Chase Utley has some work to do, but as Rob Neyer pointed out, he may end up being one of the best to ever play the position. The late start is really the only thing holding him back at this point, because the numbers he is putting up now are incredible for any up-the-middle position. Jeff Kent may get into the Hall of Fame simply for his offensive numbers, but a player like Utley not only hits with just about everyone in baseball, at any position, but plays a good second base as well. Kent of course is now on the downside of his career, probably only playing another year, if that. And the postion isn’t as top heavy as the SS position is. So this probably isn’t going to be as interesting a read, nor was it as interesting to write (still fun though). Here is the list, and once again I am taking into account past AND present performance. Because one does not become the best at a position in a 70 game sample.
- Chase Utley: Not even a contest. Most positions can be debated as to who is actually the number one player at the position. Not this time though. Utley’s OPS+ is currently 158, which is freakish for the position. Joe Morgan, arguably the best at 2B ever, had three seasons better than this, so it will be very difficult for Utley to surpass a guy like that, at least on the field. The Broadcast booth is a different story however, as Utley would only need to show up on time to take the job away. But Utley is so well-rounded at this point. He is one of the best fielders at the position, leading all second baseman during the 2005-2007 seasons in Dewan’s plus/minus system. Defensive stats are not “say all/end all” or however that phrase is worded, but it’s much more accurate than not watching the player nearly enough to make a judgement on how good there is range/arm/glove are. That I know for sure. But Utley has 22 home runs, and the All Star break hasn’t even arrived yet. Unbelievable!
- Dan Uggla: This was difficult for me to decide. But Uggla has been very, very good this season. Comparable to Utley, not really on a what they actually are, but they have been through this season. As far as I know, Uggla isn’t a good defensive 2B. Actually, he isn’t even average. His “Plus/Minus” was dead last among all 2B during the 2007 campaign, and his reputation hasn’t fared much better. But he has been a beast offensively this season, with a 156 OPS+, 19 homers, and a .613 Slugging in a pitchers park. And it isn’t as if he wasn’t above average the last few seasons either, as far as 2B as concerned, posting OPS+’s of 112 and 108. He is 28 and I don’t know that he will improve on what has been pretty horrendous defense, but he more than makes up for it with his current mashing.
- Robinson Cano: Great talent, but what is wrong with him this season? I have no doubt that he will have a good second half, unless there is some underlying problem that we do not know of. An OPS+ of 60 is miserable, but the last two years sat at 126 and 120. Very good years for a middle infielder. Do not be surprised when he bats .380 in the second half of the year. But his patience is pretty terrible, and that NEEDS to improve a little for him to move up. Especially since the entire Yankee philosophy happens to have adopted the exact area of a hitters game that Cano needs to work on. So why can’t he adjust and take a few more pitches when he is surrounded by eight players, in a great lineup, who do it so well? But he is only 25, and a very probable batting title candidate going forward (next year and beyond).
- Brian Roberts: Mitchell Report or not, he has found a way to continue to hit the ball well. Meaning once again that the effects of PED’s are exaggerated, or that he is secretly beating the drug testing system that the MLB has in place. OPS+ 123. And three of the past four years Roberts has been a good player, but had one down year in 2006, where he ended up being pretty close to an average offensive player (OPS+96). He is an above average defender according to Dewan’s omnipotent defensive metric (hyperbole). And he gets on base, hits for power, plays defense, etc. Can’t ask for any more than that.
- Placido Polanco: Polanco is a little underrated, especially on such a loaded team. Two of the past three years he has had an OPS+ of 120 or higher, with one down year in between the two stellar seasons. He is a sure handed defenseman, and is actually good in the plus/minus system two. His Slugging is down this year, but his OPS+ is still at 106, which is of course above average. I don’t know that anyone else could fill this spot.
There you have it, the “say all/end all” list of the five best 2B in the game. A few may have been worthy, but I just chose these guys. Dustin Pedroia needs to show me more than one good year. Mark Ellis, I had in mind, but just couldn’t separate him from Polanco. Ian Kinsler is having a very good year, but I need to see more of that. And Brandon Phillips hits a lot of homers but his park helps him out A LOT.
Until next time…