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2017, Sidebars

Year End HoME Roundup, 2B

Jose Altuve, 2017As we continue evaluating the evolving candidacies of active major leaguers for the Hall of Miller and Eric, today we take a look at second base. Check out our analysis of all the positions.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD | CENTER FIELD RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS | RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS | RELIEF PITCHERS

Robinson Cano

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 8
Ahead of Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, and Roberto Alomar.
Trailing Bobby Grich, Frankie Frisch, and Charlie Gehringer.

Eric: 9
Ahead of Lou Whitaker, Ross Barnes, and Joe Gordon
Trailing Frankie Frisch, Bobby Grich, and Jackie Robinson

Current career trajectory:
Even after 13 seasons in the majors, Robinson Cano remains a star, and a healthy star at that. Sure, he’ll be 35 next year, and things could end quite quickly. Even if they do, Cano is an all-time great. Before he’s done, I’m thinking he’ll reach the top-20 in doubles, best among 2B aside from Craig Biggio. He also has a somewhat quiet 300 homers, and he’ll get to 2500 hits.

HoME Outlook:
There’s no question he’s going. The question is what he’ll do on the all-time 2B chart. Imagining seasons of 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR, he’ll pass Bobby Grich and be nipping on the heels of Frankie Frisch for 6th all-time.
—Miller

Chase Utley

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 20
Ahead of Hardy Richardson, Tony Phillips, and Bobby Doerr.
Trailing Billy Herrman, Bid McPhee, and Cupid Childs.

Eric: 19
Ahead of Billy Herman, Tony Phillips, and Bobby Doerr
Trailing Cupid Childs, Willie Randolph, and Bid McPhee

Current career trajectory: It’s looking like we’re very close to the end of the line for the Bobby Grich of this generation.

HoME Outlook: Pretty good! Despite getting a late start at being a regular, Utley’s peak is impressive, and his athleticism and broad range of skills have kept him in the game longer than we might have anticipated. He’s still close to the borderline, however, and his election is no guarantee since one of us has him enough above it and the other of us has him much closer to it. But his outlook for the Hall of Fame is terrible because, you know….
—Eric

Ian Kinsler

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.1

Rank at the position after 2017:

Miller: 26
Ahead of Johnny Evers, Tony Lazzeri, and Del Pratt.
Trailing Fred Dunlap, Jeff Kent, and Bobby Doerr.

Eric: 25
Ahead of Sure Shot Fred Dunlap, Johnny Evers, and Tony Lazzeri
Trailing Bobby Doerr, Jeff Kent, and Hardy Richardson

Current career trajectory:
You don’t have to dig too deeply into Kinsler’s season to see what went wrong. A career BABIP before this year of .289 turned into .244 in 2017. But when we dig into Defensive Regression Analysis, we see someone who didn’t do as well fielding his position in 2017 as in the past. Kinsler will be 36 next year, and middle infielders of that age tend to hold little value. Still, I’ll bet the over on 2.0 WAR, even 3.0 in 2018. I have faith.

HoME Outlook:
I thought he was going to seal the deal in 2017, but he didn’t. I still think he’s going, and the 3.0 WAR season I predict will help him get there. If he closes things out with seasons of 3, 2, and 1 WAR, he’ll end his career about 20th among second basemen all-time, and he’ll become a member of the Hall of Miller and Eric.
—Miller

Dustin Pedroia

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.5

Rank at the position after 2017:

Miller: 31
Ahead of Ben Zobrist, Lonny Frey, and Gil McDougald.
Trailing Dick McAuliffe, Del Pratt, and Tony Lazzeri.

Eric: 31
Ahead of Eddie Stanky, Gil McDougald, and Lonny Frey
Trailing Tony Lazzeri, Del Pratt, and Ben Zobrist

Current career trajectory:
Since Pedroia turned 30, he’s topped 135 games just once. When he’s healthy, he remains excellent, but he just hasn’t been healthy. And the clock says he’s not more likely to be free of nagging injuries in 2018 than in the past four seasons. He’ll get to 2000 hits and 1000 runs, nice round numbers. And he’ll probably be the heart and soul of the Red Sox whenever he’s in the lineup. For those really excited about Jose Altuve today, Pedroia is a bit of a cautionary tale.

HoME Outlook:
It’s not looking good. Even three more 4-win seasons doesn’t get him past Jeff Kent. And if he doesn’t pass Kent, he’s almost certain not to get in. He’s a popular and respected player. Perhaps some incarnation of the VC puts him in the Hall someday, but I don’t think he’ll deserve it. You can love watching a player, really love it, but still realize he’s not ultimately of Hall calibre.
—Miller

Ben Zobrist

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.5

Rank at the position after 2017:

Miller: 32
Ahead of Lonny Frey, Gil McDougald, and Red Schoendienst.
Trailing Dustin Pedroia, Dick McAuliffe, and Del Pratt.

Eric: 30
Ahead of Dustin Pedroia, Lonny Frey, and Eddie Stanky
Trailing Johnny Evers, Tony Lazzeri, and Del Pratt

Current career trajectory: Zobrist’s late run for the HoME appears to have petered out. His bat flat-lined at age 36. His BABIP fell about 40 points from his career norms, and more disturbingly, he shed 30 points of ISO from 2016. His power has declined considerably since 2012. If the BABIP bounces back, he’s still got a decent glove, he can still play just about anywhere on the diamond, and he still draws a lot of walks. If the BABIP is gone forever, he goes from Swiss Army Knife to utility guy.

