Robbie Cano And His Plate Discipline, Or Lack Thereof

Right from the start, people said Robinson Cano was going to be a great ballplayer.  He had a flawless swing, a good glove, a great arm, and decent enough speed.  It was just going to be how hard he worked and how much he developed the fine points of his game.  In regards to the former, his work ethic has come to question in the past due to his effortless ways that are sometimes perceived as lackadaisical, but he has put those to rest in the last couple of years.  And to the latter, the one part of his game that has needed the most work is his plate discipline.

(Antonelli/News)

Last year, Cano threw his name into the best hitter in the MLB discussion with a break out year.  He hit .319, which wasn’t too off from what he has done in the past, but his on-base percentage went up to .381, almost a thirty point increase from the year before.  This could be because his BB% went up from 4.5% in 2009 to 8.2% and he walked 27 more times overall.  He was being more selective at the plate, something that did not come naturally to him, but was helping him see better pitches and wearing down the opposing pitcher.

Robbie, this is the face I make when you swing at all those bad pitches. (SI Kids)

To say that Robbie’s discipline has regressed in 2011 would be a pretty big understatement.  He is hitting .285/.325/.522 while sporting a BB% of 4.1% and a K% of 17.2% (his K% in 2010 was only 12.3%).  So not only is he swinging at too many pitches not allowing him the opportunity to draw walks, but it also is forcing him to swing at more balls out of the strike zone which is dramatically increasing his strikeout rate.  This is proven by the fact that he is swinging at 5.4% more pitches than he did last season, including 5.2% more pitches that are out of the strike zone.

According to Jack Curry, hitting instructor Kevin Long apparently had a ‘heart-to-heart’ with Cano about his lack of discipline, and how he’s seeing only 3.22 pitches per at-bat, which is good for 98th worst in the American League.  Even in last night’s game, on the game-winning hit he had, he swung at the first pitch that Mike Gonzalez threw on the night.  In a post-game interview with YES’ Kim Jones, he said he was going to keep swinging and doing his thing.  While I feel a hitter should do what is comfortable for them, he’s gotta do something a little differently.

Despite the fact that Cano isn’t taking too many pitches, he’s still having a decent offensive season (.370 wOBA).  I think that he will start to pick things up soon, but he needs to find a happy medium between swinging and swinging at everything or he is going to start having trouble.

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