With a Game 5 victory over the Orioles, the Yankees are moving on to the American League Championship series against the Tigers. So, everything’s good, right?
Not so fast.
Sure, they’re moving on, that’s great in its own right. What isn’t great, however, is the fact that superstar slugger in Robinson Cano has hit a wall offensively. I know you’re thinking that the same thing could be said for about half of the Yankees’s lineup, and that’s a fair statement, but Cano’s struggles come across as glaring concern seeing as how he’s the centerpiece in New York’s starting lineup.
He’s the force that makes New York’s offense go. In 2009, it was Alex Rodriguez who took New York’s offense to a new level with 18 RBIs and six home runs, resulting in a World Series win. In 2010, it was Curtis Granderson and Cano himself who led the Yankees to the championship series. But now, it’s Cano whose expected to be that “guy.” Thus far, however, he hasn’t veered the Yankees’ offense onto the right course. In result, they barely squeaked out a spot in the ALCS. Therefore, he hasn’t been that guy.
However, Cano’s slump has come at a bizarre time. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’re talking about the same Cano that had a .615 batting average with three home runs and 14 RBIs over his final nine games of the regular season. That Cano is the Cano that the baseball world has become accustomed to over the past couple years. What isn’t Cano-like is the .091 batting average he posted during the ALDS.
The Yankees Aren’t An Elite Offense Without Him Producing
Since 2009, the Yankees have scored the most runs in baseball. They have been the standard for assembling a powerful offense, hitting the most home runs during that span as well. Quite frankly, it’s hard to see them not being labeled as an elite offense. They’re the Bronx Bombers. They clearly aren’t the big bad Yankees anymore, but they are still lethal. But they aren’t elite without Robinson Cano being Robinson Cano.
Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Jeter are all starting to become Cano’s sidekicks in a sense. Cano’s younger, one of the game’s bright stars, and still has time to develop. Jeter and Rodriguez are, well, headed in a different direction. Their bodies are starting to crumble thanks to more than a decade of wear and tear. Jeter is currently dealing with an injured foot, while Rodriguez has seemingly lost his offensive effectiveness.
Jeter had great series despite a foot injury that limited his mobility. Teixeira found some success as well, while Rodriguez was nothing but a spectator from the bench in the series’ most important game. However, they scored just 16 runs in five games despite having some players step up (Raul Ibanez and Teixeira).
Cano wasn’t a factor. He went 0-for-6 in game four, and finished the series by striking out twice en route to another hitless day. Granted, he had a few good drives that were lined into gloves, but he didn’t look right against an Orioles’ pitching staff that he usually feasts on.
To be specific, the left-handed slugger is 8-for-23 off Jason Hammel, 7-for-22 off Jim Johnson, and 9-for-27 off Brain Matusz. That is own-age.
However, those past results didn’t translate into production during the ALDS, and the entire Yankees’ lineup suffered in result. Heck, the last time that the Yankees were held to three runs or less in four straight games during the postseason was, well, never.
Limited Time and Bad Match Up To Strike Back
It’s not like Cano has an entire season to pave out his flaws, either. In fact, if you wanted to go by the worst-case scenario, he could technically have just four games to resurrect his postseason.
Although, there’s little evidence to believe that his funk will continue for much longer. His pure left-handed swing truly permits him from falling into prolonged slumps which is why he’s been one of the most consistent players in baseball over the past couple years.
But not every slump has a set duration, and rest be assured, the Tigers aren’t looking to make Cano’s life any easier. And numbers wise, they have an edge. Against Detroit’s pitching staff, he owns just a .222/.266/.359 triple slash. Yes, that’s not a great start, but Cano struggled against an Orioles’ staff that he typically loves to face. So, maybe we will witness a case of reverse psychology.
But with the Yankees’ starting pitching a bit wobbly outside of CC Sabathia, Cano will have to lead an offensive attack against a strong Detroit rotation.