Just A Friendly Reminder

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.

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7 comments

  1. Ben Duronio

    July 10, 2011 08:29 AM

    When he’s healthy, Utley is probably the best second basemen in the league — it’s really close with Ben Zobrist.

    Pedroia’s walk rate is oddly high right how and will probably regress back toward the mean, but he’s the only other guy I would consider up there with those two at this point. Ian Kinsler isn’t far behind but his health is a bigger concern than Chase’s is on a yearly basis. Weeks/Kendrick/Espinosa/Phillips is probably the next tier.

  2. Steve

    July 10, 2011 04:22 PM

    When talking about the best second basemen over the past 5-6 years, I don’t think you’d get any other name than ‘Utley’ from a serious baseball fan. (I’m a Red Sox fan, btw.)

    Honestly, Utley kind of does put up huge numbers and is a reasonably flashy offensive player (with a great glove). I think you are dramatically underestimating the esteem held for Utley by non-Phillies fans.

    He’s really good and pretty much everyone knows it.

  3. LTG

    July 10, 2011 04:23 PM

    So, Cano is not even 2nd tier, due to his defense, despite having the highest wOBA among 2Bers? Hmmm… not sure I agree, although Uggla’s defensive performance today irrationally inclines me toward your opinion (i.e., that defense is a large enough part of evaluating value at 2B to downgrade Cano two tiers).

    Also, for entertainment, every Phils fan should check out the Braves’ fans’ comments on Scott Proctor on Capitol Ave Club. I certainly did not take as much joy in watching the Phils demolish him as these people did.

  4. Jesse

    July 10, 2011 05:32 PM

    For these comparison charts it wouldn’t hurt to include Brandon Phillips at that’s the obstacle Chutley most has to cross to get his recognition…

  5. John

    July 10, 2011 06:25 PM

    All-time Career OPS for a Second Baseman
    1. Rogers Hornsby 1.010
    2. Chase Utley .891
    3., etc. Everybody else

  6. Aaron H

    July 10, 2011 11:02 PM

    True, but you’ll eventually need to include his declining numbers, so I wouldn’t expect him to be up there forever…Howard currently sits 36th all time in OPS for players with 3000 PAs-you think that’s going to be permanent?

  7. Ben Duronio

    July 10, 2011 11:35 PM

    I actually meant to include Cano with the first group, but I wouldn’t say he is better than any of the three. He’s the link between the two tiers though, in my opinion.

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