Is this Robinson Cano’s best offensive season?
The question surfaced Monday night when he matched a career high by hitting his 33rd homer in an 8-1 victory over the Angels. Cano’s on-base percentage is back near his career norm. His slugging percentage is among the best in his career.
So is this more than merely a bounce-back year for Cano? After battling through injuries and other ailments a year ago, is he, at age 33 and in his 12th season, better than ever?
The stats, generally, say no, but Cano isn’t so sure.
"One thing you have to realize," he said, " when you play in Seattle, it’s cold all year round. In Oakland, it’s cold. And they’re not small ballparks. I love the heat. The bottom line, as a hitter, all you want is when you hit it, you get a (fair) chance.
"Go to the (AL) East: New York, Toronto, Tampa, Boston and Baltimore. The biggest one is Tampa, and the ball carries pretty good there. If you look at the numbers, you have to look at where you were when you hit those numbers.
"It’s not just me. (Kyle) Seager would have 35 homers (in the AL East). He hits a lot of balls at home, Oakland or Texas that don’t go out. You have to hit it really well in those places to get it out."
Cano’s other 33-homer season came in 2012, which is generally regarded as his gold-standard season. He posted career highs that season with an 8.4 wins above replacement (WAR) rating and in compiling a 148 OPS+.
Through Monday, Cano had a 6.3 WAR rating this season (which ranks seventh in the league) and a 137 OPS+.
Since the latter number incorporates ballpark factors, it seemingly accounts for any difference between home games at Yankee Stadium (and the hitter-friendly AL East ballparks) and Safeco Field (and the AL West).
Those numbers say that Cano, while putting together a strong season, was more productive in 2012 — and probably a few other years. He agrees. Up to a point.
"If you look back at 2012," he said, "that season it was like I was hot, hot, hot. Homer-wise, I’m good. But back then, my average was higher. My on-base percentage was higher. And my RBIs were higher."
But look beyond he numbers, he suggested, and it’s harder to evaluate. For example, Cano contends the Mariners’ travel schedule is a factor that often gets overlooked.
When he played in New York, many opponents were only an hour or so away. The Mariners’ closest opponent is two-plus hours away in Oakland. Everywhere else is three-plus hours.
"Honestly, yes (it’s harder)," he said. "We have longer flights than anyone else. Most of the time when you leave Seattle, you get (to the next city) really late. You don’t have any time to relax with teammates, friends or family.
"You don’t have the chance to go to dinner and then go to bed. It’s kind of hard, but that’s what it is. You’ve just got to live with it and deal with it."
Ariel Miranda’s improving performance is making it easier for the Mariners to swallow what continues to loom as the worst trade last season by any club.
Miranda pitched six scoreless innings Monday in an 8-1 victory over the Angels and has not allowed an earned run in his last 17 innings. He has wins in his last three starts and, if not for some shaky bullpen work, could be 6-1.
"He’s starting to gain some momentum," manager Scott Servais said, "which is great to see. Late in the game, the fastball velocity started to spike a little, which is great to see."
The Mariners acquired Miranda from Baltimore in a July 31 trade for Wade Miley in what was generally viewed as a sell-off move.
But Miley is 1-5 with an 8.31 ERA in eight starts for the Orioles and appears likely to lose his spot in the rotation. He was 7-8 with a 4.98 ERA in 19 starts for the Mariners prior to the trade.
All of which eases the sting for the Mariners from last December’s decision to unload first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo by sending him to the Orioles, with reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, for backup catcher Steve Clevenger.
Trumbo currently leads the majors with 41 home runs. His declining batting average, on-base percentage and defensive shortcomings point to the Mariners’ pre-trade concerns — but 41 homers are 41 homers.
Clevenger batted just .221 in 22 games before suffering a broken finger in late June, which forced him to the 60-day disabled list. He recently encountered shoulder problems and isn’t expected to play again this season.
LeBLANC TO PITTSBURGH
Lefty Wade LeBlanc, a June 22 acquisition who went 3-0 as a rotation replacement, is heading to Pittsburgh in a trade for a player to be named later or cash.
The Mariners acquired LeBlanc, 32, from Toronto in a similar deal, and he made eight starts in helping the Mariners bridge the gap until other pitchers returned from the disabled list.
