The Cano Decade

Hey, Tony Blengino here. You might remember me from such Mariner classics as “MMIX – Negative Run Differential Theater” , or “2010 – A Spaced Odyssey”. For some years, I was a scout with the Brewers, and in more recent years I was an assistant to the GM with the Mariners. While I’m between baseball adventures, I’ve been given the privilege of writing on the storied pages of FanGraphs. I know the bar is high here, and I’ll do my best to reach it.

Alas, I am no longer a Mariner, but I was one long enough to help assemble a crew of talented, relatively inexpensive youngsters that made the Robinson Cano Era possible. This article will not attempt to say whether a 10-year, $240M commitment to Cano is a sign of the apocalypse, the gateway to a golden era in Mariner baseball, or something in between. There will be plenty of other articles for that. In this one, I will simply take a look at the player’s potential aging curve, from a couple of different perspectives — one historical, one more qualitative. Let’s get this out of the way from the get-go — Robinson Cano is pretty good. Clearly the best bat on the free agent market, and certainly a sturdier asset than Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton were at the time they entered the free-agent market. He has been remarkably consistent, and remarkably healthy throughout his career. He provides offense at a position where it is not plentiful. But where does Robby Cano fit in with other offensive 2Bs in baseball history, and how did they age? Let’s take a look.

The first six columns list the players’ number of cumulative standard deviations above the average of league regulars’ OBP and SLG through age 30, through their first nine years as a regular, and for their respective careers. The next three columns list the players’ OPS+ through age 30, through their first nine years as a regular, and for their careers. The next column lists the age at which each player had their last “good” season, and the last column lists their three-year peak.

LAST FIRST + OBP 30 + SLG 30 + OBP 9Y + SLG 9Y + OBP CR + SLG CR OPS+ 30 OPS+ 9Y OPS+ CR LAST GD PEAK 3
Hornsby Rogers 25.22 29.18 21.02 24.48 35.10 38.60 177 179 175 35 27-29
Lajoie Nap 8.85 12.15 17.61 21.51 19.01 23.57 166 167 150 38 27-29
Collins Eddie 19.38 12.70 17.94 12.30 32.90 15.08 154 158 142 39 26-28
Morgan Joe 13.36 2.71 13.36 2.71 29.08 6.63 132 132 132 39 30-32
Carew Rod 11.07 4.89 13.19 6.43 29.82 7.10 132 132 131 37 29-31
Robinson Jackie 3.38 2.22 14.47 6.43 15.76 6.18 127 134 131 37 31-33
Doyle Larry 7.26 10.74 7.08 10.68 9.33 12.36 128 130 126 32 23-25
Utley Chase 5.95 6.34 9.13 7.54 130 126 126 26-28
Grich Bobby 7.83 3.00 10.26 5.49 15.39 6.52 125 127 125 35 30-32
Cano Robinson 4.34 9.54 4.34 9.54 125 125 125 28-30
Gehringer Charlie 3.19 3.89 5.24 4.90 14.69 8.53 119 123 124 37 32-34
Kent Jeff -2.37 2.88 0.06 5.62 2.83 10.63 112 122 123 39 30-32
Lazzeri Tony 4.17 5.90 4.17 5.90 3.99 5.23 127 127 121 29 23-25
Gordon Joe 1.00 5.26 0.28 7.65 -0.83 7.65 125 124 120 33 26-28
Whitaker Lou 5.77 -1.39 5.72 -1.25 13.24 3.33 108 109 117 37 34-36
Alomar Roberto 8.19 2.53 7.04 2.00 12.31 4.38 117 118 116 33 31-33
Sandberg Ryne 1.99 6.86 1.99 6.86 2.93 9.26 115 115 114 32 30-32
Biggio Craig 7.63 -0.16 9.32 0.69 8.93 -1.03 120 123 112 35 27-29
Frisch Frankie 5.03 4.73 4.46 4.40 7.33 2.10 116 116 110 34 23-25
McAuliffe Dick 6.10 2.75 6.10 2.75 5.76 1.85 113 113 109 33 25-27

Before we do any meaningful analysis, let’s agree to largely ignore Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie and Eddie Collins. Robinson Cano’s a really good offensive player, but he’s not those guys. On the other end, let’s agree to ignore Dick McAuliffe. He was a nice, underrated player who even played SS for a few years in the offense-starved ’60’s. Cano is better than McAuliffe. It’s in the midst of these two extremes that we can learn a lot about the potential future of Robinson Cano.

