Utley or Cano? – Phillies Nation

Utley or Cano?

Thursday, Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley responded to a quote from an article at Beyond the Box Score comparing Chase Utley and Robinson Cano, two of baseball’s elite second basemen. The BtB article’s conclusion straddled the fence rather nicely.

Robinson Cano is a very good player. Chase Utley is a very good player. If you want the second-baseman who will put the ball in play more and make flashier looking plays with the glove, then you take Cano. If you want the second-baseman who will make fewer outs and save more runs defensively, then you take Utley.

If Utley doesn’t bounce back at the plate – while Cano maintains his production from 2010 – then we’ll need to revisit this and perhaps give the Yankee the edge. If someone wants to take up the banner for Cano right now though, I’d be glad to hear the arguments.

And Mr. Baer’s conclusion rings out resoundingly in favor of the Philly.

Right now, I take Utley without hesitation. Last year in what was a career year for Cano, he was worth 6.4 fWAR. Utley, in a career-worst year, was worth 5.2. Utley at his worst is still very close to Cano at his best — that’s just how good Utley is.

Advanced metrics favor Utley by a fair margin, especially when defense is factored in. Cano has built a reputation of making plays with a splash, flashing a strong arm or quick pivot. Utley, meanwhile, has recently been maligned for a couple of poorly timed playoff errors, but has been about as reliable a second baseman as you could find in the game today.

Really, this is a comparison of two different styles. Cano is a contact specialist with improving power, while Utley is a disciplined hitter with established (some may say declining) four-corner power.

Both players have contracts that could run as long as through the 2013 season. Here’s how they break down.

  • Cano: $10M in 2011, $14M in 2012 (club option), $15M in 2013 (club option)
  • Utley: $15M in 2011, 2012 and 2013 (all guaranteed, with partial no-trade and award incentives)

The biggest edge Cano has is that he’s about four years younger than Utley, so if asked which second baseman they would prefer to start a franchise with, I’m sure plenty of executives would pick Cano. Given his age and combined $6M in savings over Utley through their concurrent contract years, there’s probably enough there to sway votes.

But for one year – namely, 2011 – who would you rather have? Would you rather have Cano’s contact, and hope his power makes up for his lack of elite on-base skills, or Utley’s eye and defense, banking on a rebound from an injury-shortened 2010?

Given this is a Phillies blog, I expect the answers to lean a certain way. All the same, who’s your pick?

Click to comment


  1. Chuck

    January 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm


  2. Lefty

    January 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    We can’t win another WFC without the man that coined the phrase!

  3. phillygirl17

    January 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Utley, definitely Utley.

    Cano has tons of potential, but he has to do it more than one year. I don’t believe that it’s not a fluke.

    That, and I absolute love Chase Utley.

    • Chuck

      January 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      “More than one year” ????

      Check out the stats. He’s definitely done it more than just one season…..http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/canoro01.shtml

      I’m pretty sure that he’s not a fluke…

      • phillygirl17

        January 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm

        I honestly haven’t looked at his stats, I was going by my what my Yankee friends have said. They loved Cano last year, but have said that they think it was just a fluke year and that for the most part, they would take Utley over Cano.

  4. Tom

    January 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I think we have seen the best of Chase Utley and we can expect the downhill slide to continue.

    Better start shopping him for a Second Baseman and a Right Fielder.

    We can’t live on just four starting pitchers.

    Howevever, there was a clown baseball show during the 40’s & 50’s that had just one player that played all positions and batted, too. That would be real!


  5. Ryan Sommers

    January 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve seen a lot of the “Utley is cooked” talking point and it’s kind of ridiculous to draw that conclusion on one down year, particularly one marred with a freakish thumb injury. Even in that down year, he still hit .275/.387/.445 (124 OPS+), walked more times than he struck out, and put up 4.2 WAR (b-r flavor). Surely you aren’t all so spoiled by Utley’s greatness that you can’t recognize what an enormous contribution that is from a second baseman with elite defense. The OPS, for one thing, is 32% above the league average second baseman. From 2006-2009 Utley was basically a .300/.400/.500 hitter plus a little extra, and there is no solid evidence right now that he can’t do that again. It’s reckless to jump to that conclusion.

    • Captain Chaos

      January 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      Must have made my post just after you. Amen brother.

  6. Captain Chaos

    January 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I think too many people are ready to give up on Chase and Howard right now. Probably (and i’m just guessing) the same people who wanted to run Hamels out of town in 2009. Let’s see two back to back sub par years before we decide it’s all over. As far as who’s better, I don’t know on strict baseball numbers we’d probably need to see what happens this year if Cano continues to improve in the field and with the stick he wins, who knows maybe he falls back to earth in 2011 and then on some Yankees blog they’ll be talking about pushing him out the door before he declines further.

  7. Ryan Sommers

    January 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I would also note that Utley’s BABIP last year was .288 while his career average is .314, and his previous 3 year average was .320. Since there was no significant change in his batted ball splits, it stands to reason he was getting somewhat unlucky as well.

  8. betasigmadeltashag

    January 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Let see here I love the Phillies and I hate the Yankees, will that color my perspective a little bit, I would have to say yes. But that being said if you are asking right now who do I want on my team it would be Chase, in five years who do I want on my team I do not know but you would have to think the younger guy. I think you will see Chase if he can stay injury free, will hit .295-.300 with 28 HR and 110 RBI. I would like to see him get a couple of days off now and then in 2011.

  9. Stuart Seidel

    January 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I would go with Utley. As some people have said he has proven himself more than once. He has a great attitude and is a big part of the personality of this team.

    Also check this out, something I posted about the Phillies outfielder problems.


  10. Greg

    January 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I can’t believe people would honestly want Cano over Utley. Utley’s been the second best player in the game, (might be just National League) the past 3 years, second to only Albert Pujols, in terms of WAR. Cano’s nowhere near that list. Utley has one poor season (by his standards), and Cano has his best season, and people think that this is the end for Utley?

    Just go look at the WAR’s posted above. Utley’s worst. Cano’s best. Only 1.5 more wins? I think it’s clear who the best second baseman is in baseball.

  11. The Uber Dude

    January 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    For one year? Utley. Without question.

    For 5 years? Cano, but only by a hair due to his age advantage.

    My guess is that in a decade or two, this will seem like a silly argument in retrospect.

  12. The Andrew

    January 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    If its today or tomorrow I take Utley.
    He really needs to have an Utley year next year.
    And that means no injuries.
    I dont care if it s a fluke thing

  13. tavian

    January 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I really like Utley, but if I had to choose right now who I would take in a trade, I would choose Cano. He is four years younger and that is huge. Both play excellent defense. Cano is less injury prone and coming offf a great season at age 28. Utley is coming off a down year at age 32. You do the math….plus Utley will cost more

  14. The Original Chuck P

    January 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Utley… love Cano and he’s a fantasy monster but Utley is more valuable to a franchise. He does the little things and just plays better baseball. Cano is a great hitter and a solid defender but he lacks the moxie that makes Utley the best 2B in baseball. We all agree that Utley needs to have a better year but I think he will because he’s not built to accept mediocrity. I’ve been critical of Utley at times because he gets a free pass when other guys don’t but the truth is he’s set the bar really high and that’s why I am critical. If he was anyone else, last year would have been fine but we expect more. Getting back to the debate… like you mentioned, in his worst year, Utley is only a hair behind the best in the game… so for that reason and the little things he does that don’t show up in a stat book, he’s worth the nod over Cano.

  15. The Original Chuck P

    January 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Is PN having tecnical difficulties today? I made two posts and both show up in my activity but neither show up on the posts.

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