Because I’m still winding down from having seen “Mishima” at Ebertfest, and because I’ve had this issue rattling around in my skull for a couple days, and because I’ve been delving into stats lately, I figured that I’d tackle something that had come up over at The Sommer Frieze which, if people aren’t reading, they really should. Mike Sommer mentioned that there is hope for Cano this year–though he needs to do a lot of hitting from here on out–to recover from his early but prolonged slump. Mike mentioned Jeter’s own slow and prolonged 2004 swoon, when he was batting .189 by the end of the day May 25th, with having sat one game out of 44 to that point.
I think this is a good comparison for a couple reasons. Jeter went on to bat .292 despite that long slump, and Cano can do that as well with a better approach and lots of hot hitting as his at-bats increase. I’d also argue that their slumps are similar in another respect that bears some watching. While Jeter struggled mightily, I’d argue that he had a somewhat productive slump or, perhaps more accurate, a not entirely unproductive slump. While it seems an oxymoron, the numbers bear it out. When Mike mentioned Jeter’s 2004 struggles, I remembered Jeter compiling hits even as his average dropped or stayed very low. In the first 44 Yankee games of 2004 (through May 25), Jeter batted .189 (36-190), with an OBP of .249–bad for sure. But considering that Jeter had the long 0-32 slide from the second at-bat of April 20 until his first at-bat of April 29 when he homered off Barry Zito, and also had an 0-17 stretch from his second at-bat May 15 to ending it with his first at-bat of May 20, he otherwise wasn’t horrible. If one were to factor out that collective 0-49, he batted 36-141, or .255 and, in the first 44 games, 43 of which he played, Jeter had hits in 26 of them. He had 3 HRs, 16 RBIs, scored 17 runs, drew 12 walks, but fanned 36 times. He usually got at least a hit every other game outside those long slumps.
Cano is more or less doing the same thing, getting a hit every two or three games but otherwise struggling, yet avoiding the kind of long slumps that Jeter had to start 2004. In other words, while he’s been bad at the plate this year, Cano has hovered similarly to Jeter statistically, getting a hit less frequently than Jeter did in 2004 but still in half the games he’s played (12 in 24). He’s a mess at the plate, but due for a warm-up. Like Jeter, he’s hovered low, and has actually struggled more of late, going 5 for his last 42–at just about the same time that Jeter suffered through his 0-32 malaise. Though Cano is 14-90, he’s fanned at a slower pace (11 times in 90 at-bats) than Jeter did in his first 43 games of 2004 (36 in 190 at-bats), and has walked more often (7 in 90 at-bats) than Jeter did then as well (12 in 190 at-bats). Cano’s downfall has been the ground out, while Jeter struck out at an alarming rate during his 2004 slump.
Cano should sit at least once against the three lefties Cleveland will put against the Yankees this series. This might allow him to refine his approach and clear his head of all the garbage he’s done lately, chasing pitches well outside the strike zone and helping pitchers way too often. But there is hope, and some modest statistical comparison I believe supports that possibility.