What Has Happened to the Second Basemen?

 2nd Base hasn’t been a particularly stacked position in the major leagues in the past five years. Entering the 2015 season, the 2nd base position was headlined by Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano. The second tier arguably consisted of Ben Zobrist, Neil Walker, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler, and maybe Brian Dozier. Then the next level housed names like Jason Kipnis, Daniel Murphy, and maybe DJ LeMahieu. I’m here to analyze what has possibly happened to this group of baseball players in the past few months.

According to the Depth Charts pre-season projections, the top eight second basemen ranked by wOBA were Robinson Cano, Neil Walker, Ben Zobrist, Jose Altuve, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Howie Kendrick, and Chase Utley. The projections are usually somewhat accurate, but if you’ve been following baseball at all this season, just by looking at those names, you know that we’ve found an exception to that.

These are the top 10 second baseman thus far in the 2015 season ranked by wOBA:

Name Team G PA HR BB% K% ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
Jason Kipnis Indians 69 322 5 10% 13% 0.17 0.396 0.409 169
Brian Dozier Twins 70 310 14 9% 19% 0.257 0.276 0.363 133
Logan Forsythe Rays 72 284 8 9% 15% 0.161 0.325 0.363 139
Joe Panik Giants 69 296 6 9% 12% 0.156 0.326 0.362 137
Dustin Pedroia Red Sox 68 311 9 9% 12% 0.147 0.325 0.358 127
Dee Gordon Marlins 68 311 0 3% 15% 0.071 0.418 0.347 120
Danny Espinosa Nationals 62 229 8 9% 22% 0.187 0.317 0.345 118
DJ LeMahieu Rockies 68 274 4 7% 16% 0.103 0.373 0.344 102
Kolten Wong Cardinals 69 284 8 7% 14% 0.163 0.3 0.336 114
Jace Peterson Braves 66 270 2 11% 17% 0.103 0.337 0.327 107

 

If I told you in April that Logan Forsythe would be the 3rd best second baseman in the league, you would think I’m ridiculous. He came absolutely out of nowhere to raise his BABIP nearly 60 points and raise his ISO 55 points! Joe Panik’s beautiful swing has moved him up to be the 4th best-hitting 2nd baseman. Jason Kipnis has shut up all the critics. He took his .310 2014 OBP as confidence going into this year, and now has a wOBA over .400. Danny Espinosa, who has been previously known as a ‘defensive’ second baseman, has skyrocketed his offensive production into a player who Matt Williams is comfortable having run onto the field every day. Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong is pulling the ball more and more every season. He’s also upped his LD% from 19% to 25%. Braves utility-infielder Jace Peterson is doing a bit of hitting in his rookie year, after being traded from San Diego (who, it turns out, could really use him) to the Braves in December. Think back to when I mentioned the tiers up top. Where is Robby Cano on the list above? Where’s Altuve? I don’t see Zobrist, Walker, or Kinsler on this list either. It is not an error.

So we talked about the breakouts at 2nd; now lets talk about the guys who haven’t or haven’t yet lived up to expectations.

Lets start with the guy who all of his fantasy owners hate this year. Robinson Cano. Yeah, the six-time All-Star Robinson Cano. The 32-year-old — the guy who has a wRC+ of 76. This is easily, by far, his worst season of his 11-year career. Why? Lets talk about it.

Cano has raised his Hard% and his Pull% over 4% each! What does jump out at you is that he’s making a ton less contact than he did last year. Actually, the least of his whole career. His Contact% has plummeted down almost 5%. Along with a raised K%, his BABIP has jumped down nearly 50 points.

The next guy is Altuve. Altuve hasn’t been that bad this year, but compared to his 2014 campaign, he’s not playing like Jose Altuve. He’s even fighting with a mild hamstring injury, but in his 287 PA’s, every single one of his numbers are down. His wOBA has decreased .363 to .304. BB% is down, strikeouts are up, OBP and SLG are both way down. He’s swinging more, and making less contact which isn’t a combination that pulls you in a positive direction.

Same can be said for Neil Walker. Almost all his numbers are down. One of the positives that I found, though, is that he’s hitting the ball harder. My prediction is that the .303 wOBA will start to show positive regression. Ian Kinsler isn’t having a horrible season. He’s raised his OBP a bit, but he’s becoming more of a singles hitter, dropping his SLG from .420 to .338.

Almost every starting second baseman in the big leagues has totally changed their style of hitting this year. Guys like Forsythe and Panik, who were projected to be replacement level or below, have made their names rise to the top of many leaderboards. Cano and Altuve’s value have fallen. Here’s your homework: Think of all the 2nd baseman in the major leagues. How many of them have close to similar stats from their projections? Comment down below.



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Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

I don’t think Wong’s breakout is much of a surprise. He’s a former top prospect simply building on a decent rookie year in his sophomore season while showing that his power surge last year was for real.

Scott
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Scott

DJ Lemahieu save for a mildly inflated babip is pretty much doing what the projections pegged him for this year. He’s a strange player: 6’4″ and 205 pounds is a large 2B. From that large 2B you have a lifetime .088 ISO and 26.7/40.1/36.8 pull/center/oppo %’s. He also hits the ball for soft/hard contact at below average rates. He’s basically a medium contact liners and grounders to the middle/push side machine which should continue to fuel a plus babip so long as he plays half his games in coors. Even on the road he’s hitting for a .344 babip this year with similar power/plate discipline. The end result is not too far off from earlier career Howie Kendrick offensively speaking.

Baseball Guy
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Baseball Guy

Also best defensive 2B in the game. And yes, I’m aware Dustin Pedroia exists.

Matt Brown
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Matt Brown

not to mention Devon Travis

evo34
Member
evo34

“Almost every starting second baseman in the big leagues has totally changed their style of hitting this year.”

How does stuff like this ever get published? I’m not even talking about the horrendous grammar. It’s the childish content of the entire article that is bizarre.