Chase Utley vs. Robinson Cano

Over at Beyond the Box Score, Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies compared Chase Utley and Robinson Cano, the top two second basemen in Major League Baseball. He concludes:

Robinson Cano is a very good player. Chase Utley is a very good player. If you want the second-baseman who will put the ball in play more and make flashier looking plays with the glove, then you take Cano. If you want the second-baseman who will make fewer outs and save more runs defensively, then you take Utley.

If Utley doesn’t bounce back at the plate – while Cano maintains his production from 2010 – then we’ll need to revisit this and perhaps give the Yankee the edge. If someone wants to take up the banner for Cano right now though, I’d be glad to hear the arguments.

Right now, I take Utley without hesitation. Last year in what was a career year for Cano, he was worth 6.4 fWAR. Utley, in a career-worst year, was worth 5.2. Utley at his worst is still very close to Cano at his best — that’s just how good Utley is.

However, there are question marks surrounding Utley. He has suffered two major hand injuries (a broken hand and a torn thumb ligament) in his career, recently turned 31 years old, and tends to wear down at the end of the season. In the Utley/Cano debate, Utley is best short-term, but Cano is superior in the long run.

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17 comments

  1. mark hammond

    January 13, 2011 10:32 AM

    Mr Baer,
    Can you please explain to me what the “fWAR” is and/of how it is calculated?…. Thanks in advance for your time.

  2. SABR

    January 13, 2011 02:41 PM

    Chase is clearly the superior player, however he is on the wrong side of 30 (32) whereas Cano is 28. At this point, if the improvement Cano showed last season is sustained, they are remarkably similar offensively. It should be noted that Cano had better protection in the lineup than Utley did last year, contributing to the offensive assault. As more and more teams have figured out how to get out RyHo, they have given Utley less to hit (and subsequently his BB% the past two years have gone from 9% to 12.5% and his ISO has dropped).

    The difference in their value and WAR mostly comes from defense, where Utley is the Gold standard (of course, without the GG) and Cano is probably around the 8-10th best in MLB. As long as Utley is able to continue fielding like crazy, he will remain a superior player to Cano, even if his bat levels off a bit.

  3. Joshua

    January 13, 2011 04:15 PM

    i think Chase Utley could beat Robinson Cano if he has good hitting and strong defense just like Ryan Howard.

  4. Tom Austen

    January 13, 2011 06:13 PM

    clearly none of you know anything about baseball. What are you talking about? Cano is clearly the better player. He committed 3 errors this past year and utley committed over 15. Stop with the excuses of injuries, Utley will keep getting injured. Cano is a better player in the short term as well as the long term. Get your facts straight. Utley’s time as the best second basemen is behind him. You could possibly make an argument that Pedroia is better than Utley.

  5. Matt

    January 13, 2011 07:02 PM

    I’m just wondering why someone who is commenting on here to “get your facts straight” would refer to Utley’s error total as “over 15.” Why don’t you double check your facts?

  6. Chris

    January 13, 2011 07:15 PM

    Actually, whether it’s intentional or not, they do know something about baseball. Since 2006, Utley has been the best second baseman in the MLB with the exception of last year (injury plagued). Cano had a breakout career year last year but that was just one year…so lets not crown him over Utley just yet. Let’s be little more objective about it and see if Cano can go ahead and duplicate last season. Utley when healthy can be a potential MVP candidate every year…and has been doing just that. Cano is a terrific player but over Utley now, not quite.
    Triva…what second baseman tied Reggie Jackson’s record for home runs in a world series with 5?

  7. Bill Baer

    January 13, 2011 07:18 PM

    what second baseman tied Reggie Jackson’s record for home runs in a world series with 5?

    David Eckstein, naturally.

  8. Aaron H

    January 13, 2011 08:21 PM

    @Tom,

    Errors aren’t necessarily an indicator of how good or bad a fielder is. If a player has a great range and can get to a lot of balls, more so than an average fielder can, it also means that he’ll have more chances for an error. The fielder with the great range will still make many more outs than an average fielder, so I’d take his 10 extra errors if he makes 60 more outs that would’ve turned into hits.

  9. matt

    January 13, 2011 10:32 PM

    Of course it was Eckstein. This feat was undoubtedly attained in no small part due to his score of 172.9 on the scrappiness index.

  10. Scott G

    January 13, 2011 11:57 PM

    And for Eckstein they grant him a home run for every ball that he hits at least 150 ft. regardless of whether or not it rolls, bounces, or trickles the entire way.

  11. brian

    January 14, 2011 01:26 AM

    here is one fact i know for sure….utley was a HUGE let down in the postseason this past year….you could argue he cost them the playoffs with his piss poor defense—-and i am a phillies phan!

  12. JackA

    January 14, 2011 02:43 AM

    You guys really slay me with this BS. Utley’s average has dropped in each of the last 3 years, and his power is almost on a milk carton. Anybody who doesnt think Cano is the better player right now is knows the real reason.

  13. hk

    January 14, 2011 10:22 AM

    brian,

    Yes, you could argue that Utley cost them the playoffs with his piss poor defense, but your argument would be wrong. He committed three errors in the post-season, two in a game that they eventually won vs. Cincy and one in a game in which they were shut out 3-0 by SF. Granted, the error vs. SF did lead to SF’s third run, but it is a big leap to blame Utley’s error for that loss, much less the entire post-season.

  14. Chris

    January 14, 2011 04:34 PM

    JackA, please don’t comment anymore. You can’t even write a legible sentence. Until you can contribute to this debate in a positive manor please don’t waste our time.

    Trivia Answer:

    The other player was Chase Utley in 2009. Eckstein is a great guess but i think he was just short of 5. Unless I was given the wrong info

  15. phannyc

    January 14, 2011 07:21 PM

    Tom Austen: Mr. Baer clearly says that last yr was Cano’s best but Utley’s worst, “Last year in what was a career year for Cano, he was worth 6.4 fWAR. Utley, in a career-worst year, was worth 5.2. Utley at his worst is still very close to Cano at his best — that’s just how good Utley is.”

    So 15 errors or not, the ’10 season was Utley’s very worst. And as I understand the articles neither writer based their opinions on last season alone, but each players’ careers thus far.

  16. Bill

    July 11, 2011 11:29 PM

    id take cano in a second
    not a big fan of WAR anyway

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