There is something happening this year that I feel very few people are talking about in the game I love. It started early on when a journeyman switched teams from one that made it all the way to the World Series last year to its rival that looks to be a heavy contender to do so this year. And he just DESTROYED his previous team, all year (see: “Is Daniel Murphy a ‘cyborg’ built to destroy the Mets?“, a NY Post Headline if there was ever a NY Post Headline.) And did pretty well against the rest too. He’s an MVP candidate. And he’s 7TH in WAR (according to ESPN) this year at his POSITION.
Daniel Murphy did play 20 games at 1B this year. A premium position with names like Cabrera, Goldschmidt, Rizzo, and Freeman all having very good years. But no. That’s not the position I am talking about. The position I am talking about has a legitimate MVP candidate in each league, 5 of the top 8 MLB leaders in hits, the leader and runner-up in Batting Average in EACH LEAGUE (AND the second runner-up in the NL), 10 players with over 20 home runs each including the second half LEADERS in each league, 3 PLAYERS in the Top 10 and 5 in the Top 20 in WAR AND Ben Zobrist, Logan Forsythe, Trea Turner, Chase Utley, and Ryan Schimpf, five additional guys that don’t even qualify for any of these statistical feats but are notable in their own right.
Yes, that old offensive powerhouse position… SECOND BASE.
And OK, its 2016, and offensive juggernauts like Kris Bryant are playing a different position every day, and after Cal Ripken in the 80s/90s, and Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the 90s/00s, a position historically for the small skinny guy, shortstop, has officially gone into a new era with Correa, Bogaerts, etc. So why not 2B?
But wait. Those MVP candidates? Sure Daniel Murphy is a bit on an anomaly, but Jose Altuve is 5’ 6”. Robinson Cano has middle of the order size, but Dustin Pedroia is 5’9”. Those two guys leading the majors in second half home runs? Brian Dozier is 5’ 11”, Jedd Gyorko 5’ 10”. Of course, there are those giants that really in a more traditional era would have been playing another position. I mean DJ LeMahieu, the NL leader in batting average is 6’ 4”, so its not really fair to compare his power numbers to fifty years ago. He HAS smashed 10 home runs so… wait… did I say 10? So wait, the tall guy is leading in batting average and the short guys are leading in home runs? What the HELL is going on?
OK, so numbers are numbers, but what about the reality of their impact. 2B are typically line-up bottom feeders, the number 8 or 9 hitters, and while 10 of them hitting over 20 home runs so far this season is perhaps unexpected, that still doesn’t impress compared to glamour hitting positions like 1B, 3B, and OF in these home run crazy times. So are they REALLY making significant impact?
Well. Let’s meet our all-time class of 2016, shall we. The Top Twenty in WAR at this position, in order.
#1. Jose Altuve, Astros. MVP Candidate. Most hits, best batting average in majors. 20/20 season in HR/SB (and 2nd in AL in SB.) Top Ten in WAR. Hits THIRD on a team fighting for the playoffs.
#2. Robinson Cano, Mariners. Will be Top Ten in MVP voting. 6th in the league in hits. Over 30 HRs. Gonna have 100 R/100 RBI season. Top Ten in WAR. Hits THIRD on a team fighting for the playoffs.
#3. Brian Dozier, Twins. Gonna have 40 home runs. 100 R/100 RBI season. Leads AL in 2nd Half HRs and 5th overall. Top Ten in WAR. Hits lead-off (because its 2016 and up is down.)
#4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox. Third in hits. Fourth in average. Top Twenty in WAR. Hits lead-off for the best offense in the major leagues.
#5. Ian Kinsler, Tigers. 7th in runs scored. Top Twenty in WAR. Hits lead-off for a team tied for the 2nd wild card in the AL.
#6. DJ LeMahieu, Rockies. Leads NL in Batting Average. Tied for 3rd in the NL in Runs. Hits second on his team.
#7. Daniel Murphy, Nationals. MVP Candidate. Second in the NL in Batting Average. Second in the NL in RBIs. Hits THIRD on the second best team in the National League.
#8. Jean Segura, Diamondbacks. 1st in the NL in hits, Third in the NL in Batting Average, Third in NL in SB. Hits leadoff.
THE VERY GOOD
#9. Jason Kipnis, Indians. Hits 2nd for the second best team in the American League.
#10. Logan Forsythe, Rays. Hits lead-off. 10th in WAR for 2B even though only playing in 3/4 of a season.
#11. Ben Zobrist, Cubs. Hits CLEAN-UP for the Best Team in Baseball that may break the oldest losing streak in sports.
#12. Jedd Gyorko, Cardinals. Most home runs in second half in National League. On pace to hit around 40 home runs in a 162 game season. Hits 2nd for the would be 1st Wild Card in the National League.
#13. Devon Travis (and Darwin Barney, #17), Blue Jays. Their combined WAR in their platoon would put them just outside the Top 20 in the majors this year for ALL offensive positions. Travis does only hit 9th on a loaded line-up for the AL East leaders.
#14. Neil Walker, Mets. At 23 home runs, one away from career year for journeyman and only has played 113 games this season. Hits CLEAN-UP for playoff contender.
#15. Trea Turner, Nationals. Only player in top 29 in WAR for 2B that has under 200 at bats. IF had played full season would LEAD THE MAJORS in triples by a large margin, in SBs, and 4th in runs. Hits lead off on 2nd Best Team in NL and is second player on this list from that team with the majority of his starts at second base.
#16. Rougned Odor, Rangers. Will have 30 hr/90 r/90 rbi season while hitting fifth for the best team in the American League.
#18. Jonathan Schoop, Orioles. 20+ home run season jumping around line-up for team tied for the 2nd wild card in the AL.
#19. Chase Utley, Dodgers. Decent offense, better leadership for future hall-of-famer in the twilight of his career for NL West leaders. Hits LEAD-OFF.
#20. Ryan Schimpf, Padres. Has only played about half a season, but would LEAD all 2B in HOME RUNS if he had played all year and would be 3rd in the NL. Hits 5th.
To sum up. Of these 20 players, only TWO players (who have platooned at their position this year) regularly hit anywhere out of the top five line-up spots. In 2016, 2B means you are going to be in impactful situations for your team in nearly every game. And these guys have come through.
OK, OK, but won’t next year just be better than this one? Maybe. But this is such a diverse group, it feels like it may just be a special year. Why?
- They are diverse. Guys just emerging as potential stars: Turner, Odor, Schoop. Guys entering their prime: Altuve, Segura, Gyorko, Travis, Schimpf. Guys smack dab in the midst of their prime: Dozier, LeMahieu, Murphy, Kipnis, Forsythe, Walker Guys at the end of their prime: Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler. Guys near the end of great careers: Zobrist, Utley. And Darwin Barney.
- Guys arguably having career years, not counting rookies: Altuve, LeMahieu, Murphy, Segura, Forsythe, Gyorko, Travis, Walker, Odor, Schoop. SO… HALF.
- Future hall of famers in the bunch: Altuve, Cano, Pedroia are sure things. Kinsler and Utley will make their cases. And the future seems pretty open for Turner and Odor to end up there with their amazing starts.
Up and down, every division in every league (with multiple representatives to this list from each), this crop of 2B may never be beat. And nobody seems to be talking about it.