Perhaps one conversation that deserves a bit more attention though is the emergence/continuation of Robinson Cano's offensive contributions. In one sense, Robbie’s postseason production is not surprising at all. In fact, some might even argue that his performance is simply following his season's trend line. After all, Cano did produce MVP-esque results for the vast majority of the year. Therefore, why shouldn’t his outstanding performance continue straight on into the playoffs, right? And yet, as Larry noted in his musings post, several of the key Bombers’ bats (I'm looking at you, heart of the order) have been generally silenced during the ALCS.
As for Cano, he’s proven himself to be the exception by becoming a more well-rounded consistent batter (which speaks volumes for his potential which the Yankees organization acutely recognized early on).
Consider the graph below. What’s almost more surprising than his overall 2010 postseason is how stark of a contrast his numbers are with prior years. Of course, the typical "small sample size" disclaimer still applies, but it's nice to know that the Yanks have at least one guy (for the time being anyway) who's willing to mirror Nelson Cruz's offensive blitzkrieg.
Furthermore, as indicated by the ensuing spray chart, the majority of Robbie’s hits have fallen in center field and right field (including two monster home runs). Ideally, the postseason hits would be more evenly distributed. However, it’s not as lopsided as it initially appears. There were several solid hits to left field that resulted in unfortunate outs. The truth of the matter is that Cano’s had no problem seeing the ball, and consequently has made contact with the fat part of the bat more often than not. And, more often than not, he has the ability to hit for gap power anywhere on the field (rather than allowing the defense to contemplate a severe shift). His season's spray chart proves exactly that. There is no part of the field that is off-limits for Cano.
Of course, a player’s production is ultimately the best means of assessing his value to the team. However, I believe Cano's means of achieving production is indicative of his postseason sustainability. One of the historical criticisms directed toward Cano is that he has very little plate discipline.
Evidently he’s found a way to solve this, too. Throughout the 2010 season and into the playoffs, he’s been much more selective. Since the start of the ALDS, the vast majority of Cano's swings have been at balls in the strike zone. Guys like Vladimir Guerrero might contend that the notion of a strike zone is nothing more than a frivolous myth. For the rest of MLB, quality plate discipline nets better results. Those awkward hacks at the ball that used to get Cano in trouble, have become few and far between.
Conversely, Cano’s been much better about taking pitches. His more focused batting style has helped explain the uptick in his OBP and P/PA stats. Not only is he seeing more pitches, but he’s finding himself in better counts more often. Instead of being faced with a daunting 0-2 survival hack, he has had the luxury of preparing for the 2-0 desperation pitch. Again, these are simple intuitive concepts that translate into big improvement. It's nice to see it play out in reality.
Yes, the Yankees will need better starting pitching starting with Andy Pettitte tonight. Yes, the Yankee offensive battery will need to contribute more. Yes, Cliff Lee will probably be a b*#&% of an opponent. Yes, these are all fair conversations to be having over a cold brew while "enjoying" the tense anticipation of Game 3. Make sure you keep an eye open for Cano, though. His .556/.556/1.333 (1.889 OPS) triple slash is not only gaudy, but could ultimately be the difference maker.
*I wholeheartedly agree with Mike. The Yankees do have the ability to win tonight. It won’t be easy but postseason play never is. They do have a chance, so don't count them out until the final pitch of the 9th inning.