I will spare you from the description of what this list is ranking. Wait, no I won’t. I must make sure that there is no confusion with this list. Five best 2B, ranked in order, right now. Not taking into account what will happen in 2009, simply ranking them based on performance of the past few years especially, and based on their careers in their entirety. Each player in their description will include a number looking like such: .300/.350/.430. If you are for some reason not familiar with that it states in a slash .AVG/.OBP/.SLG. And the number is from 2008, not for their entire career.
- Chase Utley: .292/.380/.535: Chase Utley might be as complete a player as complete players come. Regarded as one of the better defenders at the position, even though Utley lacks a Gold Glove. He is among the absolute best players in the game. Around three years ago, a Yankee fan said I was crazy for stating that Chase Utley was better than Robinson Cano. Who is laughing now? He is. That is who. Utley does play in a park that benefits his numbers, but it isn’t as though he is slacking much on the road. I do wonder how much he benefits from playing in Philly, because Utley on the road slugs below .500, while at home his slugging is well over .500. Regardless, Utley is the best 2B in baseball, and what separates him from the rest at the position is, well, A LOT.
- Dustin Pedroia: .326/.376/.493: Ok, here is the thing. Pedroia will probably never, ever, win another MVP in his career. I would definitely bet against it and give odds to whomever I am betting with. But all Pedroia has done throughout his entire career is produce, at every level, and prove people wrong, at every level. The thing that separates Pedroia from the next player, in my opinion, is his defense. Fenway has definitely helped Pedroia, his batting average is 51 percentage points higher at home then on the road. But Pedroia plays good (maybe better) defense anywhere the game is played. And although Fenway probably aids his power a little, he has still batted .309 on the road over his career, with an above average OBP. Dustin Pedroia could be shifted down a spot, and I would not have a problem, but I am going to slot him in here.
- Ian Kinsler: .319/.375/.517: Had Kinsler not been injured last season, he would have been a legitimate MVP candidate, even if he did play for a team out of playoff contention (which I don’t really believe in anyway). Kinsler isn’t as good as Pedroia with the glove, but Kinsler is no slack with the stick. The only thing that concerns me a little is Kinsler’s Home/Road split. I know, story of the top second baseman, maybe I am placing too much emphasis on the dreaded home/road split. But Kinsler has batted only .259 on the road with a league average OBP over his career. And his slugging dips from .525 to .422. Kinsler is a very good second baseman, but I think my reasoning for ranking him behind Pedroia has some legitimacy.
- Brian Roberts: .296/.378/.450: Roberts is a “two-way player.” A good defender and a good hitter. Roberts is far from spectacular at the plate, but for a second baseman he has really hit pretty well in three of the last four seasons. I almost think that Roberts is underrated at this point, to some. But he contiunes to play well, even though he was suspected of PED use and all that. Sure, Roberts had a year in 2005, OPS+ 139, that was sort of an aberration, but even though he hasn’t been quite that good, he has still had three pretty good seasons, out of four, since then.
- Robinson Cano: .271/.305/.410: What Robinson Cano lacked last season, he made up for in previous great seasons. I know that short term memory can be difficult to shred, but Cano had consecutive seasons of OPS+’s 120 or greater before 2008. His problem is swinging too often, but he kills the ball when he is seeing it well. And I firmly believe he will bounce back and become an average player again this season. He will never take walks, but he will hit a ton.
I can make a small argument for why I think Mauer was the MVP, but Pedroia is deserving as well. 126 OPS+, very good D at second base, and very entertaining. I am glad that he is on my team.
Most Valuable Player. What does it mean? Is someone “valuable” on a team that ultimately played poorly over the course of a 162 game season? Or is a lesser player more valuable on a team that reaches the postseason, even though his numbers are inferior to that of the kind of player that was first mentioned? Andre Dawson? Alex Rodriguez? Were they less valuable because they played on last place finishers? Maybe these players, or any players on bottom dwellers, should be evaluated on what they were individually, rather than what the team around them was made up of. “MVP” is not a clearly defined term, its meaning changes from one person to the next.
My perception states that the MVP should be the best player in the league. Because there is no smaller version of the award. There is no “Best Player” award. And I for one believe that no one player can lead a team to the postseason, or even come close. This isn’t basketball where a single player can have a much greater impact on the outcome. This is baseball, where a hitter steps into the batters box approximately four times a game, while making a few plays in the field. Where a starting pitcher throws once every five days. Where a great reliever throws only 70 or 80 innings a season. And this is a game where the most important defensive figure, the catcher, cannot be properly evaluated through metrics, at least not enough for me personally to feel comfortable evaluating what he truly accomplishes within a season. Trust me, it takes well more than a single player to make a baseball team good, or great. So should I really penalize Grady Sizemore for playing on a team that watched its components struggle early in the year, basically putting them out of contention? Because last season Sizemore was plenty capable of helping his team to October, and his numbers were not as good as they are this year. His team may not be playing for anything late in the season, but that doesn’t mean that his opponents are not. Point being, teams aren’t exclusively throwing pitchers that have no business being in the big leagues at Grady Sizemore, simply because HIS team is out of the race. His opponents are still competing, still trying to win…most of them anyway.
Jason Bay is another great example. Bay has been putting up good numbers his entire career, but never gained recognition from the voters because he played on a crummy team. Now all of a sudden, he is on a good team, with a great surrounding cast, and if he continues to play well in 2009 he will all of a sudden be MVP worthy. Is that fair? Or should voters just look past the team a player happens to be playing for. Jason Bay was good then, and he is good now. Sizemore was good last season, and is this season too.
Then there is the argument that some fans make, the one where games in September are more important than the ones in April. That is created by the fans. Every win is exactly the same. Just as in life, where everyone says to themselves, “Well if I had done things differently, than I wouldn’t be in this position.” Same goes in baseball (although with much less of a drastic effect), if they played well early, then September would come more easily to a team, whichever team. Just as if one didn’t do certain things in their life, they wouldn’t have to face those consequences later. Or if they DID do something early in life that aided them, and made their life easier in the future. I don’t want to sound completely negative, so I added in that last line.
That last paragraph was more for Dustin Pedroia, who is a serious MVP threat, but has really pushed himself into the discussion late in the season. Now, I don’t know who the MVP is, I haven’t decided and won’t decide until the season concludes. But I will include the entire body of work for an individual, with emphasis on each month equally. I will not put extra stress on September, and less on April. Pedroia is a good defensive second baseman, and has hit very well this season. And his tear coincides with the stellar play that the Red Sox are experiencing. But again, trust me, there is a lot of help there. A lot of talent to aid Pedroia in his goal, the postseason.