Jul
12

The great Cano vs. Pedroia debate

By

This post originally ran Saturday morning but quickly got buried by the news of Alex Rodriguez‘s torn meniscus, so we’re bumping back up because it’s really good and you should read it. Enjoy.

Recently Patrick Sullivan of Over the Monster and Baseball Analysts fame ignited a debate when he said the following: “You know who’s not as good as Dustin Pedroia? Like, not at all? Robinson Cano“. Them’s fightin’ words, pal. Sullivan later said that he dug in so stridently for fun on Twitter, but there’s an honest debate to be had here over the value of the two players. Is he right? Who is better, Cano or Pedroia? In order to answer the question, we need to evaluate all aspects to each player’s game: offense, base running and defense. We’ll run through each category, then examine the each player’s fWAR. We’ll also introduce a variation on WAR which I’ve lovingly dubbed RABWAR. Let’s get to it.

Offense: light tower power vs. the little on-base machine that could

Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia are both elite offensive forces at the plate. They just go about their business in differ manners. Cano is impatient. He rarely takes a base on balls, preferring to attack early in the count. As a result, he averages a walk rate of about 5% every year, a subpar showing. He makes up for this by hitting for average and for power. He’s a lifetime .308 hitter with a career slugging percentage of .492. The latter mark belies his true power skill, though. His power has been far more substantial in the past three years, and he’s slugged .520, .534 and .526 (including 2011).

For a second baseman, Cano’s power is superlative. Since 2009 his slugging percentage is .526, the highest in baseball among second baseman. The next closest is Chase Utley at .478. Cano also has the highest batting average among second baseman since 2009. Cano is the owner of a career .358 wOBA. Like his slugging, this mark is well below his totals in the past three years: .370, .389 and .375. It’s true that using 2009 as a start point is both arbitrary and favorable to Cano, but it’s also worth noting that he’s entering his physical prime. As a matter of true talent and future expectations, his 2009-2011 data would seem to be more relevant than what he did in his early 20s. This is the book on Cano: an elite hitter with poor on-base skills but who hits for average and power better than nearly anyone at his position.

Dustin Pedroia is a different animal. Like Cano, Pedroia hits for average (career .301 hitter). He’s also shown a decent amount of power with a .455 career slugging percentage, although this is well below Cano. Where he really sets himself apart is his on-base ability. Pedroia’s career walk rate is almost 10%, and this year he’s notched a 15% mark. He’s very patient at the plate and is extremely difficult to strike out, although he’s struck out more recently. Over the past 3 years, Pedroia has an on-base percentage of .376, a mark second only to Chase Utley’s .391. Overall, Pedroia has a career wOBA of .366, .08 points higher than Robinson Cano. Unlike Cano, Pedroia does not benefit from using a sample of only the past three years. His wOBA from 2009 to 2011 is .366, identical to his career average. Who’s the better overall hitter then?

As you can see, Cano has edged Pedroia out in wOBA since the start of 2009, but Pedroia has been more consistent since 2007. It’s also worth noting that Pedroia outperforms Cano slightly in wRC+, which is like a wOBA-based version of OPS+. Pedroia has a career mark of 120, and Cano’s career wRC+ is 118. In the past three years, Pedroia’s respective wRC+ marks are 113, 132 and 129. Cano’s are 121, 142 and 137.  In terms of overall offensive production, the two are very, very close. I’d like to give the category to Cano because of his tremendous upside, but his lack of a respectable walk rate means that his overall production is more likely to be the victim of the capricious whim of the BABIP dragons. This one’s a tossup.

Base running: don’t even think about it vs. the constant threat

Yankees fans know that Robinson Cano should never try to steal a base. He still tries though, and manages to swipe about 5 bases a year, giving him a career total of 26 stolen bases. He’s been caught a staggering 24 times though, meaning that his success rate is just over 50%. Pedroia is far better at stealing bases. He’s stolen 72 bases in his career and averages around 20 a year when he’s healthy. Unlike Cano, he hasn’t gotten thrown out that often – his total caught stealing  mark is 15, giving him a success rate of around 83%.

