By the Decade: Second base sluggers

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We pick up our Yankees By the Decade series today with the guys who manned the second base spot. Much of the decade was dominated by two top-hitting second basemen with a whole bunch of rather forgettable — but ultimately adequate — fill-ins in between.

Robbie Cano 2826 861 198 17 83 386 129 14 21 330 93 .305 .337 .475
A. Soriano 1946 557 120 10 95 265 90 8 29 410 23 .286 .325 .505
Miguel Cairo 457 134 23 7 6 57 25 1 14 60 8 .293 .344 .414
C. Knoblauch 328 89 19 2 5 20 31 0 4 34 4 .271 .341 .387
Enrique Wilson 296 69 14 0 7 43 16 0 2 25 5 .233 .273 .351
Jose Vizcaino 157 43 8 1 0 8 9 0 0 24 1 .274 .310 .338
Luis Sojo 97 32 7 0 2 15 4 0 0 4 4 .330 .356 .464
Tony Womack 86 25 4 0 0 4 4 0 1 14 2 .291 .330 .337
Clay Bellinger 41 10 2 0 3 5 4 1 1 7 0 .244 .326 .512
Nick Green 37 7 1 0 1 3 5 0 0 15 0 .189 .286 .297
W. Delgado 25 6 1 0 0 3 5 0 0 5 0 .240 .355 .28
Rey Sanchez 25 8 1 0 0 2 1 0 1 1 1 .320 .370 .360
Wilson Betemit 20 5 1 0 2 7 0 0 0 9 1 .250 .250 .600
Ramiro Peña 13 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .154 .154 .154
A. Gonzalez 12 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 1 .167 .231 .167
Cody Ransom 9 2 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 .222 .222 .333
Homer Bush 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 .000 .125 .000
Mark Bellhorn 5 1 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 2 0 .200 .429 .800
Robin Ventura 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 .000 .000 .000
Jerry Hairston 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333
Felix Escalona 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .333 .333 .667
Andy Phillips 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
A. Cannizaro 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Totals 6399 1855 401 37 205 822 326 24 74 952 145 0.29 0.327 0.46

Between the two of them Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano combined for 74 percent of all Yankee second base at-bats, and they didn’t do too badly for themselves. On the whole, Yankee second basemen hit .290/.327/.460. The on-base percentage is a little low, but the batting average and slugging figures look a-OK to me. As a comparison, Boston’s second basemen hit .274/.330/.420 on the decade.

Individually, Soriano and Cano were both among the top of the game at their position, and yet, fans always wanted more. Before getting sent to Texas for A-Rod, Soriano launched 95 home runs and hit .286/.325/.505, mostly at the top of the Yankee order. Cano doesn’t have the same power as Soriano but has show a bit more patience. He has hit .305/.337/.475 with just 330 strike outs to Soriano’s 410 in 1000 more ABs.

Why then do Yankee fans always feel as though their second basemen should be better than they are? Cano takes a lot of guff for seemingly not hustling in the field or for being a lackadaisical base running. Soriano was accused, rightfully so, of flailing and too many pitchers, and fans and commentators always wanted him to exhibit more patience than he did at the plate. Always, it seems, Yankee fans want more, more, more.

What we can see from the chart, though, is how the Yankees have it good with a decade bookended by Soriano and Cano. Although Soriano’s .830 OPS is slightly better than Cano’s .812 mark, I have to give the decade award to Robinson Cano. He has far more playing time in pinstripes this decade than Soriano, and I like the OBP edge. We might be singing a different tune had Soriano’s late-game home run held up on a Sunday night in Phoenix, but that’s ancient history now.

Beyond those two, the decade was filled with a quest to fill the whole. I was surprised to see Miguel Cairo’s numbers at second base looking so decent. In nearly a season’s worth of at-bats, he hit .293/.344/.414. Considering those numbers are far above his career triple-slash line of .266/.315/.358, the Yankees were able to catch a bit of lightening in a bottle with Cairo, and it’s no wonder that Joe Torre seemingly fell in love with giving him playing time.

In the end, the Yanks had a good run this decade largely in part because of the solid play at second base. Robinson Cano has been an anchor since 2005 after the misguided Tony Womack experiment came to end. Before him, we lived through the era of Soriano, and even the guys who filled the hole for a year weren’t too bad. Meanwhile, Cano is just 27, and the next decade should belong to him. We know what he brings to the table; we know what he doesn’t bring to the table. As he hits his peak years offensively, he’s a great second baseman for a great Yankee team.

Non-Breaking News: Yanks looking to add a starter
Link Dump: WS Trophy, DeRosa, Sheets
  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I miss Felix Escalona.

    • Jeremy

      I will never forget Felix Escalona crying during his walk-off at bat.

  • A.D.

    ohhh Sojo and his 800+ OPS

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      I also miss Homer Bush. You know in 1998 he stole 328 bases for the Yankees.

