Both Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner had the best years of their respective careers in 2010. Gardner posted a .358 wOBA and Cano posted a .389 mark. For Gardner, it was a 21 point increase over 2009 and for Cano, it was a 12 point increase over his previous career high wOBA (.377 in 2006). I’ve said it before many times and even after this, I’m sure I’ll say it again: it’s at least a little likely that neither player hits that well again in his career.
When more carefully considering the two, though, I’m not sure if I want to stick to my original thought. While those are high marks indeed, both players are on the right side of 30. Cano, despite his recent success, still has some upside left. Gardner, who has a track record of adjusting then excelling, has more-than-good-enough on-base skills to keep him above water for (at least) a little while.
Gardner’s low power output may not bode well for continued on-base success but he’s shown, for at least one extended period of time, that he can get on base at a high rate despite low (no) power. Cano’s troubles with walks are still there, despite a walk rate inflated by intentional walks. But, his power is absolutely fantastic (even better considering his position) and he makes good contact (and hits it hard when he does; .180 career IsoP, .322 BABIP).
Let’s get at least vaguely scientific here and look at their projections:
Bill James: .349
The CAIRO is low because it doesn’t take SB/CS into account, and that helps Gardner out a lot. The biggest drop we see here is the Marcel’s one, a 17 point drop to a still respectable .341. Throw in Gardner’s great defense and there’s great value there. I’m comfortable saying that, given those projections, Gardner could hit his .358 wOBA from 2010. Like I’ve always said, I’m not sure if it’s likely, but it’s well within the realm of possibility.
Bill James: .371
We see a smaller range here (three systems in the .370s), though Marcel sees a possible large drop off in production from Robbie (a .354 wOBA is still fine, of course).
I’ve called 2010 a career year for both players, and chances are you have too. Hell, there’s no way around it; that statement is true. Neither Cano nor Gardner ever had a season as good as he did in 2010 any other time. Now, of course, the pressing matter is whether or not they can do it again going forward. As baseball fans, we always have to have our doubts. On more fingers than we have, we’ve counted so many players who showed so much incredible promise only to flop; so many players who wowed us one year then made us shrug the next; so many players who’ve shown us the light only to flip the switch right off, even if unintentionally.
But there’s the beauty of baseball, right? There’s the grasp the game has over us. Baseball, more than any other sport in the United States, is a sport of anticipation. We hang while the pitch is in the air. We hang when the ball leaves the bat. We hang on every word. We hang on every breath. We hang on everything when it comes to this beautiful game. And, so, we’ll wait with hope to see if Cano and Gardner can come close to their career years, if they can repeat them, or if they can beat them. Lucky for us, the wait won’t be much longer.
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