There’s more to base running than just stealing bases, though. For that we can turn to two very good base running stats, both of which attempt to quantify how many runs are contributed by a player’s advancement on the bases by considering ground, air and hit advancements. Baseball Prospectus’ version is EqBRR, short for Equivalent Base Running Runs. In addition to ground, air and hit advancements it also includes stolen bases and other advancements like wild pitches. Fangraphs’ version does not include these considerations. According to EqBRR, Robinson Cano has been worth only 1.2 runs on the base paths for his entire career, while  Dustin Pedroia has been worth 7.5 runs. This is despite the fact that Cano has played in over three hundred more games than Pedroia. It’s worth noting that Cano’s mark was negative prior to this season; he’s only in the black because he’s been worth 1.5 runs on the basepaths in 2011, bolstered by very high scores on ground and air advancement. In sum, by Baseball Prospectus’ measure Pedroia’s been worth about a half a win more than Cano on the bases.

Fangraphs’ base running stat is UBR, or Ultimate Base Running, and you can read about here. This metric grades Cano out much better than Pedroia, a surprising result. By UBR’s reckoning, Cano has been worth 4.1 runs on the base paths, while Pedroia has been worth -0.4. As mentioned, UBR does not include stolen bases, and we know that there’s a gigantic discrepancy between the two players when it comes to this factor. As such, EqBRR is probably a better indicator of base running value here, which means Pedroia gets the nod in this category.

Defense: depends on who you ask

It’d be really easy to provide the relevant UZR scores for each player and call it a day. It would also be incomplete. Astute readers know that there are some serious difficulties present in UZR and other defensive metrics. Baseball Prospectus’ Colin Wyers has been cleaning the glass like Dennis Rodman on the topic for quite some time now and has proposed an alternative, FRAA. For a primer on the issue, see this piece on the serious problems with most defensive metrics, this piece which summarizes the park-scorer and range biases problems and proposes a way forward, and this piece which examines FRAA against UZR on the topic of Derek Jeter. Colin Wyers summarizes FRAA accordingly:

Simply put, we count how many plays a player made, as well as expected plays for the average player at that position based upon a pitcher’s estimated ground-ball tendencies and the handedness of the batter. There are also adjustments for park and the base-out situations; depending on whether there are runners on base, as well as the number of outs, the shortstop may position himself differently, and we account for that in the average baselines.

The other metrics use other data to come to their estimate of expected outs—in the cases of UZR and DRS, it’s batted-ball and hit location data measured by BIS video scouts. In the cases of TZ and FRAA, it’s data collected by press box stringers working for MLB’s Gameday product.

So we have two different metrics both attempting to quantify defensive value, just in different ways. How do the two second-baseman, Cano and Pedroia, stack up against each other using UZR and FRAA? We’ll start with Cano:

Wowza. UZR hates Cano’s performance with the white hot intensity of a supernova, grading him out at -39.3 runs above average at second base. It’s given him a negative value for every year but 2007, although the worst scores came early in his career. The overwhelming majority of Cano’s poor UZR mark comes from his range. He grades out at nearly average in terms of double play and error runs above average, but has a -36.4 runs above average mark for range. Unlike UZR, FRAA is a huge fan, grading him at 31.2 runs above average. This is a difference of over 70 runs and clearly raises big questions. Other defensive metrics aren’t as harsh on Cano as UZR is, but none are as positive as FRAA. Where you come down on Cano’s defense, then, is likely informed by your own subjective evaluation from watching him. I’d split the difference. Cano certainly doesn’t strike me as a lousy defender, he gets to plenty of balls and turns a double play smoother than anyone. At the same time, I wouldn’t call him an elite defender. He simply doesn’t strike me as being cut from the same elite defensive cloth as someone like Adrian Beltre or Mark Ellis.

Like Cano, UZR and FRAA also see Pedroia differently. He grades out superbly by UZR’s standards, clocking in at 32.5 runs above average for his career, but looks far worse according to FRAA, scoring -1.2 runs above average. From a subjective standpoint, I’d argue that Pedroia is a very good defender. Whether he’s as good as UZR purports him to be is difficult to say. There are serious issues surrounding defensive metrics, so declaring a winner in this category is difficult. In this situation it’s wise to follow the advice of Tom Tango, who recommends we assume that all sides have something to add and take the midpoint. In that case, this category goes to Pedroia if only because of how poorly UZR grades Cano.

Conclusion: the final countdown

What WAR gives us is a systematic, consistent framework to value the accomplishments of players.  The good thing about a framework is that each person is free to create his own implementation.  Not all houses are built the same, but they all follow the same principle.  That’s what WAR gives us.” – Tom Tango.

Fangraphs’ WAR, which uses UBR for baserunning and UZR for defense, grades the two players accordingly:

By this standard, Pedroia is the clear winner. Give Pedroia some 1200 more plate appearances, and he would lead Cano by a wide margin. But as we know, fWAR relies on Fangraphs’ UBR and UZR. So let’s swap out UBR and UZR for Baseball Prospectus’ EqBRR and FRAA, respectively. We’ll call this little SABR-demon spawn RABWAR.

