I think we can all agree that Robinson Cano is the top rated second baseman in the league. The big question is, who ranks second? Some believe the consummate veteran Dustin Pedroia deserves the spot while others say it belongs to the youthful upstart Jason Kipnis. We can bicker back and forth on this issue, but in the end each of us would come away feeling even stronger about our player and we’d still be no closer to an answer.
The best possible solution to decide who the better player is for the 2014 season would be to throw both of these men into the arena with their bats and let them fight it out to the death. OK, that would be a little extreme (and illegal), so you’ll have to use your imagination on that one. Instead we’ll go through the categories one at a time and see who has the advantage. It won’t be as exciting, but in the end we will still have a winner.
And now here’s Michael Buffer to introduce the opponents.
In the red corner, he has been a major league player for 8 years now. He won the rookie of the year award in 2007, most valuable player award in 2008 and is the owner of 2 golden glove awards, standing 5’8” and weighing in at 165 pounds…..Dustiiiin Pedrooooooia!
And in the blue corner, he has been a major league player for 3 years. He won the AFL Rising Star award in 2010 and has multiple player of the week awards for the 2013 season, standing 5’11” and weighing in at 185 pounds…..Jasooon Kiiiipnis!
Pedroia holds a career batting average of .302. His batting average this year was .301, .290 in 2012 and .307 in 2010. His lifetime BABIP is .314 and his BABIP for those 3 years was .326, .300 and .325. It’s clear to see Pedroia is a not a player that hits over his head and that his batting average isn’t inflated in any way. With four seasons hitting above .300 and six above .290 I think it’s safe to say Pedroia will hit at least .295 next year, but there’s a better than average chance his average will be .300 or above.
Kipnis was a .300+ hitter from his NCAA days through AA ball. In AAA that average dropped down to .280 and his three-year average in the majors stands at .270. Kipnis batted .272 during his debut year in 2011, .257 last year and .284 this year. His .313 and .291 BABIP are in line with his BA from 2011 and 2012, but this year his BABIP was .345. Now we don’t use BABIP in fantasy, but it is a sign that the average this year was slightly inflated. Also Kipnis had a 21.7% strikeout percentage this year, and not many players can successfully hit for a high average with strikeouts that high. He might be able to duplicate his average from this year, but I don’t see it improving much until he makes some corrections elsewhere.
Advantage – PEDROIA
Pedroia has been very consistent with his stolen base totals. He stole 17 bases this year and has had 20 or more stolen bases in 4 of the previous 5 seasons. In 2010 he stole only 9 bases but that year was cut short due to injuries, otherwise he would have been close to his average of 20.
Kipnis stole 30 bases this year and 31 in 2012. His minor league numbers don’t support this kind of jump in speed, but his three years of NCAA ball do. Cleveland has given him the green light and he has run with it, and his improved walk rate could mean a few more stolen base chances in the coming years.
Advantage – KIPNIS
Kipnis has scored 86 runs in each of the past two seasons, primarily hitting out of the number 2 and 3 spot in the order. With the exception of Carlos Santana there isn’t a lot of power in the Cleveland lineup, but there are some solid overall hitters. For the first two years, Kipnis had an average OBP of .334. This year he increased his walks total raising his OBP to .366. If the new walk rate stays constant, there’s even more reason to believe the run scored total will remain high. Given his spot in the order and surrounding cast, Kipnis should be able to score 86 runs again. In a better lineup he could easily score 100 runs, but in Cleveland I don’t see him going much past 90.
Pedroia scored 91 runs this season but only 81 last year, hitting third this year and splitting time between second and third last year. The seasons prior to those two years Pedroia was good for 100 runs on average. The only players that could possibly change in the Boston lineup are Ellsbury and Napoli who are both free agents. Expect the Red Sox to be active in either resigning Ellsbury or filling both positions through a trade or free agency. With the exception of his 2012 season Pedroia’s 10% walk percentage has been constant, increasing his chances to score run. If you average his run totals from the past two seasons he would be tied with Kipnis at 86. If you take into consideration that his run total has been lower than 91 only twice (and those two years were due to injuries), Pedroia should be able to score at least 90 runs next year with a chance for more.
