Roughly 75% of all Philly natives have a crush on Chase Utley, regardless of gender or sexual preference. Apparently, I might, too, as he's #1 on this list.
Now that the playoff picture has pretty much all but taken its final shape, I have taken the liberty of removing any and all Twins or Braves from the remaining lists, so don’t be confused that the list stops at #8 as opposed to #10. That being said, today we’re looking at the group of second basemen headed into the Divisional Series next week. This is a group that is a good bit different from the first basemen in that some of these guys are really good, but you’ve never heard of them. However, there is definitely more of a separation between the second basemen than their first base compadres.
1. Chase Utley, Phillies
I really had to look closely at both him and defending AL MVP Dustin Pedroia to determine which one is actually #1, but in the end it’s hard not to pick Utley because of what he means to the Philadelphia Phillies. Utley has had another great offensive year as far as second basemen go, hitting .285 with 31 homers and 90 RBIs. He was named the starting 2B for the NL in the All-Star Game and is looking like he will win his 4th consecutive Silver Slugger Award. He solidifies the middle of the Phils’ lineup with Ryan Howard and is probably the most popular man in the City of Brotherly Love. He also plays a solid defensive game, committing 12 errors in 153 games this season.
2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
I’m probably going to receive several complaints about Pedroia not being #1 on this list, but there are two reasons for that. First, Pedroia, unlike Utley, is a top of the batting order guy, along with teammate Jacoby Ellsbury and to put a guy who isn’t the focal point of the team ahead of Utley would be just wrong. Second, his numbers aren’t as good as last year, as he’s hitting .298 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs, all of which are down from the previous year. However, the number that stands out with Pedroia is 45 strikeouts in 615 at bats this season. There’s a reason he’s known as a pest by opposing pitchers, and that’s exactly why. There might not be a player in the league who will fight off more pitches in a two strike count than Pedroia, which makes him extremely valuable in a situation where Boston needs to advance a runner or get a runner in. He’s also one of the best defensive second basemen in the league. The 2008 Gold Glove Award winner, Pedroia has committed only 6 errors in 150 games for the Sox this year.
3. Robinson Cano, Yankees
After a down year in 2008, Cano has had a pretty big comeback year, as he is amongst the AL leaders in batting average, hitting .322 and also has 202 hits on the year, including a career-high 25 home runs. Cano has been a frustrating player for Yankees fans, at times, however, as he has a tendency to get a little to flashy with the glove, which has caused him to make 12 errors in 158 games this year. Cano also has the luxury of hitting in a lineup behind guys like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, which is a solid explanation for the jump in his numbers in ’09.
4. Placido Polanco, Tigers
Polanco is one of the most underrated second basemen in the MLB every year. Much like Dustin Pedroia, Polanco is extremely difficult to strike out, which he has only done 43 times in 599 at bats this season, making him in the very widely recognized stat category of at bats per strikeout for the third-consecutive year in the AL. Polanco is also looking like the favorite to win his second career Gold Glove, as he has been stellar defensively all year, committing only 2 errors in 147 games for the Tigers.
5. Orlando Hudson, Dodgers
Hudson left the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2008 season and was a player that was on a lot of teams’ wish list. However, he didn’t sign until late in the free agent signing period with the LA Dodgers, but it hasn’t caused him to miss a beat in 2009. The ’09 All-Star selection is having his best offensive season since ’06, which was his first year in Arizona, hitting .285, and is also just short of career highs in just about every major stat category. The O-Dog also continues to play the position about as good as anyone in the Majors, committing only eight errors in 146 games, which puts him in position to be a candidate for his 4th career Gold Glove.
6. Howie Kendrick/Maicer Izturis, Angels
These two have spent the year splitting time at second base for the Halos, and their numbers are almost exactly the same. Both are hitting right around .300 and lack power, but get on base a lot, which fits in nicely with Mike Scioscia’s overall strategy at the plate. They have only committed 6 errors combined at 2B this year, as well, which would place them second in the AL behind Polanco if this were one player instead of two.
7. Skip Schumaker, Cardinals
Schumaker originally came up and looked like a super utility player for the Cards to hold onto. However, Skip showed that he can hit in ’08 and has continued that through this season, hitting .303, which is important considering there are times when he bats in front of the pitcher, which explains his total lack of run production for the year with only 35 RBIs. The permanency of him at second took a little while for him to adjust to defensively, as well, which explains his 9 errors in just 130 games at the position this year.
8. Clint Barmes, Rockies
Barmes looked like he was going to be the Next Big Thing after a great campaign in 2005. However, after a disappointing ’06 and then a freak accident in the beginning of 2007, Barmes fell way off of everybody’s radar. Now he’s working his way back at second base, rather than shortstop and has improved his power numbers, which is the norm for anyone on the Rockies, with career highs in home runs (23) and RBIs (76). However, he is still only hitting .246 on the year for a team that could use a few more contact hitters in its lineup. He’s also committed 12 errors in 136 games at the position, making him one of the weaker second basemen going into the playoffs.