It should be noted that the numbers in the first six columns are not adjusted for home park. This means that Cano’s + SLG numbers are likely be a bit inflated by Yankee Stadium’s cozy RF fence, and that Joe Morgan‘s + SLG numbers are likely deflated by the spacious Astrodome in the early days of his career. No matter — these figures not only give us a good sense of the respective offensive impact of each player, they also separate each player’s skills into OBP and SLG-based subsets which may age differently.

Through age 30/first nine full-time seasons of the players’ careers, we can make the following observations re: Cano’s career vis-a-vis the others:

  1. Cano’s OBP relative to the league is fairly unremarkable in this company, ranking ahead of only Lazzeri/Sandberg/Gordon/Kent among this group.
  2. Cano’s SLG relative to the league ranks quite high in this company, ranking behind only Hornsby/Lajoie/Collins/Doyle among this group.
  3. Cano’s OPS+ ranks smack in the middle of this group.
  4. Cano is peaking right now; if he posts a 2014 stat line resembling 2012 and 2013, his peak period will likely be from ages 29-31. Rod Carew peaked exactly then, and Morgan, Grich, Kent and Sandberg all peaked at ages 30-32. It’s also a fairly high peak for this group, with only Hornsby/Lajoie/Morgan/Carew/Collins/J.Robinson clearly exceeding it.

Let’s take a look at what this group of players went on to accomplish after age 30, starting with a look at the OPS+ columns. As you might expect, most players’ OPS+ declined between age 30 and the end of their career. Jackie Robinson is an obvious exception — he didn’t enter the majors until age 28, for obvious reasons, so his career lacked a growth phase. The other three players whose OPS+ increased in the second half of their career were Gehringer, Kent and Whitaker. Kent became a totally different player in his thirties, while Gehringer and Whitaker had common, OBP-based strengths that led to improvement over the second half of their careers. A handful of other players saw their OPS+ hold steady, Morgan, Carew, Grich to name three. Three more guys with high BB rates and significant OBP leanings in their overall profile.

In fact, after their age-30 season, the 18 players listed above whose careers are over had combined for 137 STD above average OBP and 111 STD above average SLG. After nine seasons as regulars they had combined for 159 STD OBP, 130 STD SLG. At their careers’ end, these players had combined for 258 STD OBP and 168 STD SLG. Only 57 STD SLG added after age 30, only 38 STD SLG added after year nine, for all 18 players combined. And a whole lot of that is Rogers Hornsby, all by himself. The bottom line — for Cano’s present power to last for much longer would be basically unprecedented among great offensive 2Bs.

Let’s look at the player who is likely the most comparable to Cano, Ryne Sandberg. Both players are more SLG than OBP-based. Cano is a better pure hitter, neither walks as much as their peers in this group. Both peaked around the same age. Both had a growth phase to their careers in which they were simply solid regulars while they gained strength and grew into their potential. Both saw their power augmented by a specific region of their home park — friendly Yankee Stadium RF/RCF for Cano, friendly Wrigley LCF for Sandberg. You will notice a preponderance of 32s, 33s, 34s in the “Last Good Year” column — which reads 32 for Sandberg — for all but the elite on this list, plus a few others with OBP-centered skillsets. One should expect Cano to become more of a 20ish homer guy in Seattle than the 30ish homer guy he was in New York, before too long.

Before moving on to another way of looking at Cano’s future, lets’ quickly compare him to Chase Utley, who just completed his ninth year as a regular, but who at 34, is four years older than Cano. At age 30, Utley had a higher career OPS+ and a far superior OBP history compared to Cano, albeit with a bit less power. Utley hasn’t been nearly as healthy nor as consistent as Cano, however, and he had an earlier and lower peak than Cano. Utley’s career OPS+ is 126 at present, and trending down, while Cano’s is 125, and might nudge up a notch or two before beginning its descent. Utley and Cano are likely to be very similar players qualitatively when all is said and done, but Cano will have a clear counting-stats advantage.

And this is one final point to be made in the historical analysis of these players. Take a look at Craig Biggio — 120 OPS+ at age 30, 123 through nine years as a regular. He wound up way down at 112, largely because of his chase for 3000 hits, during which he declined substantially as a hitter. With Cano under wraps for ten years, his milestone chase could become a similar problem down the road.

History says that Cano will ride out the end of his peak period in 2014, begin a solid decline phase with some .300ish, 18-20 HR seasons, than begin a deeper secondary decline phase during which he accumulate hits — and outs. By age 35, there will likely be a severe disconnect between Cano’s salary and his production. At the end of the day, he’ll get his 3000 hits, and his plaque in Cooperstown, but very well might watch his career OPS+ drop below 120 in the process.

Now let’s take a totally different approach to how this might all go down. What differentiates good hitters from not-so-good hitters? Largely, it comes down to their performances in these categories:

  • K rate
  • BB rate
  • Popup rate
  • LD rate
  • Hard Fly rate
  • Hard Ground rate

Very few hitters excel at all of these, but a good hitter has learned to piece together a portfolio of solid performances in more than one of these areas. High-average hitters tend to have low K and popup rates, and solid LD rates. Power hitters obviously have high Hard Fly rates. These skills vary in terms of predictability — LD rate is likely the flukiest, but the best hitters for average, like Robinson Cano, tend to run high LD rates. So how does he measure up in these areas, and what do the trends say?

  • K rate: Over a full standard deviation better than MLB average, trending steady
  • BB rate: For the first time was 1/2 STD better than MLB average in 2013, trending positively
  • Popup rate: 1/2 STD better than league average, trending positively
  • LD rate: Over 1 STD better than league average each of last three seasons, trending steady
  • Hard Fly Rate: In league average range, trending slightly negatively
  • Hard Ground Rate: Over 1 STD better than MLB average, trending steady

This is a picture of a high-average MLB hitter, at or near the peak of his game. His power numbers are pumped up a bit by his home park — other players with his homer totals have much higher Hard Fly rates, but Cano helps himself by staying healthy and on the field, keeping his counting numbers high. Does he have the best batted ball profile in the game — no, he’s not Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Mike Trout, or even David Ortiz, but he’s right there in that next tier. He’s pretty good at just about everything, with no glaring weaknesses.

Every player’s time comes to an end, however. How will it end for Robby Cano? For many players, it ends when the Hard Fly rate collapses, with big numbers of batted balls sliding into the immediately adjacent “Can of Corn” bucket. For speed players, whose BABIP routinely outperforms their batted-ball quality, the slightest decline in their raw speed can have disastrous consequences. K rate can skyrocket for a variety of reasons. Significant LD rate drops can be the final straw. Combinations of more than of these can trigger a decline — Adam Dunn‘s already high K rate exploded, and his once-stratospheric Hard Fly rate fell into a less elite bracket, and here we are. Vernon Wells‘ K rate exploded. Placido Polanco‘s LD rate luck finally ran out. Ichiro went from a thoroughbred to just a fast guy, and the BABIP that had long forged his excellence cratered.

To see what the end holds for Cano, we need to find a player who had a similar skillset, but who has declined substantially since advanced batted-ball data became available. Let’s try Player A, who in 2011 possessed these fundamentals:

  • K rate: Over 1 STD better than MLB average, trending positively
  • BB rate: In league average range, trending steady
  • Popup rate: Over 1 STD better than MLB average, trending steady
  • LD rate: Over 1 STD better than MLB average for fourth straight year, trending steady
  • Hard Fly Rate: In league average range, trending sharply negatively
  • Hard Ground Rate: In league average range, trending negatively

This player, Michael Young, at age 34, had a superb offensive season in 2011, with a .338/.380/.474 line. That’s a line that Cano could conceivably put up at some point in the next few seasons. In 2012, his Hard Fly rate continued its decline, his BB rate fell off, but most vitally, his LD rate precipitously dropped into the league average range, and has remained there since. That single factor turns a Michael Young from a batting title contender into a guy hitting an empty .277. This happened at age 35. Derek Jeter‘s LD rate plunged, and he became a different, non-elite offensive player at age 36.

