Over at uber Yankees blog River Ave Blues, Stephen Rhoads (@Stephen_MR) wrote a great article comparing two of the game’s elite second basemen in Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia. As both play in the AL East on rival clubs, it is no surprise that such a comparison was made, and will continue to be made in the future.
However, I feel like throwing my unsolicited two cents in the conversation. Chase Utley. Over the long-term, there really is no debate: Utley is not even in the conversation. He will turn 33 years old in mid-December, while Cano will turn 29 in October and Pedroia hits 28 in August.
When talking about elite second basemen at the present moment, though, I feel like Utley is all too often left out of the picture. The following graph, via FanGraphs, says it all. (Click to enlarge)
Utley has only managed to accrue 152 at-bats so far this season as he missed the first seven weeks of the season dealing with patellar tendinitis and chondromalacia. Still, he is already the tenth most-valuable second baseman in baseball with 1.9 fWAR. If he had the 335 and 337 AB’s of Cano and Pedroia, respectively, Utley could easily find himself among the top-five most valuable second basemen, if not right at the top of the list. Pedroia is at 4.5 fWAR while Cano is at 2.9. Utley is only ten points behind the duo in wOBA, .373 to .363. Utley leads all second basemen in UZR/150 (required small sample size caveat).
Because he’s not a flashy offensive player who puts up huge numbers, Utley’s contributions with the bat often go unheralded. Health-permitting, Utley should continue to hang around with Pedroia and Cano, even if he is several years their senior. In the “great debate”, as Rhoads put it, let’s not leave Utley out just yet.