If there was any doubt about the identify of baseball's greatest second baseman, the Yankees' superstar removed that in 2012.
My guess is that Robinson Canó will remember 2012 for two things:
First, his incredibly disappointing performance in October; after finishing the regular season on a tear, Canó went 3 for 40 in the Yankees' two postseason series, the second of which they lost in a sweep.
Second, becoming a U.S. citizen!
Very proud day for me, I just became a US citizen, God bless America! say.ly/WIy4zC7— Robinson Cano (@RobinsonCano) November 13, 2012
Me, though? I'm sure I'll soon forget both of those things. For me, 2012 will be the season that Robinson Canó established himself as the best second baseman in the major leagues, and a likely Hall of Famer.
Yeah, I'm probably late to the party and if I'd done some work on this a year ago, I might well have come to the same conclusion. But two or three years ago, I argued that while it was close, Canó was not the top second baseman; Dustin Pedroia was. I still believe I was right, then. Or nearly right. Pedroia's hitting stats were just as good as Canó's, and his fielding stats were better. No, perhaps I didn't give quite enough weight to Pedroia's home/road splits. But two or three years ago, the specter of Canó's sub-par 2008 season was still weighing on Pedroia's side.
No more. Twenty-oh-eight now seems like an anomaly. We've now had four seasons since 2008, and here's where Canó ranks among all major-league second basemen in various categories (with 1,000 plate appearances the minimum to qualify for the percentages):
I asterisked that first one, because Canó's 12 points behind Chase Utley and four points behind Pedroia. But Canó's got a huge edge over Utley in playing time, and Pedroia's edge over Canó would likely disappear if you put them in the same ballpark.
Robinson Canó doesn't draw a lot of walks. Over the last four seasons, he's just seventh among second basemen in walks, despite playing nine more games than anybody else. It just doesn't matter. Plus, he draws more walks than he used to. Some of that is probably respect rather than discipline. But a walk's a walk.
Oh, and Canó won the Gold Glove this year and probably deserved it. He's not Bill Mazeroski or Frank White, but he's a good second baseman, better than I ever thought he would be.
I still believe that Dustin Pedroia's an outstanding player, and maybe just as outstanding as Robinson Canó. When he's able to play. And that's the whole thing. Over the last three seasons, Canó has averaged 160 games per season; Pedroia, 125. Utley, 100.
Canó just keeps playing every day, while his competition has spent hundreds of hours on the training table, just trying to get back on the field. And even when they get back, they might not be what they were.
If I had an MVP ballot this year, Mike Trout would be my No. 1 choice. But No. 2 wouldn't be Miguel Cabrera. As brilliantly as he played, I believe that Robinson Canó, the planet's best second baseman, was even brillianter.