Thursday, September 24, 2015

How Much Should We Miss Robinson Cano?

On SportsCenter Thursday morning, this graphic popped up during the Mariners highlight:

Two thousand hits for Robbie -- pretty impressive. He's the only second baseman to reach that mark in his first 11 seasons. The milestone prompted me to think a few Cano-related thoughts:

1. He's got a great shot at 3,000.
Although he didn't get quite the same head start as someone like Bryce Harper, Cano was just 22 years old when he reached the majors, and he produced right away. Including that rookie year, he's recorded at least 155 hits every season. His strikeout rate has increased this year, a bad sign for his chances of following in Bernie Mac's footsteps. However, he has hit .326/.391/.547 since the All-Star break, numbers that surpass even his impressive career marks.

In June, Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs noted that Cano had fallen into a few bad habits at the plate, making him less likely to hit long line drives and fly balls. However, since that article was posted, Cano's hard-hit percentage has spiked. Sure, that's just a couple months of data, but the disappointing Mariners are surely hoping that the 32-year-old second baseman can carry his old form into next season.

Cano's prime years are behind him, but as long as his decline is a little less steep than Seattle's Capitol Hill, he's got a good shot at 3,000. His Mariners contract lasts eight more years; he'd have to average about 125 hits per season to hit the magic number. Even if his swing isn't quite as picturesque as it was during his time in New York, it's still capable of cranking out 150-plus-hit seasons for a few more years. And speaking of that swing...

2. God, I miss that swing.
For his 2,000th knock, Robbie lashed an opposite-field single through the 5.5 hole (Trademark: Tony Gwynn). It was just another reminder of something I tweeted right as Cano began his mid-season hot streak.
#Analysis, huh? For more enlightened thoughts, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

3. I'm still glad Yanks didn't fork over 240 million.
It's been well-documented that the Bronx Bombers have a problem at second base this season, as Yankees Twitter has treated Stephen Drew like the unholy spawn of Pat Kelly and post-yip Chuck Knoblauch.

Despite the Yanks' current problems at second, I'm still happy the Mariners are footing the bill for all the terrific seasons Cano had in New York. Even though the idea that second basemen decline faster than other position players doesn't quite hold up to scrutiny, the M's will pay for at least a couple sub-par Cano seasons at the back end of that contract.

In addressing the Matt Harvey situation the other day, Joe Posnanski laid out the problem with baseball's salary structure nicely:

Here, in very, very general terms, is how baseball pitchers’ careers go: They generally peak at about age 27, stay pretty close to their peak for three or four years, start to decline, slowly at first, and then they begin a steady and sometimes precipitous fall. This means that a pitcher’s prime years will generally be between ages 26 and 30. This is also true for everyday players.

So here’s what happens:

— Young baseball players are some of the most underpaid people in American professional sports.
— Old baseball players are some of the most overpaid people in American professional sports.

By the time Cano hits his late thirties and begins to approach 3,000 hits, he'll be one of the most overpaid athletes in the world. New York fans can hope that by then, Rob Refsnyder or another homegrown talent has established himself at the keystone for the Yankees. Until that happens, I'm content to watch Cano's sweet swing from 3,000 miles away.

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Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet

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