Thursday, April 25, 2013
The unstoppable Robinson Cano
By Andrew Marchand
His view is better than the Legends Seats or the Delta Sky Club or anywhere else in the billion-dollar stadium. There is no one who is not actually playing or umpiring who has a closer look at Robinson Cano at the plate than when Vernon Wells is serving as Cano's lineup protection.
What Wells sees from the on-deck circle is a player so locked in, it is impossible to get him out sometimes.
Robinson Cano is putting up monster numbers, even without his usual protection in the lineup.
"For me, there are some at-bats where he is not going to make an out," Wells said. "It doesn't matter what the pitcher throws or who is on the mound. Sometimes you just have a feeling that he [is] fouling off some nasty pitches and if he gets a pitch to hit, he is not going to miss it. Those kind of guys you pay to watch every night."
Jays lefty Mark Buehrle would probably pay to not watch. Cano continues to treat Buehrle like they should playing in different leagues. Cano is now 8-for-20 (.400) off Buehrle after rocketing a go-ahead, three-run shot in the third inning.
Right about now, Cano is making himself an early MVP candidate because he is hitting this way against everyone. In his past 15 games, Cano is batting .391 with all seven of his home runs and 17 RBIs coming in that span.
The Yankees (12-9) are 21 games in. It took Cano until Game 46 to hit home run No. 7 in 2012. He finished with a career-high 33.
Cano's OPS so far is 1.004. It feels like he is hotter than ever this April.
"I'd probably have to say yes," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I was trying to think about some of the Aprils that he has had and I'm trying to think that a couple of years ago he had a pretty good April, too. But this has probably been as good as he has started."
Cano is so good, it just feels like this start is better than most. In reality, he is just shooting par for his career.
In his career, entering Thursday, Cano was a .298 hitter with an .835 OPS in the first first month. In Girardi's first year as manager, Cano had a bad April with just a .446 OPS. In 2012, Cano wasn't particularly good, hitting just one homer to go along with a .712 OPS.
But in 2009, he had a .981 OPS in April. In 2010, it was 1.201. And in 2011, he picked up a .979 OPS.
This year feels more special because there is no in-his-prime Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira or even Curtis Granderson to offer protection. Instead, it is Wells, who homered again Thursday and is off to a fast start, but he remains a fading, former star.
"There are not too many guys who can protect Robbie," Wells said.
Nope, there are not. Not these days, when you have to wonder if teams will start to pitch around Cano. Until that happens, Wells, like everyone else, will just marvel at Cano's hitting prowess.