While all 2Bs pale in comparison this year to Chase Utley, Ben Zobrist, and Ian Kinsler (whose BABIP is only .238, btw, if you’d like to trade for him in your fantasy league) I found myself caught in the midst of a debate the other day over the relative merits of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Yankee middleman Robinson Cano.

So I did what I do in these situations: I looked at a bunch of numbers. (In this case, all these numbers were up-to-date going into last night’s action.)

Cano is hitting .310/.342/.491. Pedroia’s hitting .304/.377/.423. Pedroia takes 3.90 pitches per plate appearance, while Cano takes 3.38; walks-per-K puts Pedroia at 1.56, Cano at .60. They have each grounded into 13 double plays. They each have 58.5 runs created. Edge? I’d call it even. Cano hits more homers, but Pedroia has more patience at the plate and hits a lot of doubles.

What about baserunning? Cano has 4 stolen bases and has been caught 4 times. Pedroia’s swiped 14 bags and has been caught stealing 5 times. But before you hand the crown to Pedroia, take a look at their EQBRR: 0.54 (Pedroia) vs 0.83 (Cano). Pedroia isn’t actually that fast; he steals those bases with his ninja skills. So while Pedey swipes more bags, it seems Cano is actually the better baserunner. Edge? I guess I’ll give it to Cano, since the value of a stolen base is marginal.

Looking at some more advanced metrics, Pedroia’s wOBA is .357 to Cano’s .356, and his wRAA is 10.1 to Cano’s 9.4. And Pedroia’s wRC also outstrips Cano’s by a narrow margin, 59.9 to 57.5. Pedroia’s WAR: 2.8. Cano’s? 2.5. Pedey has a RAR of 27.6, while Cano has a RAR of 25. VORP: Pedroia is at 22.0 to Cano’s 22.5. Perhaps Pedroia has a slight edge overall here, but even so, am I the only one who feels like we’re splitting hairs?

On defense, Cano has turned 6 more DPs than DP, and Pedroia has 5 errors to Cano’s 3. But again, before you declare Cano the victor, keep in mind that Pedroia’s UZR is 5.8, and has been a positive number ever full season in the bigs so far. Cano’s current rating of 0.7 marks only the second time in five seasons (counting this one) that he’s put up a positive UZR. Edge? Pedroia.

One area where Pedroia has Cano handily beat is WPA (win probability added), which puts Pedroia at 0.93 and Cano at -1.92 — the worst of any regular second baseman in MLB.

Pedroia has two All-Star nods, an MVP trophy, a Rookie of the Year award, a Gold Glove, and (somewhat hilariously) a Silver Slugger. He’s 25 and is signed to a $40.5 million, 6-year contract (2009-2014) with a club option for 2015. In three full seasons, he has an OPS+ of 111.

Cano was a ROY runner up, has one All-Star nod, a silver slugger, and came in 22nd in MVP voting in 2006. He’s 26. He’s signed to a 4 year, $30 million contract (2008-2011), with club options for ’12 and ’13. In five seasons, Cano has an OPS+ of 110.

Can you tell the difference? I’m not sure I can.

16 Responses to “Cano vs. Pedroia – What’s the Difference?”

  1. I’d definitely take Pedroia over Cano because I value Pedroia’s on-base skills and his defense and I’d be willing to sacrifice Cano’s power to get it.

    Plus Pedroia seems to have got his head on a bit straighter.

  2. Pedroia easily. Better on base and defense easily make up for the small difference in power. Plus I think he projects better and he’s a leader.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    I’m glad you’ve both been so definitive. This is calming me.

  4. One thing to consider is the amount of Pedroia’s production is the “Fenway Effect”, whereas Cano numbers go up away from NY career wise.

    Pedroia (career #’s)
    Home .334 BA .392 OBP .885 .493 slg% OPS .348 BAbip 115 OPS (a double every 10.3 AB’s)
    Road .288 BA .351 OBP .409 Slg% .760 OPS .294 BAbip 86 OPS (a double every 16.72 AB’s)

    So far this year a league average 2nd baseman checks in at .272 BA .333 OBP .755 Slg for a .755 OPS. Away from Fenway Pedroia hits like a league average 2nd baseman. If you add in the additional 30 odd Fenway doubles that would’ve been outs away from Fenway into his road #’s suddenly his numbers jump to : .325 BA .384 OBP .483 SLG% .330ish BAbip. Which almost mirrors his home performance.

    These #’s come from Pedroia accumulating roughly 900 PA’s each home and away so far in his career.

    Pedroia’s star status is a product of the park he’s played in. Cano’s a more productive hitter.

  5. Paul Moro says:

    Don, your OPS-Plus figure is incorrect. You’re misinterpreting the information. That 86 you’re referring to is the adjusted OPS relative to his overall numbers. It’s not compared to anyone else’s numbers at all. So all that says is “Pedroia is better at home than away”. But we knew that already since Fenway is a hitter’s park.

    And you’re not counting defense at all. Pedroia is the superior defender.

    I do think that the differences between the two players’ value aren’t as wide as is generally thought. But Pedroia is better. Just look at their Wins Above Replacement numbers.

  6. Paul,

    Thanks for the OPS catch, it didn’t look right but I took it for gospel.

    I said Cano was a better hitter, not a better player. However, I think the obviousness of the Fenway effect on Pedroia makes it clear Cano is better overall. Away from Fenway he’d have to be Roberto Alomar to make up the difference between he and Cano.

    WARP doesn’t take into account the park effect so it’s inflating his value.

  7. Lyndsay says:

    I’d take Pedroia solely based on intangibles – like shit-talking opponents and ability to annoy the shit outta pitchers while on base (it should be noted that Pedey has induced TWO balks this season while jumping around on 2nd.)

  8. Paul M

    I have to wonder if that has something to do with Fenway and the difficulty measuring a HR that has left the ballpark or land is seats that are 40 ‘ above the ground. Not that I think he’s a thumper or anything, just wondering.

  9. Follow up:

    By left the park I was referring to a ball hit over the Green Monster.

  10. Paul – he’s not really a HR guy to begin with, he’s a doubles guy. Plus I wonder if anyone has looked at how his height handicaps him from hitting more powerful HRs. he throws his entire body into those swings. If he were a few inches taller, I wonder if he’d be able to hit for more power.

  11. Paul Moro says:

    Lyndsay, I understand that Pedroia’s not a HR guy. But that’s one of the main reasons why it’s not entirely crazy to think that Cano is better. We can’t just nullify the edge that a 25 HR guy has over a 15HR guy because of genetics (ex. that Pedroia is smaller). That’s like saying that it’s not fair to say that Tim Lincecum is a better pitcher than me because I top out at like 75mph and don’t have the fingers to throw a nasty breaking ball.

    Don, I’ve never looked into this specifically, but I’d like to think that with all the batted ball data we now have available thanks to pitch f/x and hit f/x (coming soon to a theater near you!), that someone’s already accounted for the Monster. I mean, there’s already a great amount of evidence suggesting that the Monster helps hitters.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    I love that pic of Pedroia almost dropping onto one knee, too. Yep, that’s the way he swings!

    As for Cano v. Pedroia, I think we’ll have to watch the rest of this year to see what happens on defense. I am sort of waiting for Cano to revert to his usual suckage and Pedroia to improve slightly, but we’ll see.

  13. How have you left out Aaron Hill of this article? He’s hitting .290 with 25 home runs and 74 RBIs in the Blue Jays lineup. The only knock on him is his low OBP. I think he is also a better defensive 2B than any of those listed.

  14. Sarah Green says:

    Aaron Hill is having a great year offensively, true. He’s above avg. on defense but not by much, according to his current UZR.

  15. Cano CAN’T revert to suckage – he’s on my fantasy team!

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