Robinson Cano has a diverse offensive skillset that should serve him well as he enters his decline phase. But let’s face it, he is about to enter it, and it’s called a decline phase for a reason. Might as well end with some crystal-balling:

  1. Cano has already had his best season.
  2. He will never hit 30 homers again.
  3. He won’t ever hit his career-best .342 again, but he will bat at least .330 one more time in his career, and will have multiple future .300 seasons.
  4. He will hit 50 doubles in a season.
  5. His legendary durability will take a hit, beginning sometime in the next couple of seasons.
  6. By age 34 or 35, Cano will cease to be a star, and will hit for a decent average, with few extras.
  7. He will then hang around to reach milestones and collect his handsome paycheck.
  8. He will reach 3000 hits and someday be deservedly enshrined in Cooperstown, while the equally deserving but comparably counting-stat-poor Chase Utley and Bobby Grich will not.



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66 Responses to “The Cano Decade”

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  1. Eno Sarris says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Welcome Tony. Great debut post!

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  2. I think there’s a reasonable chance that Utley makes it eventually, as Joe Gordon did. Hopefully he won’t have to wait as long as Gordon did.

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    • rogue_actuary says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Unless he starts playing more, I have a hard time believing that Utley will be very close to HOF enshrinement. He did great things for a team when those things weren’t appreciated. He won zero MVPs (and garnered very few MVP votes). He had a nice peak, but he’ll be short on counting stats. To date, he’s at 1,410 hits, 217 HRs, 808 RBI, 129 SB, and his career average is .287.

      I’m a fan, but, sort of like the importance of the $/WAR assumption when assessing contracts, you would have to be building in a lot of increased voter awareness for your model to give Utley a reasonable chance at the Hall.

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      • LTG says:

        His peak is not just “nice”. It is historically very rare. 5 straight 7+ fWAR seasons. No 2Ber since Joe Morgan (5, 8.5+!) has done that. Cano, for example, has had just one 7+ season. You are probably right that, given the current make-up of voters, Utley won’t get elected by the BBWAA. But it is precisely because they will overlook, as I think you do, his stunning peak.

        Of course, if he manages to play 5 more years at 3 WAR and gets to 300 HR and 2000 hits, the misapprehension of his peak shouldn’t matter. (Yeah, I know, it won’t happen. A guy can dream, can’t he?)

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    • Bobby Grich says:

      Hmph!

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      • seattle mariners front office says:

        if you wanted to make the hall of fame you shouldn’t have taken over 1,000 walks in your career. baseball is about hitting the ball. the team that gets the most hits wins. it’s as simple as that.

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  3. Kyle Boddy says:

    An excellent analytical article. Great work.

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  4. Dingbat says:

    Welcome, Tony!

    “Alas, I am no longer a Mariner, but I was one long enough to help assemble a crew of talented, relatively inexpensive youngsters that made the Robinson Cano Era possible.”

    There are so many ways to interpret this sentence, I’m afraid.

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  5. Chris from Bothell says:

    Cool insights. So you’re saying they just bought their next Ichiro, but for the infield instead of the outfield?

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  6. Brian says:

    Imagine being a Seattle front office guy and reading this today.

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  7. Chico Manuel of Style says:

    Just wanted to say, Tony, that I always purchased your Annuals (w/Benson). Never missed ’em. Great to see you here, sir.

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  8. dan w says:

    Representing for Bobby Grich makes me a happy person. One of my all-underrateds. Excellent mustache.

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  9. Lefty says:

    Hard fly ball / hard ground ball – are these Trackman concepts?

    Great first post!

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  10. Lou Johnson says:

    Love the article, very detailed, informative, and fact based opinion. Where I disagree is the myth that Cano’s power is in some way related to the short porch in right field, with the vast expanse of Safeco Field just waiting to take 10 home runs from his stat line.

