Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees is quickly entering the discussion for best second basemen in the game today (if you don't think he already is), and the question is being asked if he could become the greatest second basemen ever.
My goal is to see how he compares to the greatest in the game all-time, and see where his career might just end up.
Who are the greatest second basemen ever? They are Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins, and Rod Carew (click here to see my complete top nine second basemen ever).
I will compare him in certain key statistical categories and other areas, and then provide a projection based on what I think his final stats will be.
Where will Robbie end up in the annals of greatest second basemen ever? Will he crack my top nine mentioned above, will he crack the top five or he will end up as the greatest ever? Let's take a look, starting with awards and honors.
Rogers Hornsby's statue
Where does Robinson Cano stand in regards to awards such as MVPs, Gold Gloves etc? Keep in mind, some awards and honors didn't exist for some players.
Hornsby: Two MVPs, Two top-five MVP finishes, One National League Batting Triple Crown, One Major League Batting Triple Crown.
Morgan: Two MVPs, Two top-five MVP finishes, 10-time All-Star, Five Gold Gloves, One Silver Slugger.
Lajoie: One American League Batting Triple Crown.
Collins: One MVP, Five top-five MVP finishes.
Carew: One MVP, Two top-five MVP finishes, One Rookie of the Year, 18-time All-Star.
Cano (so far): One top-five MVP finish, Two-time All-Star, One Gold Glove, Two Silver Sluggers.
Cano projection: Two MVPs, Five top-five MVP finishes, 11-time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, Eight Silver Sluggers.
This is one area where Cano compares (rather, will compare) favorably to the all-time greats. He's going to be in the discussion for MVP every year, he is considered the best defensive second basemen playing today (his range and arm strength are probably the best in the game today), and along with Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia, are the best hitting second basemen in the game.
The only honor he will fall short of is batting Triple Crowns but only because he won't hit 40+ home runs every year.
How does Cano compare in the key batting stats—batting average (BA), on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), on-base plus slugging (OPS) and adjusted on-base plus slugging (OPS+)?
Hornsby: .358 BA, .434 OBP, .577 SLG, 1.010 OPS, 175 OPS+
Morgan: .271 BA, .392 OBP, .427 SLG, .819 OPS, 132 OPS+
Lajoie: .338 BA, .380 OBP, .467 SLG, .846 OPS, 150 OPS+
Collins: .333 BA, .424 OBP, .429 SLG, .853 OPS, 141 OPS+
Carew: .328 BA, .393 OBP, .429 SLG, .822 OPS, 131 OPS+
Cano (so far): .309 BA, .347 OBP, .489 SLG, .836 OPS, 117 OPS+
Cano projection: .305 BA, .375 OBP, .500 SLG, .875 OPS, 135 OPS+
This is where it's hard to see what Cano's final numbers will look like. Will he return to his 2008 form when his offensive numbers weren't good or will his 2010 season be the norm? If he returns to 2008 form, then this discussion is over and he won't even reach my top nine. However, if he can repeat 2010 for the majority of his remaining career, his final numbers might be even better than what I projected and he is in the discussion.
Where Cano needs to improve is his on-base percentage; he doesn't walk a lot (but he doesn't strike out a lot either). If he can raise his OBP (and thus his OPS+), he will easily compete with these greats and remains in the discussion for best ever.
How does Cano compare in the other offensive stats such as home runs (HRs), runs batted in (RBI), hits (H), runs scored (R), walks (BB) and strikeouts (K)?
Hornsby: 301 HRs, 1584 RBIs, 2930 H, 1579 R, 1038 BBs and 679 Ks.
Morgan: 268 HRs, 1133 RBIs, 2517 H, 1650 R, 1865 BBs and 1015Ks
Lajoie: 83 HRs, 1599 RBIs, 3242 H, 1504 R, 516 BBs and 85 Ks
Collins: 47 HRs, 1300 RBIs, 3315 H, 1821 R, 1499 BBs and 286 Ks
Carew: 92 HRs, 1015 RBIs, 3053 H, 1424 R, 1018 BBs and 1028 Ks
Cano (so far): 116 HRs, 503 RBIs, 1075 H, 509 R, 186 BBs and 412 Ks
Cano projection: 330 HRs, 1450 RBIs, 2700 H, 1400 R, 600 BBs and 1000 Ks
As with the previous slide, this is tough to decide because it all hinges on the 2010 Cano showing up and not the 2008. Also, if Cano ever moves up and is the number three hitter instead of the number five, these numbers may improve even more.
These totals are based on roughly a 15 year career, so if he can play closer to 20, he might reach 400+ home runs, 1700 RBIs, 3000 hits and approach 2000 runs. If he can do that, his numbers in these categories will compare better to the all-time greats.
So based on the previous three slides, where will Robinson Cano finish in regards to all-time great second basemen?
It's a tough question to answer and really hinges on one key thing; which Cano will finish his career—the 2010 or the 2008?
If the 2008 Cano makes repeat appearances, he won't be in the top ten. If the 2010 Cano is the norm, he's a top five second basemen and if he can do it for 14 years or more (20 year career), he may just supplant Joe Morgan as the second greatest second basemen of all-time.
Sorry, Cano fans, no matter how his career goes, he will never surpass Rogers Hornsby. What Hornsby did offensively was just plain nasty (OPS over 1.000 and OPS+ of 175). I have Hornsby as the ninth greatest position player ever in baseball history and I just don't see Cano being better than that.
I do think he is the best second baseman playing today. Chase Utley is in the discussion, but his injury concerns detract from that. Cano plays in 160 games a year while Utley played in 115 last year and is already being handled carefully during this year's preseason.
As a Yankees fan, I do think the 2010 version will be the Cano we see each year, and so I believe he will end up as the second greatest second basemen in history. His offense will be amongst the best overall in the game (power, average etc) and his defense (range and arm strength) may be better than Alomar's was.
So what do you think? Is Cano the best second baseman in the game today? When his career is finished, is he a top ten second basemen? How about top five? Please leave me your thoughts below and your reasoning why you think what you do.