After a rough start to his 2015, Robinson Cano heated up in the second half of the season to put up a 157 wRC+. That has changed very little in 2016 -- Cano has put up a 151 wRC+ to start this year. What Cano is including now much more is power.
Cano's .271 ISO would be the highest of his career should the season end now. Of course, Cano has had similar stretches in his career, so that's nearly a pointless fact. The point is that Cano is hitting for a lot of power.
With the struggles of a high profile player came a fair amount of coverage and analysis. Matt Jackson wrote about him here. Jeff Sullivan covered him here, and Dan Farnsworth covered him here. The story is generally the same -- something was wrong. There was injury; there was illness; there were mechanical issues; there was a new hitting coach (Edgar Martinez).
Jeff and Dan's articles kind of go together. One month apart, Jeff pointed out that Cano was hitting a ton of grounders but retained his ball-striking skills, and Dan analyzed Cano's mechanics to note that Cano lacked lift in his swing that he had prior to his contract with the Mariners. Dan's process analysis would reasonably lead to the results pointed out in Jeff's article.
Checking in on the process and the results, it looks like everything is working out well for Cano. Cano's current ground ball rate is at 42.4 percent, which would be the lowest of his career. His fly ball rate is sitting at 39.1 percent, which would be a career high by far.
There are a couple things helping out here. First, Cano appears to be laying off outside pitches in general.
Cano's 2015 swing rates:
Cano's 2016 swing rates:
Laying off outside pitches is probably one reason Cano is hitting more fly balls. No more rolling over outside pitches to produce weak grounders... or at least less of it.
The other change appears to be a continuation of adding more lift to his swing. The screenshot below shows Cano's finish after hitting a home run on April 14th of last year.
The next screenshot is of a home run hit on May 7th of this year.
Somehow Cano has managed to add more lift without striking out more. It's paying huge dividends with the aforementioned increased fly ball rate, but Cano is also running a cool 20.3 percent HR/FB rate.
As mentioned in Jeff's article, it's really difficult to say why all these things happened. There were injuries and illness and a new hitting coach, as mentioned before. There was the move from the Yankees to the Mariners, a lefty's paradise to a stadium that suppresses production on fly balls. I'd add another thing to the list -- maybe Cano consciously decided to limit his fly ball contact in order to avoid hitting cans of corn everywhere. That may not be true. It's at least reasonable.
Whatever was behind last season's approach, after it failed him for an extended period of time, Cano looks like he is working to get back to where he was with the Yankees based on Dan's mechanics analysis. Seems pretty good to me.
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