      /Michael Kay’d

      • A.D.

        They were clutch SB

      • Salty Buggah

        The Yankees could use a guy like Freddy Guzman and his 1326 stolen bases right now.

        /2020 Michael Kay’d

        (Freddy stole 4 bases in 10 games while Bush stole 6 in 45 games.)

      • Salty Buggah

        It’s funny that Homer Bush had only 6 SB but also 3 CS. That’s pretty bad.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi


          Salty Buggah… Explaining the punch-line since 2009.

          • Salty Buggah

            Heh, my bad if it seemed that way. I knew he stole only 6 bases but didnt know he also only had a 66% SB rate, which, obviously, is very bad. Just pointing that out.

            • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              I know, I know, just giving you shit. The best part is you explained it once, then went back for seconds (while further explaining why referring to Homer Bush as Rickey Henderson Pt. 2 is ridiculous). That’s dedication right there.

              • Salty Buggah

                I guess I did. The first part, I was trying to make fun of Michael Kay. The 2nd was pointing out that Bush wasnt that effective of the base stealer. I see now that both were kinda redundant.

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  Nah, obviously you were making the Guzman/Bush comparison in one and then adding to the joke (with the SB%) in the second. Totally just messing with you.

          • Matt ACTY/BBD

            This just had me literally cracking up. Thank you, HCM.

            • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              Heh, I’m just here to help.

        • Thomas

          It only the pure number of SBs that is important, not stolen base percentage.

          Screw you Tim Raines.


    • Thomas

      Check out Bellhorn .800 slugging and a .429 OBP. He could have been the future, if we just gave him a fair chance.

  • Bronx Blogger

    Robbie’s stats are great, especially when you think about how abysmal the first half of 2008 was for him.

  • Neon Noodle

    Did you know:

    Four of these second baseman not named Cano have c-a-n-o in their names, 2 in the correct order.

    7 others (or 11 all together) have at least 3 of the four Cano letters in their name.

    Oh, and Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln and Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy.

  • Ed

    Soriano was accused, rightfully so, of flailing and too many pitchers, and fans and commentators always wanted him to exhibit more patience than he did at the plate. Always, it seems, Yankee fans want more, more, more.

    That’s largely because he seemed to be getting worse towards the end of his time on the team.

    My lasting memory of Soriano is watching him repeatedly strike out on pitches way out of the zone in 2003 ALCS Game 7. What was it, 4 times that night that Pedro struck him out on a pitch not even close to the zone?

    • Rob in CT

      Fastball in, fouled off.
      Slider away, swing and a miss.
      Slider away, swing and a miss.
      3-pitch strikeout. Thanks for playing.

      That sequence is my memory of the last days of Soriano as a Yankee. It may not reflect reality, but that’s my memory. And it’s a strong one.

    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      I remember thinking that I could strike Soriano out at that point.

      • Thomas

        So here is a random question:

        Who wins 2003-playoffs Soriano vs. 2000-playoffs Rick Ankiel?

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          Soriano strikes out on a ball that hits him in the ribs.

          • Alan

            Hi, I just shot water out of my nose. Thanks for that.

          • ROBTEN
          • Matt ACTY/BBD

            No way in hell does Ankiel put one that close to the plate.

            • Thomas

              I could see Soriano fouling off a pitch with his backswing.

            • Ed

              I’m with you. My first thought was the pitch hit the batter in the on deck circle, not Soriano. Wouldn’t stop Soriano from swinging though.

    • A.D.

      The classic explanation of Soriano was he could feast on fastballs and weaker pitchers without good breaking balls, but against playoff pitching he would fold.

      Never actually seen stats behind this but his pitch type values numbers show he’s pretty bad against the breaking ball.

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        -32.6 on sliders for his career, +188.9 on fastballs, -9.7 on curveballs.

        • JGS

          so Soriano = Cerrano?

  • Salty Buggah

    Top 2Bmen:

    Bellhorn (1.229 OPS)
    Escalona (1.000 OPS)
    Betemit (.850 OPS)
    Bellinger (.838 OPS)
    Soriano (.830 OPS)

    Robbie Cano is a bust!!!

    • A.D.

      but the Batting avg!!!!

  • terri

    I think we have not seen the best on Cano yet…it would be great to get Larry Bowa back to stay on him…maybe he is maturing on his own

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Don’t worry. Bowa’s nephew will whip him into shape.

      (BTW, Nick Johnson is Larry Bowa’s nephew)
      /Salty Buggah joke explaining’d

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Salty Buggah: Meme’d.


    • Steve H

      Cano just had a career year, without Larry Bowa. What good would Bowa do again?

    • Riddering

      Dominican players do not develop on their own. They always need old white guys to show them the way.

  • Greg C

    Cairo hit well because of Don Mattingly.

    • Steve H

      Wasn’t Mattingly there in 2006 for Cairo’s 55 OPS+?