    Cano only hit 11 HR’s at Yankee Stadium in 2013, 9 of which went to Right or Right Center, and all 9 would have easily cleared the right field fence in any MLB park. Fact is, right/center is 385 at Yankee Stadium and 385 at Safeco Field. Right Field Porch is 314 at Yankee Stadium and 326 at Safeco Field. The 12 foot porch difference will not take 10 home runs from him next year. Safeco Field isn’t the reason for poor offensive stats in Seattle, poor offensive talent over the last 5-10 years is the reason. Good hitters hit anywhere, just ask Edgar, Arod, Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, among many others who hit very well at Safeco Field. Robbie Cano will decline but not playing at Yankee stadium wont be the reason why.

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    • Kyle Boddy says:

      You have to take into account weather differences, especially pressure and sea level.

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      • Lou Johnson says:

        Seriously, weather differences and sea level? Seattle is 10 feet above sea level and New York is 54 feet both with similar air pressure. Cano had 11 HR at Yankee Stadium last year, his stats were NOT inflated because of the ballpark or the short porch. It’s a myth that continues to be perpetuated by the media. From 32-35 years old, Bret Boone hit 120 HR’s playing his home games at Safeco Field as a 5-10 180lb 2B. The difference in park production will be minimal. Great hitters hit anywhere

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        • Eno Sarris says:
          FanGraphs Supporting Member

          Weather is a really big deal http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/relevant-fantasy-weather-data/ and Seattle is the coldest park, on average.

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        • Chris says:

          Mariners fan here.

          I’m pretty sure Boone had some other ‘factors’ aiding his power numbers. I’m not going to go all ESPN and recklessly point fingers at everyone. But….

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        • Kyle Boddy says:

          >Cano had 11 HR at Yankee Stadium last year, his stats were NOT inflated because of the ballpark or the short porch.

          Er, yes they were. His stats were inflated by the ballpark even if he only hit 11 home runs there. There are other factors than pure dingers at play here. (But not necessarily to the Mariners’ FO based on their moves in the last 2-3 years.)

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        • Garry says:

          And Boone was a RHB at Safeco. He was excellent at taking the ball the other way. Interestingly Cano is probably the best in doing that and adjusting to each stadium he goes to.

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    • Skoolboy Jim says:

      Didn’t Brett Boone’s success in Seattle have more to do with being the “poster-boy popeye” of juicers?

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    • RobM says:

      Lou, overall you are correct.

      Cano did hit more HRs on the road than at Yankee Stadium last year, although that was a bit of an aberration. Of his 27 HRs, 11 were hit at YS, 16 on the road. The year prior when he hit 33 HRs, 22 were at home and only 11 on the road. That also was a bit of an aberration, although over the two-year period we see something that might be closer to the truth, with 33 dingers at home, 27 on the road. His power is real.

      What’s being missed in the conversation, and pretty much always is about Yankees Stadium, is while the park increases HRs to right field, it substantially decreases doubles. It also deflates BA to some degree. Cano will lose some HRs, but his doubles will increase by quite a bit, and I suspect his BA will increase some. .330, 25 HRs, 50+ doubles is within his reach for 2014, and in the process he will deliver a higher OPS+ because he was a bit “penalized” by how OPS+ scores Yankees Stadium, even though I don’t think the park overall helped him as much as people think, and he now receive bonus points in the OPS+ scoring system in 2014.

      And, no, I am not a Mariner fan hoping for the best. I just think the understanding of how Yankee Stadium helps certain types of hitters more than others, while in the process is neutral to even negative to other types of hitters is not fully understood. Cano will hit anywhere, although his numbers will look slightly different.

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  11. studes says:

    Not bad for a rookie, Tony.

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  12. ThundaPC says:

    Wonderful article.

    Nice to see you on FanGraphs, Tony Blengino!

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  13. tz says:

    Welcome from a fellow Tony!

    And kudos for giving a plug for Bobby Grich. He seems to have fallen way off the map, despite being an elite player for a long stretch.

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  14. Westside guy says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Wow, glad to see you on FanGraphs, Tony – great article!

    As an aside – early on during your stint with the Mariners, you did a regular “stat of the week” segment on the local off-season Hot Stove League broadcast/podcast. I tuned in just to listen to that – it was easily the best part of those shows.

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  15. Mr. X says:

    Good post! But is Pete Rose not a good comparable to Cano? Through age 30, they each have a 126 wrC+ and Cano has .4 more WAR.