Here Cano is the clear winner, thanks largely to the difference in the way their defense is scored. So who is better: Cano or Pedroia? The offense is a tossup, the base running goes to Pedroia and the defense is a toss-up leaning towards Pedroia. At the end of the day, whether you pick Pedroia or Cano will likely hinge on which defensive metric you prefer, or which team you prefer. Cano and Pedroia are both incredibly talented second baseman and it’s tough to see any daylight between their two respective statistical profiles. In this sense, the claim that Cano is not “nearly as good” as Pedroia simply doesn’t ring true. If I was forced to pick between the two and was able to erase their prior team affiliations from my mind I’d likely go with Pedroia, in no small part because of my preference for his approach at the plate. It’s a very difficult choice though, unless I’m allowed to pick from the other division rival and take Ben Zobrist. Now there’s a second baseman.

Special thanks to Joe Pawlikowski and Moshe Mandel for their contributions to this piece.

Categories : Defense, Offense

135 Comments»

  1. CP says:

    Is WAR/600PA really the best metric? In the end, injuries and playing time matter.

    • I like WAR/600 in this instance, mainly because Cano has been in the league longer.

    • Given how Pedroia was actually injured (broken foot from a foul ball), I have a hard time dinging him. No reason to believe he’ll have future durability problems…Just a fluke injury. Plus, as Joe mentioned, Cano entered the league a year earlier.

      • CP says:

        Broken foot from a foul ball, followed by not following doctor’s recommendations and coming back too soon and reinjuring it so he missed more time.

        I have no confidence that he would actually take the time to heal and so is likely to aggravate injuries when he tries to come bacl.

        Because, you know, he’s gritty and this helps the team.

  2. 23553 says:

    Canoooooooo

  3. Regis says:

    Cano has managed to play no less than 158 games a season since 2007.

  4. jon says:

    ill take the guy who can actually hit outside his home park

    /thread

    • Mike says:

      Or have both, one that hits at his park (Pedroia 0.035 AVG higher at home), and another for the Road (Cano 0.012 AVG higher away from home)… in the past three years:

      Boston
      2011: 0.046 AVG higher at home than away;
      2010: 0.014 AVG higher at home than away;
      2009: 0.027 AVG higher at home than away;
      2008: 0.024 AVG higher at home than away;
      2007: 0.035 AVG higher at home than away;
      2006: 0.032 AVG higher at home than away;

      Yankees
      2011: 0.008 AVG higher at home than away;
      2010: 0.023 AVG higher at home than away;
      2009: 0.001 AVG higher at home than away;
      2008: 0.019 AVG higher at home than away;
      2007: 0.020 AVG higher at home than away;
      2006: -0.001 AVG at home than away;

  5. JohnnyC says:

    The statistical difference between the two (up to this point)is razor thin. The biggest difference is the h/r split where Pedroia clearly benefits from Fenway (his road performance is just better than average not elite). However, his partisans will jump over Cody Ransom size boxes to discount that difference (they “adjust” the splits to normalize Fenway effects within the global average). It comes down to, as it always does, whether you root for the Red Sox or the Yankees.

    • James says:

      Agreed, there’s no wrong answer. When I think about Pedroia’s bat I feel like Gardner is a comparable comparison, just from the left side. Also I think Cano’s bat would be as good as Adrian Gonzalez’ in Fenway, based on his (at one time) natural tendency to lace balls the other way for doubles.

    • CP says:

      The home-road splits is definitely meaningful:

      Cano – Home wOBA: .356
      Cano – Road wOBA: .360

      Pedroia – Home wOBA: .385
      Pedroia – Road wOBA: .348

  6. Undertaker's Dong says:

    Very good article my frisky friend, but…

  7. Eric says:

    Great stuff Stephen. I agree with several of the earlier comments that WAR/600 PA does obscure Cano’s durability, which is a major asset in his favor. Cano is such an enigmatic player at times, and it’s interesting to see the wide variation in how he is valued by the various defensive metrics.

  8. infernoscurse says:

    ive always liked pedroia better

  9. dennis says:

    You forgot to compare hairlines.

    Cano – full head of hair.
    House gnome – Bold in mid 20′s.

  10. vin says:

    Really good post. Moving forward, I’ll take Robby… based on what they’ve done thus far, I’ll take Dusty. I know Robby can modify his approach (in terms of patience) and still be productive – as he was last year. It’s easier to do that than for Pedroia to increase his power output.

    They’re just different players. Pedroia derives his value from being an excellent pest at the plate, playing good defense and running the bases well. Cano is a middle-of-the-order bat who gets paid to hit the ball into the alleys and over the fence. He turns the double play as well as anyone, but his range leaves something to be desired. And his baserunning stinks on ice.

  11. Bavarian Yankee says:

    I’d pick Pedroia just because I’m an OBP whore. I’d like to see a comparison to Ben Zobrist. He’s not (yet?) on the same level as Cano/Pedroia but he’s not that far away imo.

    • Dave says:

      Given he is two years older than them, he’ll never be as good as those two. He clearly is not in their class. Plus I worry about how long he will play 2B at 6’4″ 210.

  12. j6takish says:

    If Kinsler could ever manage to stay healthy, he’d trump them both. He’s only had one healthy season his whole career and went 30/30

  13. Rob S. says:

    Anyone who wants Pedroia can have him. Just replace your blue hat with the interlocking N-Y for a hat with a big stupid looking B or a pair of pansy-ass little red socks on it. Robinson Cano all the way.

  14. Pounder says:

    I don’t give a hoot about these stats and magic numbers that are all the rage in determining a players worth.I trust my eyes, and my eyes say Cano over Pedroia, by a country mile.

  15. pete says:

    I think they’re about even, overall. The best Cano seasons will, IMO, trump the best Pedroia seasons, but I think that overall they’re pretty evenly matched. I tend to agree with UZR about Cano; he has, in my opinion, been a bit below average defensively the past few years, though not by much. He’s crazy smooth, doesn’t make many errors, and can make a few plays that few 2Bs can make because of his arm. These plays tend to be on slow-hit balls up the middle, though. I don’t think he’s got the reactions to be an elite defensive 2B, because he consistently doesn’t get to the hard-hit balls that require a bit of range, which the upper-level defenders at that position do.

    Offensively, I think they’re pretty evenly matched, but like I said, Cano’s best years will be better than Pedroia’s. I think Pedroia at his best is around a .380-.400 OBP and a .450-.475 SLG (with about 18-20 HRs), whereas in a good year Cano can match that OBP, and add a ~.520+ SLG (and ~30 HRs) for good measure. That being said, I can’t say I’d be wildly surprised to see Cano put up an OBP closer to .330 in any given year, whereas I’d be very surprised to see Pedroia dip below .350.

    • Cory says:

      I noticed that you easily threw out the fact of base running. Why I fill that they are about equal in terms of base running smarts (that is taking the extra base and such), Pedroia slaughters Cano when it comes to stealing base. That may be less due to talent and more about being a better base stealer(I guess that is a talent after all).

  16. Will says:

    Sorry I like Pedroia’s OBP skills and grittiness but that doesn’t make him better than Cano for me at least. If Cano played half his games at Fenway this wouldn’t even be a discussion. That place can make even the most pedestrian players seem like MVPs.

    Cano>Zobrist>Pedroia>Utley

    • Cory says:

      Well considering that Cano is pretty much a dead pull hitter when it comes to home runs, I would have to say you are wrong.

      Cano’s average may get a little bump, but I would doubt his power gets much is any.

      Other than the little curve in Fenway’s RF, New Yankee stadium fits left handers much better.

  17. Steve says:

    Sorry I like Pedroia’s OBP skills and grittiness but that doesn’t make him better than Cano for me at least. If Cano played half his games at Fenway this wouldn’t even be a discussion. That place can make even the most pedestrian players seem like MVPs.

    Cano>Zobrist>Pedroia>Utley

  18. Steve says:

    I like Pedroia’s OBP skills and grittiness but that doesn’t make him better than Cano for me at least. If Cano played half his games at Fenway this wouldn’t even be a discussion. That place can make even the most pedestrian players seem like MVPs.

    Cano>Zobrist>Pedroia>Utley

  19. Brandon W says:

    I think the difference in these players will come down to how they age into their 30s, where middle infielders tend to fall off of a cliff. Unfortunately, I’m inclined to think Pedroia will age better than Cano as a second baseman.

    First, Pedroia’s superior speed means he will likely fall off to average range, where Cano will fall off to below average. Pedroia’s patience will keep him on-base, but if his power disappears and his contact skills degrade a bit, his offensive game could decline quickly. Cano’s excellent power will still be above-average for a second baseman even with some decline, so his offensive game should remain competitive for quite some time as long as his extreme contact skills don’t degrade too much. Cano’s power also means he should be more able to shift to a less defensively demanding position if necessary.

    I enjoy watching Cano as a player more than Pedroia, but there is little doubt that they have been very close in value to their respective teams. Going forward I would take Cano, but you can’t go too wrong either way.

    • BklynJT says:

      I feel differently. I don’t think Pedroia will age very well because of his his small physical stature and all for nothing swing.

      • MannyGeee says:

        something to say for ‘structure and build’ as it pertains to how players age. In case you missed it, Cano hit like 300 Homers last night and the swing looked effortless. didn’t even sweat. Not so much for Pedroia.

        plus Brett Pedroia’s brother dives around alot defensively. that has to open you up for other ‘fluke’ unjuries, right??

    • Cory says:

      We can really only judge what they have done up until now. Everybody is judging the future. That’s just crazy.

      Sounds to me like Cano is going to end up as a DH in your mind. Too bad that will be manned by A-Rod until 2017.

  20. Mike HC says:

    Very good article. Really enjoyed this one.

    I would take Cano, but I’m obviously a bit biased.

  21. Bucket Cock says:

    I would take Dustin Pedroia, most probably because he is such a good player at 2nd base.

  22. Foghorn Leghorn says:

    Very close..i really hate the munchkin but he’s got a game. I do feel like he’s maxed out his production whereas Cano still could do more. if Cano had more grittiness holy crap…but then again, one of the things I love about Cano is that he makes it seem effortless and seems to really enjoy playing the game. His swing is a thing of beauty and watching him turn the DP or make that cross body throw to first is simply awesome.

  23. FIPster Doofus says:

    I’ll need to see their OPSBIs before forming an opinion.

  24. Paul T says:

    Give me cano long term…that long, wild swing of Pedroia’s will hinder him as he ages. Not sure how cano will field down the road, but that sweet swing will still be there

  25. Jim says:

    I don’t know how BR calculates their fielding metrics but any stat that has Cano as that good of a 2Bman and Pedroia as below-average is clearly wrong. Pedroia is a plus defensive 2Bman. I don’t know what that translates to in UZR but we have all seen the games. Terrific range, great at turning the 6-4-3, decent arm. Cano is an average defender with a terrific arm and great DP turning skills. But the lack of range for Cano is what keeps him behind Pedroia defensively to me.

    • Stan the Man says:

      What the defensive metrics show is there is no clear way to measure range, so the defensive metrics currently being used are a waste of time. In watching both players Cano gets to balls to his left at an above avg clip but not as good to his right. Pedoria doesn’t have a great arm but avg and covers more ground to his right.

      Cano has an elite arm for the position and turns DP’s at a better rate than Pedoria. I think since both players have 1 GG is about right for their level of defensive ability. Both are above avg but have deficiies that are evident in watching them play.

  26. Dave the Ox says:

    Pedroia won’t age well. He plays all out all the time. That puts him at greater risk for injury as he becomes less and less spry.

  27. Dave says:

    I agree Pedroia won’t age well. I always worry about a guy who was balding by his mid 20s.

  28. Stan the Man says:

    Hi my name is Ben Zobrist and I play 2b every other game but should be invovled in the comparison of two players who 2b over 150 games a season. I am a utility player but I appreciate being brought into this conversation even though I have had only 1 season worth talking about and am older than both players being discussed and have only played 100+ 2x in my entire overrated and pathetic career.

  29. Ben says:

    His swing is way too wild man!

  30. David, Jr. says:

    Elite middle of the order bat versus scrappy little gnome who will fade quickly when speed diminishes.

  31. Commenters above have already mentioned Cano and Pedroia’s career home/away splits and the way Pedroia benefits immensely from his clown-college park, so let’s take a different tack:

    Dustin Pedroia’s career split at YS2:
    .311/.378/.419 (83 PA)
    At YS3:
    .267/.413/.383 (76 PA)

    Robinson Cano’s career split in Fenway (emphasis mine):
    .366/.393/.608 (247 PA)

    If their places were swapped and Pedroia was a homegrown Yankee, he’d be a solidly above average player with an all-star appearance or two but not much more. Maybe along the lines of Asdrubal Cabrera, Orlando Hudson, Placido Polanco, something like that.

    If Robinson Cano had been a homegrown Red Sock, he’d have two or three MVP awards already. He’d be the #1 star in all of baseball. He would have been in that Evan Longoria New Era hat commercial, and he’d have a smile that would light up every room.

    Holy fuckballs, is Fenway a house of smoke and mirrors. Hitters come in, superstars go out.

    • Greg says:

      Agreed with this. Pedroia’s OPS is ~100 points higher at home. Still a solid 780 or so on the road, but not elite.