  • vin

    Did you know that Cano finished 17th in AL MVP voting this year? Ahead of Longoria, Verlander, V-Mart, Cuddyer, CC, King Felix and others?

    He was my pre-series pick for WS MVP… made me look foolish. But I’m still expecting a huge year for him in 2010. If his OBP can hold around .350 and he can add to his 25 HR’s then he’s going to be a huge part of the lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish the year hitting in the 5-hole.

  • Slu

    I remember when Knoblach was awesome. I really thought that was such a great move at the time. And while he played well for a couple of seasons, when they acquired him as a 29 year old in 1998, I would have never guessed this list would have looked like this for the decade and that he would be out of baseball after 2003 at age 34.

  • terri

    according to joe torre’s book, you know the one verducci wrote and put joe’s name in it? Bowa would ride Cano to keep his head on straight…ride him, work him…that sorta thing

    • Steve H

      Explain his 2009 then. And please use the reply button. And, that book had a lot of fiction in it.

      • terri

        Oh, he was great in 2009…just concerned about a fall back…like I said before, I think the best in yet to come…just would I like to make sure he gets to his ceiling….and curious here, how would you know about the book containing alot of fiction???

        • Steve H

          Torre himself even backed away from some of the things said in that book. And only Robbie Cano can really know if Bowa’s pushing him had anything to do with his success. Not sure I trust Torre’s ability to get into Cano’s head and know what he’s thinking.

      • Matt ACTY/BBD

        Explain his 2009 then.

        The presence of Nick Swisher.

        • Steve H

          Those times when there were only two footsteps, that’s when Nick Swisher was carrying Cano.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        You know… I’m sure I’ll get a lot of shit for saying this, but I think the reaction/backlash to the ‘Bowa was good for Cano’ thing often goes a bit too far. Let me preface this by saying that we don’t know that Bowa was such an important influence on Cano, and I’m certainly not saying that he definitely was… But this idea that it’s so ridiculous for someone to think that maybe Bowa was an important influence on Cano is just off. As much as we don’t like when people talk about things like this since they’re unprovable, we also can’t disprove things like this. We happen to have, on the one hand, Torre and others saying they think Bowa was an important influence on Cano. Who are we to say they’re wrong? I’m not saying Cano needs Bowa or anything, but who are we to say that Bowa didn’t help Cano by getting on him to work harder here and there? In all walks of life, people’s performance is affected by the people managing them. Some people respond well to a more authoritative boss, some people work better when they’re given more space. If that’s true in our workplaces, then why can it not be true in Cano’s? I don’t think it’s insulting to Cano to say maybe Bowa riding him a bit was good for Cano, some people respond differently to different management styles. And in addition… If coaches don’t ever have that kind of affect on their players, then why do we have coaches? Of course managers and coaches can affect players in the way people think Bowa affect Cano.

        Look, I’m not saying Cano is lost without Bowa or anything like that. Clearly the guy did just fine without Bowa in 2009. But we need to rein in the immediate mocking of anyone who dares to say they think Bowa was a positive influence on Cano. It’s important to make the point that we really don’t know if it’s true, but it’s not nearly as awful for people to say things like that as it’s sometimes made out to be.

        • Steve H

          I completely agree that a person can be a positive influence, and I don’t kick that idea to the curb. I’m sure there is a positive influence guy on the majority of major leaguers. What I think is overblown is Bowa’s impact on Cano. It really hits on the lazy domincan stereotype, that Cano can only succeed with someone pushing him. The guy made it this far, he had to work his tail off along the way. Bowa gets too much credit for Cano, Cano, all by himself, is a very good baseball player.

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            I’d be careful about assigning too much of the impetus behind the Bowa/Cano stuff to the stereotyping issue. People aren’t making up the Bowa/Cano thing, they’ve heard it from people connected to the Yankees both during Bowa’s tenure and after the end of his time with the Yankees, including Joe Torre. Even if you’re the most ardent Torre detractor, the man was still the manager for over a decade and you have to admit that he knows something about the people who were in this organization while he was here. Look, I totally hear where you’re coming from… We have no idea how much of an impact Bowa really had on Cano, if any. I’d just be careful about how far you go in making the counterargument. There are pretty reasonable explanations for why people make that connection.

  • dalelama

    Kinda amazing how many dps Cano has hit into vs. Soriano, almost three times as many when adjusted for # of at bats…Do the major slash numbers account for this phenomena ?

    • Thomas

      Slash number don’t account for the number of DPs. However, major reasons for Cano having far more DPs:
      1. More PAs than Soriano
      2. Less speed than Soriano
      3. Cano probably had a higher percentage of AB with players on base (Soriano led off and had the number nine hitter ahead of him, Cano batted seventh or eighth)
      4. Cano makes contact more often than Soriano

      • vin

        4. Cano makes contact more often than Soriano

        This. Soriano simply missed those pitches.

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