LeBlanc also made three relief appearances in compiling a 4.50 ERA. He was designated for assignment Aug. 25 when James Paxton returned from the disabled list. LeBlanc cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Tacoma.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz is the Mariners’ nominee for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, which is presented by the players association through balloting by its members as part of the Players Choice Awards.
The Miller award seeks to recognize one player "whose on-field performance and contributions to his community most inspire others to higher levels of achievement."
An online fan vote through Sept. 18 at www.MLBPlayers.com will determine one finalist from each of the six divisions. The six finalists will be on the Players Choice Award ballot that each player receives on Sept. 20.
The Miller award is named for the the late Marvin Miller, who served as the union’s first executive director from 1966-82. Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones was last year’s recipient.
FAN OF THE YEAR
Four Mariners fans are among the candidates to be the club’s Fan of the Year as part of a new MLB promotion. Online voting will take place through Sept. 19 at www.MLB.com/Awards and through Twitter by using hashtags.
The four nominees:
***Larry Andersen, who traded his Mariners-themed Darth Vader helmet to Robinson Cano during the May 2-4 series in Oakland. The Mariners swept the series, and the helmet became known as the "swelmet." It is now awarded to a player of the game after victories. His hashtag: #MarinersFOTY1
***Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old Navy veteran from Bremerton who became an internet sensation after sprinting to the mound prior to delivering a ceremonial first pitch on Memorial Day. His hashtag: #MarinersFOTY2
***Amy Franz, known as the the Ichimeter Lady for keeping track of Ichiro Suzuki’s hits on her Ichimeter. She continues to sport signs in support of current players. Her hashtag: #MarinersFOTY3
***Joyce Schott has been a season-ticket holder since 1996 and is often spotted in telecasts because of her distinctive white hair over the shoulder of left-handed batters. Her hashtag: #MarinersFOTY4.
Hi-A Bakersfield played the final game in franchise history Monday night when it suffered a 6-3 loss to Visalia (Diamondbacks) at Sam Lynn Ballpark. The Blaze were eliminated 3-0 in the best-of-five California League North Division finals.
The Mariners will relocate their Hi-A operations next season to Modesto in the same league.
Three of the organization’s other affiliates won Monday and remain alive in pursuit of league titles.
***Double-A Jackson won 6-4 over Mississippi (Braves) in the first game of the best-of-five Southern League championship series. Tyler O’Neill went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, and Andrew Moore held Mississippi to two runs in six innings.
The series continued Tuesday in Jackson.
***Lo-A Clinton got a walk-off single from Ricky Eusebio for a 1-0 victory over Cedar Rapids (Twins) in the decisive third game of the best-of-three Midwest League Western Division finals. Nick Neidert pitched seven shutout innings.
The LumberKings play either Great Lakes (Dodgers) or West Michigan (Tigers) in the best-of-five championship series, which begins Wednesday in Clinton.
***Short-A Everett forced a decisive third game in the Northwest League championship series with a 7-1 victory at Eugene (Cubs). Eric Filia went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, and Ljay Newsome allowed one run in six innings.
The decisive third game was Tuesday at Eugene.
It was 26 years ago Wednesday — Sept. 14, 1990 — the Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. made major-league history by becoming the first father/son tandem to hit home runs in the same game.
They both homered against Kirk McCaskill in the first inning of a 7-5 loss to California in Anaheim. Senior hit an 0-2 pitch over the center-field wall, and Junior followed by driving a 3-0 pitch over the left-center wall.
First baseman Adam Lind continues to nurse a swollen right index finger, which he injured Sunday in making a diving stop on a ground ball. While he said he’s feeling better, he isn’t expected to play before Friday at the earliest…the Mariners entered Tuesday needing one more homer to reach 200 for the fifth time in franchise history…Seventeen different Mariners have hit at least one home run…Dan Vogelbach on Monday became the 54 different player to appear this season for the Mariners. That’s a franchise record. The previous record was 51 in 1999 and 2015.
The Mariners and Angels conclude their 19-game season series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (15-11 with a 3.96 ERA) will try to win 16 games for the first time in his career when he faces Los Angeles right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-6, 5.69).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners