January 2, 2010

Lineup question: Should Cano bat fifth?

News flash: Robinson Cano had arguably his best season yet in 2009. He set personal bests in most statistical categories and posted his best all-around percentages in a full season.

Most lineup projections, including my own, see Curtis Granderson as the guy to protect Alex Rodriguez in the fifth spot. However, Cano’s numbers make a strong case to overtake Granderson’s spot. Let’s compare their last three seasons on average.

Cano 617 185 41 19 85 4 32 71 .300 .337 .476
Granderson 587 165 32 21 69 15 63 142 .281 .351 .495

Strikeouts: An important difference between the two is the strikeout totals. That’s right, Cano halves Granderson in this category. Putting the ball in play after the top four is a key chance for an RBI, and striking out kills rallies. This is a huge advantage for Cano, which I believe outweighs the differential in walks.

Who’s more clutch: Last year, Yankees fans saw Cano fail brutally in clutch situations. However, if you are going by BA with RISP and two outs, Granderson’s .187 average is actually lower than Cano’s (.204). I’d ignore those numbers anyway for such a low sample size. If you go by the stat I like to compare players’ “clutchness” with, Cano wins by a landslide. In late & close situations in their career (via B-R), Cano is hitting .300 oppose to .263 for Granderson.

Against lefties: Granderson’s spot in the lineup against lefties is questionable already, but it’s almost certain he will not be higher than Cano. I’ll take Cano’s .300 career BA over Granderson’s .210 BA any day of the week against southpaws.

Final thoughts: Taking all that into account, I’d love to see the 27-year-old Cano move up a couple spots in the order in 2010. He has quietly started what could be a Hall of Fame career with the Yankees, yet he’s been hitting seventh the majority of his career. It’s not right for Granderson to hit higher in this loaded lineup with near-equivalent numbers than Cano. Granderson has to prove he can shine in the Bronx first.

I’ll leave it up to a poll:

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