Over the weekend, Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record compared Yankees second baseman, Robinson Cano, to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia. At one point in the text, Klapisch discusses the two in terms of fielding ability, and concludes that Cano is actually a better second baseman than Pedroia. “In this regard,” he writes, “Pedroia doesn’t come close to Cano – he can’t duplicate his rival’s range to his right and that signature ability to throw to first base while moving in the opposite direction.” However, it seems that Ultimate Zone Rating disagrees with Klapisch.
According to FanGraphs, which Klapisch later uses to discuss offense yet did not use to justify his defensive evaluation (for whatever reason), Robinson Cano’s career UZR is -26.8 and his career UZR per 150 defensive games is -5.4. On the other hand, Dustin Pedroia’s career UZR is +21.7 and his career UZR per 150 defensive games is 7.4. With regards to defense, there is a fairly large gulf, run-wise, between the two, with Pedroia reigning supreme. While I do think that UZR actually underrates Cano – a product, perhaps, of the way in which his “smooth” style of play is perceived, i.e., as not trying hard enough – to say that Pedroia “doesn’t come close to Cano” with a glove is quite a reach. Based on what I have seen, Cano has a better arm and range to his right, but Pedroia, with his speed and instincts, seems to react better and, as a result, can often cover more ground, overall (he was 7.5 range runs above average in 2009, and Cano was 2.5 runs below average). Would most fans agree with that assessment? I think so.
Cano has the potential to improve significantly, and become a better second baseman, but, as of right now, if I were building a defense-first team and were forced to choose between he and Pedroia, I would probably take the latter.
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