Why so big, you may inquire? Consider this: The Yankees are in the process of their worst offensive season in more than a generation.
Through games of Saturday, Sept. 7, the Yankees had an OPS-plus (on-base plus slugging percentage, adjusted for park factors, with 100 being average) of 89. The last time the Yankees were below the 100 mark was when they posted a 94 in 1991. The last time they were worse than this season was an 86 in 1990.
Considering New York was 20 games under .500 and finished fifth in 1991 and was dead last in the American League East in 1990, it's fairly remarkable the Yankees have stayed in contention in 2013.
Yet there they were, 2.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot in the AL going into Sunday's games.
Cano is one of just two regulars on the Yankees with an OPS-plus better than 100. At 142, Cano is seventh in the American League. Actually, Cano's name is all over the AL leaderboard. Cano is third in wins above replacement; fourth in times on base; fifth in runs created; sixth in batting average, on-base percentage and RBIs; seventh in slugging, OPS and total bases; and eighth in hits.
Because he's been such a standout, though, Cano is also third in the league with 16 intentional walks. Only David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox (21) and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers (17) have more.
So if the Yankees are going to sneak into the postseason for the 18th time in the last 19 seasons, it will be because Cano put the team on his back and carried them there.
But it's not just for the Yankees' cause that September is important for Cano. The five-time All-Star will be a free agent at season's end and being able to point to being the straw that stirred the Yankee drink in 2013 can only help add to his value.
It's likely that teams may be a bit wary about throwing a lot of years and a lot of money at Cano, who will be 31 before free agency begins. The Los Angeles Angels threw a lot of years and large stacks of cash at Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, a pair of stars on the wrong side of 30, and their return on investment has been limited -- to look at it from the most optimistic point of view possible.
So that might limit the market for Cano.
However, Cano has something going for him that neither Pujols -- at one time in the conversation as "greatest right-handed batter ever" -- nor Hamilton can boast. Cano is a middle infielder and middle infielders with power are a valuable commodity, much more so than outfielders or first basemen.
The Bronx Bombers are so old and injury-riddled that many thought this season could wind up with the club in or near the basement in the AL East and that a .500 record might be as good as it gets.
Interestingly, through Saturday's games, the team's expected record based on runs scored and runs allowed was 71-71. So at 75-67, the Yankees have overachieved to a certain degree. They've been outscored 591-588 this season and are in fourth place, but are nine games clear of the Toronto Blue Jays, so outside of a complete implosion to end the season, a last-place finish is extremely unlikely.
It's impossible to overstate how important Cano has been to the Bombers.
With Cano, the Yankees have hit .248 and slugged .380 with 125 home runs. Take Cano away from those team totals and the numbers fall to a .240 batting average, a .363 slugging percentage and 99 homers. It's not hard to make a case for Cano as Most Valuable Player in the American League, but he's not going to win it -- Cabrera likely already has that award locked up.
But for reasons both personal and team-related, Robinson Cano is the New York Yankee who has to have the biggest September of them all.
Phil Watson is a freelance commentator and journalist who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also editor of brewers101.com and holds an editorial position at HoopsHabit.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- Robinson Cano
- New York Yankees