Robinson Cano’s career has been a battle of improvement. And, for the most part, it has been extremely positive. After nearly winning the batting title in 2006, and hitting .306 in 2007, things looked pretty good for Cano. But, once he hit .271 in 2008, the Yankees needed an answer.

The answer was Cano’s aggressiveness. In 2008, he had just 26 walks, the 12th lowest in the Major Leagues among qualifying batters. He swung at 52% of the pitches he saw, well above the league average of 46%.

By 2010, where Cano looks to be in line for a possible Most Valuable Player award, it seems as though the Yankees have worked out his issues. His 49 walks are by far a career high, and there are still many games to be played.

What most people, including the hitting coach, will tell you is that Cano is swinging at less pitches outside the strikezone and that he is much more selective. Altough that would make plenty of sense, it is not the case.

So far in 2010, 35.2% of the swings Cano takes are at pitches outside the strikezone. That is, in fact, the highest of his career, and still well above the league average.

Maybe he is swinging less in general? No. He swings at 52% of the pitches he sees, the same as last year, and just .2% lower than his career average.

Maybe he has become a better hitter, and is making contact with more pitches? Also no. He makes contact with pitches outside the strikezone 75.5% of the time, lower than last season. In general, he makes contact with 87.1% of the pitches he swings at, his lowest percentage since 2007.

So what is it? Why has he walked so many times?

Well, first off, there is the obvious answer. 12 of his 49 walks are intentional. His previous high was five intentional walks in 2007.

But if you remove those 12 intentional walks, he is still well above his normal pace. Why is that?

Quite simply, Cano has learned to hit off-speed pitches. If you look at his wSL/C and wCB/C values (stats that measure your success against certain pitches—in this case sliders and curveballs—per 100 pitches) Cano has had nearly 400% the success he had last year against sliders, and 50% against curveballs.

Over 22% of the pitches Cano has seen in his career have been either sliders or curveballs, so the new-found success that he is having makes a very large difference.

Cano’s abnormal walk values can be attributed to two things: more intentional walks, and more success against sliders and curveballs. Cano is actually more aggressive than he has been in the past, contrary to what most people believe.

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