      Cano on the other hand is actually 10-20 points higher on the road.

      • If you took this Yankees lineup and let them play half of their home games in Fenway, they’d score one billion runs.

        A month.

        Go ahead and doublecheck the math, it’s accurate.

        • Wil (Sox Fan) says:

          Yankee Stadium is actually a better hitters park than Fenway, Park Factor of 107 vs. 106. So both are good parks for hitters. Fenway is more of a doubles park, its actually below league average in how much it helps hitters hit homers (too lazy to look up stat). And its pretty hypocritical to bash the Monster when that embarrassingly short right field porch sitting out there. So if the Monster helps Pedroia, pretty sure that right field would help the lefty Cano.

          • YanksFan in MA says:

            Except Cano has like Stephen mentioned light tower power. Anyone who watched the Derby saw the jacks he can hit. Pedroia benefits much more from the Monster’s lazy fly homers than Cano does the short porch because he typically jacks homers way out, not the barely over the wall homers Pedroia notoriously musters. The proof is in the away stats pudding my friend.

            • Wil (Sox Fan) says:

              Yes he has impressive power, but no hitter’s homers are all sure things. The wall in right field will turn balls that he didn’t get all of into homers from flyouts. He has good home away splits, but for HRs he has 11 at home and 4 on the road this year. There is no way he isn’t helped out by the right field porch. And the Monster helps Pedroia more with doubles, as it does any hitter. Although the Monster is close to the plate (303 I think down the line), a hitter still has to hit the ball pretty hard to make it over the Monster, as it is 30 feet tall.

    • Grit for Brains says:

      Excellent analysis.

    • Foghorn Leghorn says:

      this is top notch and I’m having my people send you a case of the finest bubbly on earth this second..

      but i’ve heard so many sox fans saying that Fenway is not a hitters park because the wall giveth and the wall also taketh…

      the sox are a dangerous team inside Fenway…they hit the snot out of the ball there..put up high run counts all the time…not so much elsewhere.

    • Adam Parker says:

      Wait, are you talking about Cano or Gonzo there? ;)

    • MannyGeee says:

      well played. I guess the exception to this rule, and the only one I can really think of top of mind, is Beltre (though playing in Arlington isn’t hurting, go look at those splits, you may shit yourself).

      VMart is still a nice player, but he’s not exactly lighting the world on fire in Detroit. CERTAINLY not doing what he was doing in Boston (.493 SLG 2010 vs. .457 SLG in 2011)

      any one else worth mentioning in this conversation?

  32. Ted Nelson says:

    If the Sox had kept Casey Kelly he would clearly be better than both and could have played 2B, SS, and pitched all at the same time… but now that he’s in the Padres system he’s only a back-end starting prospect.

  33. JPB says:

    As much as I hate looking at the little rat, I think Pedroia is a slightly better player. If Robbie drew 25 more walks per year, I’d probably think Robbie was slightly better.

    One thing left out of the equation is longevity. Cano, being a bigger, stronger guy, probably will be less able than Pedroia to play 2b effectively as he ages. On the other hand, Pedroia’s offensive decline may be worse than Cano’s, as he relies less on power and more on speed and on-base skills to provide offensive value.

    It’s tough, because both players are types you’d like to have at the plate against a good pitcher in a big game. Pedroia, because he can get on base against anyone, and Cano, because he can hit anyone and hit a homerun anywhere in the ballpark.

    Pedroia is starting to hit better recently, but early this year he had an almost complete power outage. I think we may find that over the next 5 years, his power numbers will disappoint, as the foot injury might have done something to rob him of swing speed. Or, maybe it will just take him a year or 2 to completely recover. Foot injuries are very, very tricky, and can be devastating in any sport.

    • Cory says:

      …Cano, because he can hit anyone and hit a homerun anywhere in the ballpark.

      False. Since the start of the 2010 season Cano has hit 1 HR to left-center, 3 to center, and 40 to right field.

      That to me looks like an extreme pull hitter.

  34. V says:

    1) I think Cano’s ‘not getting hurt’ tool is better than Pedroia’s, and is why grading them on a per PA basis is not a good way of looking at things. Pedroia is an ‘all out’ player, and those players A) don’t stay healthy for 150+ games a year and B) don’t have long careers.

    Without being a homer, if I’m building a team to compete for the next 5-10 years, I take Cano, without a second thought.

  35. pat says:

    Cano is great everywhere. Pedroia is pretty good away from home.

