Arkins: The Mariners Are Better With Robinson Cano

This morning, Jon Morosi of MLB.com made his bi-weekly call into the “Brock and Salk Show” on 710 ESPN Seattle. As usual, Morosi delivered excellent insight regarding the Seattle Mariners, plus he made a surprising revelation.

Morosi relayed that a rival team executive liked the Mariners better now, from a team standpoint, with Dee Gordon at second base rather than the currently suspended Robinson Canó.

What?

The Mariners are better with Robinson Canó.

Certainly, Gordon provides a unique energy to his team and it’s possible he’s a better defender than Canó. But the 35-year-old’s absence from the Mariners’ lineup is significant.

To prove my point, here’s a side-by-side comparison of Seattle’s run production numbers with and without Canó.

Split
G
RS/G
HR
AVG
OBP
SLG
wRC+
With Canó
39
4.7
49
.261
.328
.433
112
Without Canó
40
4.1
45
.256
.315
.406
101

As you can see, the Mariners’ offensive numbers are down across the board since Canó’s injury on May 13. The team is averaging fewer runs scored with drops in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, home runs, and wRC+.

Despite the offensive downturn, the Mariners actually have a better record since Canó went down. The team had a 22-17 win-loss record on May 13 and they’re 26-14 since.

Less runs scored and more wins. How did they do it?

Better pitching.

As we did with the offense, let’s look at the pitching staff prior to Canó’s departure and since.

Split
RA/G
Staff ERA
SP ERA
RP ERA
With Canó
4.6
4.68
4.99
4.19
Without Canó
3.9
3.48
3.38
3.70

Clearly, Mariner pitchers have delivered since Canó went down with the best performance coming after his first game out of the lineup — staff ace James Paxton threw a no-hitter.

Okay, I know what some of you may be thinking. Gordon is a better defender; thereby the staff is better without Canó at second base. For that reason, I compared opponent xwOBA for Mariner pitchers before and after May 13.

For those not familiar with xwOBA, it strips away defense and bad luck by using quality of contact (exit velocity and launch angle) and outcomes not requiring defense (strikeouts and walks) to gauge pitcher effectiveness.

Split
Staff xwOBA
SP xwOBA
RP xwOBA
With Canó
.358
.382
.320
Without Canó
.322
.329
.307

This xwOBA comparison demonstrates the pitching staff improved even with defense removed from the equation.

In reality, the Mariners are better with Canó.

Sure, Canó isn’t eligible for playoff action and manager Scott Servais will have to juggle his second base rotation when Canó returns. But the 14-year-veteran’s bat improves their chances of breaking their 17-year postseason drought.

The Mariners are definitely better with Robinson Canó.

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Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he decided to make Seattle his home. In 2014, Luke joined the Prospect Insider team and is now a contributor at HERO Sports also. During baseball season, he can be often found observing the local team at Safeco Field. You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins

1 Comment

  1. The Mariners will be better with Robinson Cano at 1B. He should have moved there this winter. He’s not been healthy on defense for close to 3 years.

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