Unless you're a Mariners fan who lives under a rock or has been stranded at sea since Sunday, you are probably well aware that Robinson Cano has hit at least one home run in each of the first three games of 2016. (Four homers in three games, to be exact. Colorado rookie Trevor Story has also done this, but he doesn't play for the M's so we'll let other people talk about him.) Also, because this is the internet, you've probably stumbled across the fact that ROBBIE IS CURRENTLY ON PACE TO HIT 216 DINGERS. This is a beautiful thing to dream but about (a Mariners WS title, Robbie on the front of every box of cereal, hundreds of happy kids with souvenir home run balls), but it's probably not super realistic.
To try and get some idea of what his streak might really mean, I've put together the table below. This lists the players who've managed to hit home runs in the first three games of a season (since 1990). I've also included season-long offensive numbers so that we can see what kind of performance these hot starts led to.
*Hit home runs in the first four games of the season.
This table consists primarily of very competent hitters who got off to very fast starts. There are a few names that may surprise you (Chris Truby?), but this feat is typically only accomplished by an established slugger. So what does this table tell us? Probably not a lot. Five of these players went on to set a career-high in home runs, but quite a few of them actually ended up with below-average power numbers compared to their career averages. If you asked David R. Skiba about this table, he might tell you that this suggests that Robbie has a legitimate shot at 70 home runs in 2016. It could happen. However, the table below might help us come to a conclusion that is a bit more realistic.
|Average of above players||31||0.265||0.359||0.510||0.869||0.373||128|
|Median of above players||28||0.270||0.350||0.494||0.846||0.364||129|
|Cano – Depth Chart Projection||17||0.288||0.346||0.441||0.787||0.337||117|
|Cano – Steamer Projection||18||0.285||0.343||0.442||0.785||0.336||117|
|Cano – ZIPS Projection||17||0.292||0.349||0.439||0.788||0.338||118|
Here we have the average/median values of the 17 players mentioned in the first table. I also included Cano's pre-season projections for comparison. The predictions from Depth Charts, Steamer, and ZIPS are all very similar (which is unsurprising for a player with a track record as long as Robbie's), and none of these picked Cano to hit more than 18 dingers in 2016. After three games, those numbers look a bit conservative. If Robbie goes on to have an average season relative to the group of players in the table above, he'd beat his HR projections by 10-15 and add more than 50 points to his predicted slugging percentage. That would be fun! However, it should probably be mentioned that Cano has only surpassed 30 dingers in a season once—back in 2012 when he set a career-high with 33 HR—so we probably shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves.
Ultimately, looking at the stats of previous players doesn't give us much predictive power. Given his hot start, it's tempting to dramatically readjust our expectations of Robbie, but it's only been three games so that's probably wouldn’t be especially fair. Regardless, if you came into 2016 predicting a relatively down year from Cano, you have reason to be more optimistic. Alternatively, if you were predicting a monster year from Robbie, you're probably feeling pretty psyched/validated. Even if Cano cools appreciably and doesn't go on to hit 30 long balls in 2016, he's still helped to give us one hell of a start to this season. That's certainly something worth appreciating and celebrating. Thank you, Robbie.