  36. Foghorn Leghorn says:

    Cano makes everything look so easy and that he’s really enjoying himself.

    Pedroia makes everything looks so hard and that he’s in pain while exerting himself so much.

  37. Don says:

    Cano all day he didnt make one error last season and abs raked and will be a batting champ one day

  38. lawyerdan says:

    If one believes that Cano would play better in Fenway than Pedroia would play in Yankee Stadium, which seems undeniable, then what is the verdict?

    • LawyerDan, I’m just a caveman. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me!

      Sometimes when I fly to Europe on the Concorde, I wonder, am I inside some sort of giant bird? Am I gonna be digested? I don’t know, because I’m a caveman, and that’s the way I think! When I’m courtside at a Knicks game, I wonder if the ball is some sort of food they’re fighting over. When I see my image on the security camera at the country club, I wonder, are they stealing my soul? I get so upset, I hop out of my Range Rover, and run across the fairway to to the clubhouse, where I get Carlos to make me one of those martinis he’s so famous for, to soothe my primitive caveman brain.

      But whatever world you’re from, I do know one thing – Dustin Pedroia’s numbers are buoyed by hitting in his home park paradise, and that makes Robinson Cano the better hitter.

      Thank you.

  39. cgreen says:

    Zobrist? I hope you’re kidding.

  40. Foghorn Leghorn says:

    the answer to this age old questions lise in a heaping pile of GRIT.

  41. China Joe says:

    Loving all the support for Cano. I think the Cano vs Pedroia debate is so close on paper that each side can vote with their hearts. And it infuriates me when Yankee fans don’t support Cano. All he does is play 155+ games a year at an elite level. The amount of shit he gets almost defies belief. I know Yankees get torn apart by the media,just for being Yankees, but I’m pretty sure there are a lot Yankee fans who do the same thing: if Cano were playing for the Dodgers they’d be saying “trade for that guy RIGHT NOW”, but since he came up with their team all they see are his flaws.

    • Foghorn Leghorn says:

      he does take a lot of crap…and i think a lot of it stems from image. Cano just makes things look so easy and he has this carefree way of going about things so it makes it seem like he isn’t trying very hard. But his talent is immense. We all know he is great but feel he can do better by being a bit more patient at the plate and makeing more of these “routine” plays” in the field?

      he’s a joy to watch though…his swing is just incredible and the bat speed he generates is just sick.

    • MannyGeee says:

      if he played for the Dodgers, he wouldn’t be so lazy(!!!!1!one!)…

      jus sayin

  42. Jorge says:

    I wonder what CM Punk thinks about this debate.

    I’ll take Robbie any day of the week, twice on Sunday. Besides, where was Daddy Pedroia during the Home Run Derby?

  43. Guest linked by friend says:

    Great read and like Stephen indicated their overall value is a wash.
    If we were taking contracts too, though, it’s not even close.
    Assuming all options are picked up:
    Through their age 30 seasons Pedroia will have made $39.8 MM and Cano $57.9 MM. This, besides Pedroia’s contract has another year in his contract at $11 MM and his agent is not Boras.

  44. Robbie says:

    I’ve been looking all over Baseball Prospectus and the internet as a whole trying to find FRAA for individual players. Anyone know where to find it?

  45. CS Yankee says:

    I think last night will do wonders for Cano’s image and his confidence. Most know how gifted he is but gets that “lazy I don’t care” meme attached to him.

    He was passionate, dominate and had poise while having fun. We don’t often get to see some of the inner-stuff and watching his dad be the typical dad (hard-ass, ultra focused on the prize) was just great. It was cool to also see a son let his dad manage him to the big prize while the dad also didn’t steal his “feelgood”. Jose should move to NY as far as I’m concern.

    We all know that he is extremely gifted but when that routine ball gets by or that first pitch trailing outside slider makes an easy out it comes off and being lack-of-focus, or lazy or immature.

    There is no doubt that he can be a MVP, can hit 50 bombs in a year, and be the mainstay in winning more rings and although he’ll never be Ricky on the bases or Diving Dustin gritty, we all need to enjoy what he does great…and that “laser show” was better than anything i’ve seen including Griff’, Bonds, Giambi or Josh.

  46. JT says:

    The “gritty” bald guy from “the neighborhhod” will always trump the elegant, silky guy from the Dominican in the minds and hearts of most sportswriters. They can see themselves as Pedroia. They can’t see themselves as Cano.