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    • Catoblepas says:

      Cano has a much higher ISO and lower OBP than Rose, and since the point of the article was to examine how he might decline based on those underlying skills, I’d say probably not. They had similar end results of offensive production, but took different routes to get there for sure.

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  16. James Ruggia says:

    I’m a Yankee fan & I’ll miss Cano. He’s a great hitter and pleasure to watch field his position. His swing will keep on delivering for him & is the source of his consistency. I don’t blame the Yankees for letting him go. They already have the worst contract in baseball, a guy you guys know well. I’ll still miss watching Cano play. Good luck I hope he delivers for you. He’s a good guy & who can blame him for leaving when the money is that good.

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  17. pft says:

    In the short term though Cano will produce 35 million while being paid 24 million.

    Also, what is as amazing is he has missed only 14 games in 7 years. Ellsbury missed more games in September.

    As A Red Sox fan I would much rather see Ellsbury at the plate than Cano. Yankees will be lucky to win 81 games unless the blow the 189’ers out of the water.

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  18. GilaMonster says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    I think Jeff Kent is great comparison for Cano. Durable with power, doesn’t strikeout a ton,can walk..etc.

    In that case Cano will be a star until age 34, be a 3 WAR player until late 30s before flaming out, Kent was a better defender though.

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    • Matt says:

      I have not checked the metrics but I always thought Cano was a much better defender than Kent was.

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    • RichW says:

      I’d like to have some of the stuff you’re smoking. Kent is not even close defensively.

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    • John C says:

      No way. Kent was well below average defensively. When he first came to the majors with Toronto, they wanted to play him at third because his range and ability to turn a DP at second were suspect. When the Mets got him, they stuck him at second (the Mets of that time never cared much about defense), and it stuck. But he was never very good.

      Cano is as good defensively as any second baseman who didn’t play on a World Series winner in 2013. This should give him a greater longevity than Kent, who was on his way out as soon as he stopped hitting.

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  19. Mariners2001 says:

    I’m very interested in the Hard Fly and Hard Grounder definitions as well.

    Also, I don’t see how Vernon Wells’ K rate exploded or how Michael Young and Placido Polanco’s LD rates exploded. It seems they’ve maintained the raw rates, so maybe this refers to more detailed information as well. For instance, I notice the wRC+ of their line drives rates have decreased, even though their rates have not.

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  20. The Ancient Mariner says:

    Couple key differences with the Young comp, all in Cano’s favor:

    Cano’s walk rate is improving, Young’s was holding steady

    Cano’s hard fly rate is trending slightly down, Young’s was dropping fast

    Cano’s hard grounder rate is steady, Young’s was declining

    If that means anything at all, it should mean that Cano holds his value longer than Young has.

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    • 68FC says:

      That was also the age 30 season for Cano, and the age 34 season for Young. I do think that Cano will hold up pretty well and will be worth his salary until years 7-10.

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    • John C says:

      I thought that comparison was a red herring, anyway. For the same reason that he threw out guys like Rogers Hornsby as comps for Cano, Young is also a bogus comp. Michael Young at his best is not close to being the player that Robinson Cano is. In fact, Cano is a lot closer to Hornsby than Young is to Cano.

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    • RobM says:

      John C, I wasn’t quite sure about that one either. Throwing out Hornsby but leaving Young? I might have done the opposite if forced to throw one of the equation. Yet, in reality, figuring out how players age goes beyond just selecting age or position. I really don’t have any idea how Cano will age. I suspect he will do well the next few years, but the backend of the deal on the 35+ side could get nasty if he has one of those rapid declines as opposed to a more gentle decline. If someone can figure out with certainty which type of players are likely to fall of a cliff like Roberto Alomar or Jim Rice in their early 30s, while some others perform well for years past that, then they can probably make a lot of money working in MLB.

      The Young comparison doesn’t make much sense. Different style of hitters. As I noted elsewhere, Cano drives his power through his hips. Watch Young and Cano hit and there is no comparison between their styles, and that has to be taken into account.

