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Best Second Basemen of 2008

Other positions:  1B | SS | 3B | DH | LF | CF | RF | CA

Like I did last year, I'm going to spend the few two weeks discussing the top ten players at each position based on 2008 performances.  This year I'm using Justin's stats, which have all the nice features of the home-brewed stats I calculated last year, but with the added benefit of making Justin do all the work:

  • BaseRuns-derived offensive linear weights, with park adjustments.
  • League-adjusted replacement-level, since AL pitching is stronger than NL pitching.
  • Proper position adjustments using the CA - SS - 2B/3B/CF - LF/RF - 1B - DH spectrum.
  • Combined STATS and BIS zone ratings converted to runs to measure fielding.

Players are listed at the position they played the most, but the defensive numbers from all positions are included, and players' contributions to multiple teams are combined. For the top ten players at each position, I've listed their offensive contribution above replacement level and their defensive contribution (position adjustment plus fielding relative to position) compared to average.  Position and fielding are broken out in the table at the end.  If you add offense plus position, you'll get a number with the same use as VORP, but better.

To help you put the Total Value number in perspective, here are some benchmarks given a full season of playing time:

  • League-average is about 20 runs above replacement.
  • The cut-off for true All-Stars is in the 40 run range.
  • Top 5 MVP candidates are worth at least 70 runs above replacement.
  • MVP winners have been in the 90-100 run range the past few years.

Without further ado, here are the top ten second basemen of 2008 (2007 numbers here):

10. Mark Ellis (11 off, 20 def, 30 tot) -- Sure, he batted .233 and posted an uninspiring 90 OPS+.  But with the best range of any second baseman in the majors, Ellis was still an above-average player in 2008.  Going into 2009 he should return to being an All-Star caliber player thanks to a healthy shoulder and a rebound to offensive career norms.  Oh, and we here at BtB would like to remind everyone that Ellis will also eventually cure cancer, move the money Wall St. lost back to Main St., and be the first to visit a neighboring solar system.

9. Mike Fontenot (22 off, 8 def, 30 tot) -- Here's a guy who snuck up on my radar.  Fontenot absolutely crushed the ball this year, to the tune of .305/.395/.514 in just under 300 plate appearances.  He's old for someone with less than two years of service time --2009 will be his age 29 season -- but if he can give the Cubs even league-average offense with his good glove, they'll be more than happy to take it.

8. Jose C Lopez (26 off, 7 def, 33 tot) -- For some reason there's talk in Seattle of moving Lopez to first base.  Sure, the Mariners don't have any good first base options (well, maybe Jeff Clement), but there's no reason, offensively or defensively to mess with his production.  This organization needs a competent GM stat.

7. Mark DeRosa (35 off, -1 def, 34 tot) -- One reason for the Cubs' dominance of the NL Central this year was a career-year from DeRosa, who set personal bests in both OBP and SLG.  He actually only spent about half his defensive innings at second base, putting in time at third and the corner outfield spots as well.  Coupled with Fontenot's breakout season, Chicago will have a difficult time matching their 2008 production at second base next year.

6. Ian M Kinsler (45 off, -5 def, 40 tot) -- Hyped as an MVP candidate around the All-Star break, Kinsler's candidacy was derailed by a late-season injury and lack of fielding talent.  His offense will never be a concern, however, assuring he'll be appearing on this top ten list for years to come.

5. Placido Polanco (27 off, 14 def, 41 tot) -- There was a point a few years ago when Polanco actually received the credit he was do, but he's been extremely underrated every other point of his career.  Tom Tango has repeatedly shown that he's at least as good as Derek Jeter, but without the hype.  2008 was another high-OBP, stellar-defense, top-five year for Polanco.  In fact, he matched his career  AVG/OBP/SLG rate stats to within .001 points each.  Ho-hum.

4. Dan C Uggla (41 off, 5 def, 45 tot) -- Looking at that defensive value, you either have to admit zone ratings aren't perfect or that Uggla improved his fielding an incredible amount over previous seasons.  I'll take the wussy route and say it's a combination of both.

3. Brian Roberts (50 off, 9 def, 59 tot) -- He matched Pedroia's production at the plate once you consider home ballpark and was nearly a clone in the field.  But sure, Pedroia's a lock for MVP while Roberts won't receive any votes.  That makes sense.

2. Dustin L Pedroia (50 off, 11 def, 61 tot) -- Just in case my comment on Roberts sounded like Pedroia-bashing, it wasn't.  (I was bashing the BBWAA and other mainstream media outlets.) After all, how can you not love a short dude with power? I've made the comparison in the past, but he's a lot like David Eckstein -- small, scrappy, swings from his heels, etc. -- except with actual baseball talent.

1. Chase Utley (53 off, 23 def, 76 tot) -- Utley can lay claim to being the most productive offensive second baseman and the most productive defensive second baseman in the majors, a combination that leaves a large gap between him and everyone else in overall value.  He's easily the Phillies' MVP and the best NL player on a playoff team.  The same could be said about Utley in 2007, as well.

Here's a table listing the top 25 (with ties) second basemen in 2008:

Rank Player Off Pos Field Total
1 Chase Utley 53 2 21 76
2 Dustin L Pedroia 50 2 9 61
3 Brian Roberts 50 2 6 59
4 Dan C Uggla 41 2 2 45
5 Placido Polanco 27 2 12 41
6 Ian M Kinsler 45 2 -6 40
7 Mark DeRosa 35 -1 0 34
8 Jose C Lopez 26 1 5 33
9 Mike Fontenot 22 1 7 30
10 Mark Ellis 11 2 18 30
11 Akinori Iwamura 25 2 0 27
12 Brandon Phillips 14 2 10 26
13 Kelly A Johnson 28 2 -5 25
14 Rickie Weeks 17 2 4 23
15 Joe S Inglett 16 0 2 19
16 Adam Kennedy 2 1 16 18
17 Kaz Matsui 20 1 -4 18
18 Clint Barmes 11 2 4 18
19 Howie Kendrick 13 1 0 14
20 Ray Durham 22 1 -9 14
21 Orlando Hudson 17 2 -6 13
22 Asdrubal J Cabrera 9 2 1 13
23 Aaron Miles 11 2 -1 12
24 Jamey Carroll 12 1 -1 12
25 Jeff Kent 11 2 -2 10
26 Alexei Ramirez 17 2 -9 10
27 Mark Grudzielanek 11 1 -3 10

And the worst five (with ties):

Player Off Pos Field Total
Damion Easley 1 1 -11 -9
Eugenio Velez 0 0 -7 -7
Luis Castillo 4 1 -10 -5
Eric S Patterson -3 0 -1 -4
Luis A Maza -4 1 -1 -4
Argenis Reyes -6 0 2 -4

Hmm, I wonder where the blame really should lie for the Mets' failure to win their division for the second year in a row?