Some regular readers might remember that earlier in the season, I tried to break down Jeter’s early-season impatience by, among other things, assessing his pitchers per plate appearance. In particular, I paid special attention to how many one and two-pitch at-bats he had to that point and correlated his average to a degree to the number as well as the quality of pitches he saw. It is only fair, then, to assess Cano’s recent tear, which has seen his average rise 21 points in the 10 games since the All-Star break, in similar fashion. Most of the numbers are good while some bear continued watching but, on the whole, Cano has had at-bats and, during his recent tear, has hit well regardless of the count.
Since the All-Star break, Cano has hit 19-43 (.442) with 3 HR, 10 RBI, 6 runs, tearing the cover off the ball. Unfortunately, he has only one walk, somewhat excusable since he’s routinely creaming the ball beforehand. Yet it has resulted in his average rising 21 points at the same time that his OBP has only gone up 18 points. That is, while he’s clearly hitting at a much higher rate, he’s drawing walks at an even slower rate than before, when he drew 16 walks in the first 95 games. This concerns me because, while I’d love for Cano to hit .442 the rest of the way, it just won’t happen. He will need to be a bit more patient. In his 44 plate appearances (43 at-bats with one BB) since the break, he’s seen a total of 157 pitches, or 3.57 pitches per appearance. He’s done a very good job of seeing and hitting the ball, of driving hittable pitches and handling some tough pitches. But 17 of those 44 plate appearances, or 38.6%, have been one or two pitches long. While he hit .471 (8-17) in those brief at-bats, that in all likelihood won’t continue either. Pardon the potential convolution, but Cano will eventually need to adjust to the pitchers’ eventual adjustments to his hot hitting. Patience–working counts to not only see more pitches but get good ones to hit–must be part of the approach, sooner or later.
By comparison, Giambi has gone in the opposite direction from Cano in more ways than one. He has been ice cold of late, hitting .200 (4-20) with 1 HR and 4 RBI since the break. Yet his OBP has risen five points (.386 to .391) as a result of drawing nine walks in the eight games in which he’s played, even though his average has dropped from .253 to .249. It shows that players can contribute in many ways even without hitting, and that hot streaks may come and go, but a high OBP has a high team value since it’s a product of patience and results in increased opportunities to score. I’d certainly rather have Cano’s hot hitting for the short term, but for the long term, Giambi’s higher OBP, from his patient approach, will almost surely generate more opportunities for runs. In 44 plate appearances since the break, Cano has been on base 20 times (.455 OBP). In 29 plate appearances since the break, Giambi has been on base 13 times (.448 OBP). Giambi’s hitting has been off and therefore his other team contributions such as RBIs and homers have stagnated, but his on-base percentage–and therefore his own scoring opportunities generated–have been nearly the equivalent of the much hotter-hitting Cano. I’d argue that his one run scored since the break is more a product of teammates not plating him than it is his failure to hit and, with a deeper lineup with the acquisition of Nady and Cano’s hot bat, Giambi’s runs should increase at that rate.