It all started so perfectly for Robinson Cano. Robbie, as every reader of this site is well aware, is a free-agent this year. After the performance he's put on pretty much since 2009 Cano is well positioned to be the next MLB Superstar to receive a massive contract, something north of $150 million. Through the end of April that large contract seemed guaranteed. Robbie managed a .413 wOBA and 161 wRC+ in the first month of the season. That kind of performance, over the course of the full 162 games, is how a player like Cano gets paid big money. But then something funny happened on the way to the nine figure payday. Robbie hit a wall. In May his wOBA was just .337 and so far in June it has been .242. That's outright bad. Cano is currently hitting .272/.339/.500. Those are fine numbers, great for a second baseman, but they're below Cano's career averages and well below the production he's put up recently. If he keeps up this pace over the course of a full season he'll put the Yankees in a difficult position because it would be strong evidence of decline just when he's a free-agent. What's driving the recent decline?
Cano appears to be suffering from a mix of poor plate discipline (pretty much the biggest, perhaps only flaw in his game) and bad luck. Most of his rate stats have been consistent all season. For example, his rates of hitting ground balls, line drives and fly balls all have remained steady in 2013. Instead, Cano's strike out rate has gone from 14.7% in April, to 16.8% in May to 19.4% in June. In parallel, his BABIB has fallen from .337 in April to .256 in May to .150 in June. The numbers suggest Robbie is making his usual contact with less to show for it, and swinging at bad pitches - perhaps in frustration - in the process.
The rapid decline in his numbers is the bad news. The good news is that this kind of dip should be temporary. Cano's career BABIP is .320. This season it's .281. That BABIP should normalize as the season progresses. Robbie has never been a picky hitter, but it also makes sense to believe the strikeouts will drop as the season goes on as well. His career strikeout rate is 12%. Finally, Cano is a second half player. Robbie is a career .353 wOBA hitter in the first half of the season and a .381 wOBA career hitter in the second half of the season. Taken in aggregate, Robbie is in a bad slump, but not one that should last. However, to the extent it has dinged his performance a bit, it may be a slump that saves the Yankees a few million.