In an 11-part series with all nine fielding positions and both primary pitching roles, these pieces will focus on the ten best over the most recent decade from 2002-2011. Most people think of a decade either starting with a zero-year, such as 1990-1999 or starting with a one-year, such as 2001-2010. Those arbitrar start-points and endpoints are just that. So over the last ten years, who have been the premier second basemen? Let's get straight to the point with the countdown:
10. Ben Zobrist
Teams: Tampa Bay Rays
Stats: 2458 PA, .257/.348/.435, 113 OPS+, 13.6 rWAR, -1 TZ, 18.7 fWAR, +36.9 UZR, +53.9 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 8.7
Conclusions: Zobrist had had roughl four full seasons worth of playing time and has been an elite player in two seasons, with an 8.7-win season and a 6.6-win season. He is a great overall hitter and an outstanding fielder. Zobrist isn't old either, so should be good for a while to come, too.
9. Orlando Hudson
Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, and San Diego Padres
Stats: 5130 PA, .277/.345/.417, 99 OPS+, 21.7 rWAR, 15 TZ, 24.6 fWAR, +13.7 UZR, +23.8 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 3.9
Conclusions: Hudson has a reputation as an elite defender, but both TotalZone and UZR agree he is merely a bit above average with the glove. Ten seasons and 1.5 runs per season is practically the definition of a tad above average. Offensively, his OBP-heavy 99 OPS+ is a testament to being a tad above average, as his +23.8 park-adjusted wRAA score shows. Hudson has more than double the playing time of Zobrist, yet less than five wins more. His greatest asset is replacement runs, which is why I took some of the players ahead of him, despite less impressive cumulative totals.
8. Brandon Phillips
Teams: Cincinatti Reds and Cleveland Indians
Stats: 4365 PA, .272/.322/.434, 96 OPS+, 9.5 rWAR, -22 TZ, 23.0 fWAR, +53.9 UZR, -3.8 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 6.0
Conclusions: The two defensive rating systems vary wildly here. Phillips rates excellently in UZR, but terribly in TZ. I tend to trust UZR far more than TZ, so I credit Phillips with what fWAR gives him, which is 23 wins. Nearly all of that was accumulated in the last five years, with 21.9 of the 23, which makes his case even stronger to be included. He is the premier defensive second baseman of the last five years, no doubt.
7. Robinson Cano
Teams: New York Yankees
Stats: 4413 PA, .308/.347/.496, 119 OPS+, 28.5 rWAR, 32 TZ, 24.5 fWAR, -39.9 UZR, +113.8 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 6.5
Conclusions: Cano is an offensive machine for a second baseman, the first truly bona fide offensive star on the list. He hits for average and power and has that likeable stroke. If only he had patience. His fielding is suspect, but not down-right awful. His game has holes, but he has been around a while now and has had substantial success.
6. Jeff Kent
Teams: San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers
Stats: 3986 PA, .295/.362/.506, 124 OPS+, 23.2 rWAR, -14 TZ, 25.4 fWAR, -27.3 UZR, +148.8 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 7.2
Conclusions: Kent was an even better hitter than Cano, having some patience, and even more power (.211 ISO as opposed to .188 for Cano) in less than a seasons worth of PA less. He was clearly a far superior hitter, as his offensive environment was worse, as well. Both were subpar fielders, so Kent gets the overall edge.
5. Ian Kinsler
Teams: Texas Rangers
Stats: 3446 PA, .275/.355/.469, 114 OPS+, 24.9 rWAR, 31 TZ, 24.6 fWAR, +5.2 UZR, +91.2 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 7.7
Conclusions: Kinsler has been an elite fielder two of the last three seasons and is roughly a run above average per season defensively. He is truly a tale of two different Kinslers, however, as '06-'08 Ian collected -22.1 UZR and '09-'11 Ian collected 27.2 UZR. The more recent Kinsler is, I believe, the true Kinsler. He is a good hitter as well, and a decent baserunner, with, so far, a solid peak.
4. Dustin Pedroia
Teams: Boston Red Sox
Stats: 3201 PA, .305/.373/.463, 117 OPS+, 24.3 rWAR, 44 TZ, 25.7 fWAR, +40.5 UZR, +96.0 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 8.0
Conclusions: The 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and 2008 AL MVP had his finest season in 2011, with 8 fWAR. He is a great fielder by any metric, and an equally awesome hitter, especially for his position. The pesky PeeDee does everything just a bit better than Kinsler. He hits for a higher AVE with better on base skills, and comparable power.
3. Brian Roberts
Teams: Baltimore Orioles
Stats: 5240 PA, .283/.357/.421, 105 OPS+, 21.7 rWAR, -33 TZ, 30.4 fWAR, +26.2 UZR, +79.8 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 6.7
Conclusions: Roberts hits for a decent AVE with decent power and decent patience. He is an above average hitter- hence roughly 80 runs above average with the stick- and a slick fielder, as evidenced by his +26.2 defensive rate. He has also done this over a long period of time and has been able to rack up replacement runs, giving him over 30 fWAR, the first to crack said barrier.
2. Placido Polanco
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and Detroit Tigers
Stats: 5820 PA, .301/.349/.411, 100 OPS+, 31.3 rWAR, 95 TZ, 35.6 fWAR, +94.5 UZR, +37.5 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 5.6
Conclusions: Polanco is an absurdly consistent hitter, with wOBAs ranging between .304 and .371, below .330 three times, between .330 and .350 four times, and above .350 three times. He was a consistently great fielder, no matter what position he's been thrown at, and is an all-around valuable asset to have on a team.
1. Chase Utley
Teams: Philadelphia Phillies
Stats: 4778 PA, .290/.377/.505, 127 OPS+, 42.3 rWAR, 67 TZ, 50.6 fWAR, +92.7 UZR, +216.0 wRAA
Peak fWAR: 8.3
Conclusions: Utley is far and away the top second baseman of the last ten seasons. He has more than 7 WAR every season from 2005 to 2007, 5.4 fWAR in 2010, and 3.9 fWAR in 454 PA in 2011. He has been an elite hitter, elite defender, elite baserunner, and plays a premier position. In fact, Utley is one of the top five players of the last decade at any position, and is clearly in the top-3 players in baseball from 2005 to 2009.
Thus concludes my initial post chronicling the decade of 2002-2011. Go Utley in 2012!!- EdGenGar