How Good is the Yankees' Robinson Cano?

| by Hardball Times

Robinson Cano doesn't have a reverse platoon split, except for his home run numbers. Out of the 16 home runs Cano has hit this season, 10 have been against left-handed pitchers after his 26 home runs during 2009 in which 10 came off lefties. Only Albert Pujols has hit more home runs against left-handed pitchers for this season and the past two combined. As I said before, Cano doesn't have a reverse platoon split. His career wOBA against right-handers is at .358 and against left-handers, it is a close .351. So he almost doesn't have a platoon split at all. Except for those home runs.

His home run to flyball ratio has jumped from 17.9% last season against lefties to 26.7% this season with his ground ball to fly ball ratio droping .5 points. Cano looks like he just has a little hot streak going against southpaw pitchers after a getting a higher amount of fly balls than he normally does. One would expect him to regress in that department and thus the number of home runs against left-handed pitchers drop. However, his wOBA this season is above .400 which would be a career high along with his walk rate. So Cano may just be having his best year so far and is becoming the hitter he has been developing into for the past several years.

But I'm still curious. Is Cano really a special left-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers being able to hit a home run in the location where the expected home run rate is low? To find out, I did a local regression using the pitch f/x data and found the home run rate of the plate location for all pitches recorded starting in 2008 from left-handed pitchers to left-handed hitters. Then I plotted the location of Robinson Cano's home runs of the same split.


Reading this excellent article from Dave Allen, the home run rate substantially decreases on pitches low and away. More so for the LHH/LHP platoon which is what I am looking at here (of course my graph isn't as neat as Allen's).

Looking at Cano's home run's, 20 out of the 25 he hit since 2008 have occured where the home run rate is above 1%. Nothing special here.

Data from Baseball Musings, Fan Graphs and MLBAM

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