) in his 15 seasons playing in the majors did he have a BABIP below .300.
Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is a statistic which measures how often non-home run batted balls (often called ‘balls in play’) fall for hits.FanGraphs
“A ball is ‘in play” when the plate appearance ends in something other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt, or home run,” according to FanGraphs.
The 2019 League average BABIP is .296, so Cano’s is 26 points or about 10 percent less than it.
Is he just having back luck this year? No. Cano is having trouble at the plate with balls he is not putting into play.
- His K/PA ratio of .195 is the highest in his career. For his career, it is .126. Plus, his K% is 19.2%, the highest one in the last five seasons.
- His HR/PA ratio of .018 is the lowest of his career, and this is in a season when so many homers are being that the reason why is under investigation. For his career, it is .035.
- His BB/K ratio of .302 is his lowest since 2005. For his career, it is .522.
Is he still making solid contact? “The harder a ball is hit, the more likely it is to fall in for a hit,” according to FanGraphs. When Cano is hitting the ball, his average Exit Velocity of 90.6 mph is close to his average of of 90.8 mph from 2015 to today; however, his Hard Hit % is on the decline even though.
A hard-hit ball is one hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph. This season he has hard hit 72 balls, ranking him 114th in MLB.
He is having the most trouble hitting off-speed pitches hard.
Other significant changes are these: (1) His GB% is the highest it has been since 2015, and (2) his average Launch Angle is the lowest it has been since 2015.
Further, since 2018 he is getting much less loft on breaking pitches, and since 2016, the loft he is getting on fastballs has shown a steady decline.
Given that his exit velocity has not slowed, could his launch angle drop be intentional?
In 2019, 52.1% of his batted balls were ground balls. His batting average on ground balls is .165 (14 for 85) where the League average is .240 or 75 points higher. In comparison, his batting average on fly balls is .222 — the League average is .302, and on line drives it is .574 where the League’s is .630.
The table below presents Cano’s batting average by launch angle.
|20° to 30°||.381|
|10° to 20°||.692|
|0° to 10°||.444|
When he is either swinging down or with an attack angle above 30°, Cano is barely hitting .100 at best. Therefore, if he reduces the number of times he swings downward and tries to keep his launch angle within the 0° to 30° range, he should see improvement in his batting average. However, until his batting average starts rising it could help him, pressure-wise, if he bats lower in the order.