HoME Outlook: He’s going to be 37. He needs to stuff a bunch more value into his career. It’s going to be hard. Specifically he needs about 10 more career WAR to get close enough for real consideration. His peak isn’t strong enough without that extra depth. Situation critical.
—Eric

Jose Altuve

2017 BBREF WAR:
8.3

Rank at the position after 2017:

Miller: 66ish
Ahead of Brett Boone, Hobe Ferris, and lots of guys who don’t much matter.
Trailing Howie Kendrick, Davey Johnson, and Brandon Phillips.

Eric: 66
Ahead of Howie Kendrick, Jose Offerman, and the rest of history
Trailing Frank White, Brett Boone, and Davey Johnson

Current career trajectory: Altuve might be your best bet for 3000 hits post-Pujols. Miguel Cabrera’s banged and no longer a sure thing. Robinson Cano is on track, but he had a down year. Altuve’s only entering his age-28 season, but he’s already got 1250 notches on this particular belt, including four consecutive 200-hit seasons, each of which led the AL. He’s hitting .334 since 2014. He’s also added power to his game. His leading comp is Billy Herman with Sandberg, Alomar, Rose, and Cano also appearing among his closest age-based comps. Sure seems like the sky’s the limit.

HoME Outlook: Despite a likely MVP award this year and the batting titles and hits, Altuve has a big Achilles heel: his glove. Where BBREF sees it as below average but not dangerously so, DRA sees a problem of near-Jeter proportions. If Captain Marlin could ride it out, maybe Altuve can too. But if Altuve’s defense really is that bad, then what? The Astros have stud youngster Alex Bregman at third right now. They have Yuli Gurriel signed through 2020 to play first base, the other position Altuve might be able to play. But he’ll only be able to play there if his bat holds up. And anyway, he’s only signed through 2018, so the Stros may have a tough decision to make. It probably all depends on what their internal metrics say about his defensive abilities. But if he doesn’t move, then he’s taking the Jeter path to immortality. Play poor defense and hit like crazy. Dick Allen did it. Mark McGwire and Gary Sheffield did it. Dave Winfield did it. Many more have tried and failed. Harmon Killebrew, for example. Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada for two more examples. All that said, Altuve has 30 career BBREF WAR, which places him well above the HoME average among postwar second basemen at the same age. Robbie Alomar, Willie Randolph, and Bobby Grich outpaced Altuve, and Lou Whitaker was beside him stride for stride. Then again, Chuck Knoblauch eclipsed Altuve by one WAR, and we know what happened to him.
—Eric

Brandon Phillips

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.8

Rank at the position after 2017:

Miller: 63
Ahead of Davey Johnson, Howie Kendrick, and Jose Altuve.
Trailing Pete Runnels, Mark Ellis, and Ron Hunt.

Eric: 61
Ahead of Ron Hunt, Frank White, and Bob Boone
Trailing Mark Ellis, Claude Ritchey, and Pete Runnels

Current career trajectory:
Phillips is winding down, and he has only been a decent starter once since 2012 anyway. He’ll be 37 next year, so expecting that trend to reverse itself isn’t so wise.

HoME Outlook: No middle infielder with Phillips’ profile has ever gotten into the Hall. And you can just forget the HoME. I guess Phillips will just have to settle for the $100 million he’s made in the game. So far.
—Miller

Howie Kendrick

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 65
Ahead of Jose Altuve, Bret Boone, and Hobe Ferris.
Trailing Davey Johnson, Brandon Phillips, and Pete Runnels.

Eric: 67
Ahead of Jose Offerman and anyone below him
Trailing Bret Boone, Davey Johnson, and Jose Altuve

Current career trajectory:
On one hand I want to say that he’s about done entering his age-35 season. On the other, the guy can still hit, and a guy who can hit without destroying you at second base can have a role on most teams. Or maybe that .418 BABIP when he was in Philadelphia isn’t something he can replicate…

HoME Outlook:
You know who he looks a decent amount like through age-34? It’s Omar Vizquel, though bat before glove. Of course, I don’t think Kendrick has another dozen years at about 1.1 WAR per season left in him. But maybe if he does, people will call him the best defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith for reasons having nothing to with defense, which is what has happened to Omar. By the way, he’s also a lot like Orlando Hudson. That’s more like it.
—Miller

Jonathan Schoop

2017 BBREF WAR:
5.1

We won’t worry about Schoop’s rankings. He’s here simply because he’s interesting. Schoop has earned 10.1 BBREF WAR through his age 25 season. The average postwar HoME second baseman averaged 16. The top runners up averaged 8. So he’s in a place in his career where if his breakout 2017 season is for reals then he’s going to be interesting to watch.

If this seems unlikely, check out Jeff Kent’s career. He earned just one-fifth the WAR Schoop has through age 25, but he had similar breakout moment around age 27. Like Schoop, he had shown some power in the majors before he busted out, but no one expected him to emerge as Jeff Kent All-Star. As hitters they are similar in that they hit for unusual power for a keystone man, but they don’t draw all that many walks. Schoop has the advantages of being a better baserunner and a much better defensive player. Kent drew more walks, but his walk rate increased over time as the league pitched him more carefully in his 30s than in his 20s.

So that’s Schoop’s model. The chances are very low that he succeeds. They are much higher that he’s a flash in the pan. But watch his walk rate to see if it starts inching up. You may see a sign of big things to come.
—Eric

On Monday, it’ll be the third basemen. See you then!

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Year End HoME Roundup, 2B

  1. The Indians put Kipnis in the outfield, maybe the Astros can do the same thing with Altuve. It’s not like they have Mays, Mantle, and DiMaggio out there.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | October 20, 2017, 8:20 am
    • It seems Altuve is signed through 2019 rather than 2018. And it’s nearly for free in baseball money – $12.5 million over the two years. If the Astros deem his defense to be problematic (they should), he could shift to the outfield or to DH, but he won’t shift out of Houston until 2020 at the earliest.

      Posted by Miller | October 20, 2017, 8:33 am

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