      Last, Young always had wide home/road splits, helped greatly by his park. If you think that’s Cano, please show the evidence, but you’ll be looking hard and not finding it. What Cano gained from Yankee Stadium, he also lost in other areas. His home/road splits are basically even, with more HRs at Yankee Stadium (both versions) and way more doubles on the road than at home. He can just hit.

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  21. RichW says:

    Seattle must be counting on a 5 year and if lucky a 7 year window for this contract. If they assemble enough surrounding talent to win 2 or 3 WS then the $240M is worth it.This signing and the park in Seattle should have pitchers lining up to sign there in the next few seasons.

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    • Alex says:

      Just 2-3? You don’t think you’re setting your sights a little low there?

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    • John C says:

      Do you know how hard it is to win even ONE World Series, let alone two or three, in a short period of time? The Mariners could add Cano, trade for David Price, and add a few more good players on top of that, and they still might not win the AL West, let alone the pennant or World Series.

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  22. Damn my torpedo says:

    “let’s agree to largely ignore Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie and Eddie Collins. Robinson Cano’s a really good offensive player, but he’s not those guys”

    Sure, because if athletics has shown us anything, it’s that yesterdays athletes are superior to today’s. Fangraphs writers are the most arrogant fucks imaginable. Common sense isn’t wrong, you are.

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    • Colin says:

      I think it’s more based around league average and replacement level being MUCH lower when Hornsby, Lajoie, and Collins played, artificially inflating their numbers with respect to the league… but no, let’s bash a website you took the time to read and post on.

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      • John says:

        It’s akin to removing all spanish and black players from today’s game, delegating Punto an elite player to his peers. It’s beyond retarded.

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    • Joel says:

      I think the better way to say that is, “Without a Bondsian/McGwirean level of erm.. hormone imbalance, it’s harder for great modern athletes to stand out from the crowd like their predecessors did”

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    • I see what you did there. says:

      Damn, Jack, who peed in your cheerios?

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  23. Neil says:

    Biggio missed 70+ games due to the strike during his peak years.

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  24. 40/40club says:

    Cano’s BB rate is only trending up because of his high rate of IBB (which will only continue to increase in the poor Mariners lineup).

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  25. EndlessAdrian says:

    I think Cano can be much better if he stole m ore bags.If you look at all the great second basemen besides Hornsby you see great speed,except Cano.

    Stealing bags can be a little overrated but when you make $25 million like Cano and Votto you better hit a ton of homeruns or massive rbi’s to lead your team.

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  26. Beau says:

    This is great, great stuff, can’t wait to hear more Tony!

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  27. Dave riggs says:

    Why in the hell did the Mariners let this guy go?

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  28. Andrew says:

    Nice article, Tony. Thanks for going on the record for Geoff Baker’s muckraking piece on the front office. I’m sure you’ll take plenty of fire, but fans should know what happens behind closed doors. Incompetent management is bad enough, but dishonesty and workplace abuse are far worse.

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  29. Johnny Ringo says:

    Recognized your name immediately from the article at MLB Trade Rumors. Fantastic writeup.

    Only disagreement is I think Robbie has 1 or 2 30 homer seasons in him, because he can still do damage on the road as well.

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  30. Some_Guy says:

    Just out of curiosity, what is the definition of ‘hard-fly’ rate?

    I re-skimmed the article and the comments and didn’t see a definition.

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  31. Accounting is not Statistics says:

    Some good analysis, some… not so good analysis. I liked the part about hitting profile categories– it would have been nice to see a table of that (KK, BB, PU, LD, HardFB, HardGB). Here’s my issues:

    First and foremost, cumulative standard deviations? That is an extremely dubious and highly unorthodox statistical method. I am at a loss. This is from the former head of the stats dept for the Mariners? I don’t even. What.

    Second, why are we limiting this to only second basemen? What evidence do we have that aging curves differentiate by defensive position better than, say, skill-set or body-type? Why not throw in SS/3B? Why not include outfielders with similar profiles (whether size, or power/speed combo)?

    Third, why *manually* exclude Hornsby, Lajoie and Collins? Historical comparisons to pre-integration/expansion-era players aren’t super useful anyway, just use a date filter. That would likely exclude Gehringer, Lazzeri, Gordon, Frisch also.

    Last, the column widths and font sizes are totally… just kidding.

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