Advantage – PEDROIA
Runs Batted In
Pedroia had 84 RBIs this year, 65 last year and 91 in 2011. That comes out to an average of 80 RBIs a season. In the past 6 years he has surpassed 90 RBIs once and had totals in the 80’s twice, but he has also been in the 70’s once and below 70 once. He had 40 in less than half a season in 2010 so he could have easily reached 80 there. Baring a bad year Pedroia should put up RBI totals somewhere in the 80’s, but will give you no less than 72.
Kipnis increased his RBI totals this year, going from 76 in 2012 to 84 this year. That comes out to a 2 year average of 80 RBIs a season (same as Pedroia). If we look at his combined major and minor league totals from 2011 Kipnis had 74 RBIs in less than 500 at bats, and totaled 74 combined over two minor league stops in 2010. Unless Kipnis breaks out he should deliver RBI totals somewhere in the 80’s, but will give you no less than 74.
Advantage – NONE
Pedroia his 9 home runs this year and it’s the first time he failed to reach double digits since his rookie season. He hit 15 home runs last year, 21 in 2011, 15 in 2009 and 17 in 2008. I skipped his 2010 injury year but he did have 12 that year in just 75 games. Kipnis hit 17 home runs this year which is 3 more than he had in 2012. He also had 19 combined home runs between AAA and the majors in 2011.
As you can see both players are evenly matched as far as power goes and both average 15-17 home runs per season. This one should be a draw, but something about that didn’t sit right with me so check some of their other numbers. First I looked at their ISO (Isolated power). Kipnis has an average ISO of .154 while Pedroia sits at .151. OK their still pretty even, so next I looked at their fly ball percentages. The average FB% for Kipnis was 31.4 while Pedroia’s FB% was 35.2. Those numbers give the edge to Pedroia but if you look at the HR/FB ratio for each player, Kipnis sits at 12% and rising while Pedroia’s is 7.7% and falling. Kipnis just swiped that edge Pedroia had over him, but I’m not going to give Kipnis the win here without a little more.
The final thing I investigated was the average fly ball distance for each player. The average fly ball distance for Kipnis in 2012 was 283.09 feet, and that number increased to 287 feet in 2013. The average fly ball distance for Pedroia in 2012 was 271.37 and that fell to 263.74 feet in 2013. Even if we just assume that 2013 was a down year for Pedroia and just use their 2012 numbers, 12 feet is the difference between landing on the warning track and going over the wall. If Pedroia’s loss of distance is not a fluke, then Kipnis hits the ball a little over 23 feet further on average. Add on the fact that Kipnis is in his prime and could improve even more in 2014 and this one is over.
Advantage and Winner – Kipnis
Now I can hear the rumblings from both camps right about now. From the right they’ll be screaming that Kipnis is younger and can still improve. From the left they’ll be screaming you have no guarantee he’ll improve and Pedroia is consistent with his numbers. But you know what, you’re both right. In the end, both players are the same and it comes down to what your specific need is. If you’re looking for more speed with a few more home runs then Kipnis is the man. If you want someone who will hit for a higher batting average with a few more runs, Pedroia is your guy.
Now some of you might think that things would turn out different in a point’s league, but I beg to differ. This year in CBS leagues Pedroia totaled 508 points while Kipnis had 485. A slight edge goes to Pedroia here but it’s still very close.
Its true Kipnis turns 27 in April and could breakout. On the other hand there is no guarantee he will breakout and he could possible regress due to the higher strikeout totals. There is no way to positively predict what he will do with such a limited major league track record. Kipnis is the upside player while Pedroia is the guaranteed players. Pedroia has no upside but at this stage of the game you can virtually predict what he’ll give you.
I know this isn’t the answer that you wanted to hear, but the numbers don’t lie. I should have just thrown them in the pit and let them bludgeon each other to death.