Cano has always relied on a high batting average. Let his 2008 serve as a reminder to those who scoff at the value of walks. Batting averages fluctuate much more from season to season than on-base percentages. Some people — Joe DiMaggio and Ichiro Suzuki for instance — rely on a consistently unusually high batting average to provide upper-tier offense. (Of course, Ichiro isn’t half the player DiMaggio was. Just look at the power, but that’s a story for another day.) Others — Garret Anderson for example — get way too much praise for their ability to hit for a high average. Those players do so at the expense of their patience. And when the hits don’t fall, those players lose almost all their value.
This is why hitting streaks are overrated. Yes, it takes skill to get base hits. But patient hitters don’t usually end up with long streaks. That’s because their walks cut down on their chances to get hits.
What does that have to do with Cano and 2009? He needs to make sure his on-base percentage is more than 50 points higher than his average. Everyone worries about changing a hitter’s approach. “He’s aggressive,” coaches and announcers will say. “We like that.” What teams should like is “productive.” Aggressive is just a euphemism for impatient.
Cano’s average should return to a more respectable level next season. But unless it soars well over .300, he’s not going to be much more than an average hitter. At second base, that’s still worth something, but the Yankees’ aging lineup needs the few youngsters like Cano to step it up.