  47. MannyGeee says:

    Give me Cano. all day long. just for that swing alone and the fact that Pedroia will end up spending more time hurt…

    and that fucking self promoted “Laser Show” nickname… what a douche

  48. Eric says:

    I’m so confused, I know I’m supposed to hate this because it was written by a weekend writer for the weekend, but now I’m reading it during the week.

    In all seriousness, great work. It’s clearly very close, but one could give the edge to Cano if you think he has more room for improvement (in terms of developing plate discipline) than Pedroia, who seems pretty maxed out skill-wise. That’s not to say that we can expect Cano to improve his patience (last year looks more like an outlier given his success this year), but if he can, his ceiling will be even higher than it already is.

  49. Dax J. says:

    Stephen, I loved the article. I’ll pick Cano, because I’m a huge homer and I hate the Red Sox, just like every Yankee fan does. I hate the fact that when Pedroia plays against the Yankees, he hits a ton. That said, I want to be objective and say that Pedroia is a better defender and has great OBP skills. I think the whole diving everywhere makes Pedroia look better than he already is, and also, the whole care-free attitude that Cano has, makes him look, well, you know, lazy.

    Fenway helps Pedroia a TON. But Cano’s the better hitter.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      “… the whole care-free attitude that Cano has, makes him look, well, you know, lazy.”

      Jeter has it too, but it makes him look calm.

    • MikeD says:

      Pedroia has a 100 pt OPS swing down when he’s away from Fenway, taking him into the upper 700s. He benefits greatly from Fenway. While Yankee Stadium should benefit Cano on the HR side, overall he’s hit well at home and on the road, although slightly better away from Yankee Stadium. Basically, Cano is just a good hitter; Pedroia not so much, although he clearly will take the walk more than Cano.

      BTW Check out Cano’s numbers vs. the Red Sox. Trust me, they do not feel all that comfortable when Cano comes up to bat.

      • Cory says:

        Pedroia does what a number two hitter should do–get on base while seeing a lot of pitches.

        Cano does what a number five hitter should do–drive in the runs.

        Both play their role to a T.

  50. Mister Delaware says:

    Can I just choose Cano’s ceiling and Pedroia’s floor?

  51. MikeD says:

    Both fine players. On the hititng side, even though the schemes attempt to adjust for park, I am quite confident if Cano played in Fenway and Pedroia played in Yankee Stadium, there wouldn’t even be a discussion. Cano would be ahead substantially.

  52. Stan the Man says:

    The fact that Cano has stayed pretty consistent on the road and at home throughout his career should provide more of an edge to him as a hitter.

    In watching both Cano and Pedoria in the field I honestly can’t tell how UZR has one so positive and one so negative. With a gap that wide it should be obvious to see the difference and it simply isn’t obvious at all. Cano gets the tag of lazy because lazy people are dissecting his game.

    As a Yankee fan I am not worried about Cano’s defense and expect him to get to balls hit up the middle, I am sure a Sox fan feels the same about Pedoria and his ability to get to balls not hit above 5’0″ in the air.

    • MannyGeee says:

      I wonder if side to side range vs. vertical range has anything to do with either.

      serious question, not reaching for an obvious short joke… although its RIGHT there….

  53. Jerome S. says:

    I think Cano’s ceiling is league MVP.

    Pedroia won league MVP, even though he didn’t exactly play like it. Hell, he’ll probably have a better season than 2008 at some point in the future. But he doesn’t have an MVP ceiling; I think that in his best season Cano could put up maybe 8 WAR. Pedroia will consistently put up 6 WAR for the next few years, probably. He’s an all-star, not an MVP.

    • Cory says:

      I doubt Cano puts up an 8 WAR because of his defense.

      How does an AL MVP not have a MVP ceiling? I agree he won it because there was no ‘real’ MVP in the AL, but can’t hate him because of that.

  54. Anthony says:

    Zobrist over both Cano and Pedroia? In 2009, sure. Any other year, no way, although it’s close this year. Pedroia is developing that same 20-20 ability and has a good chance to get there this year. Cano is more consistent with his ability to get hits and hit for power than Zobrist. I’d take either over him. Pedroia and Cano are MVP-caliber players. Zobrist is unpredictable.

  55. ghost says:

    Cano has more power and a stronger throwing arm. Pedroia is superior in every other phase of the game. Fielding UZR isn’t close. Cano sometimes loses concentration making dumb errors and bad baserunning mistakes. Pedroia is all over Cano when it comes to base stealing. Pedroia is a more selective hitter giving him a far better OBP. Cano’s BA in the 9th inning is .211, Pedroia’s is .362.

    And then there is the leadership. Cano is a good guy. Pedroia is the next captain of the Red Sox.

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