March 10, 2010

Pick your infield: Phillies or Yankees

When River Avenue Blues directed me to a column headlined “Phillies have best infield of baseball’s modern era,” I was expecting an in-depth comparison between the Phillies and Yankees.

Instead, he rambled on about the infield combo of Tinkers to Evers to Chance. Go to the column if you want a history lesson from the old-timer. But if you want to compare this year’s infields, keep reading.

For reference…

Yankees Pos. Phillies
Mark Teixeira 1B Ryan Howard
Robinson Cano 2B Chase Utley
Alex Rodriguez 3B Placido Polanco
Derek Jeter SS Jimmy Rollins

Awards: The biggest statement from the column I have a problem with is the one about all the awards the “Phils’ Fab Four” have accrued.

Every member of the current Phillies infield has been an All-Star. Polanco and Rollins have won Gold Gloves. All four have won Silver Slugger awards - Polanco as a second baseman in the American League. Rollins and Howard have been MVPs and Utley is in the MVP conversation each year. It is a much-honored group.

Awesome. Let me quickly recap the Yankees infield accolades.
- Teixeira: 2xAll-Star, 3xGold Glove, 3xSilver Slugger
- Cano: 1xAll-Star, 1xSilver Slugger
- Rodriguez: 3xMVP, 12xAll-Star, 2xGold Glove, 10xSilver Slugger
- Jeter: 10xAll-Star, 4xGold Glove, 4xSilver Slugger
Oh, and Jeter and Teixeira have been second in MVP, and Cano has received votes twice. I’d say the Yankees win the award battle.

Offense: These days, comparing home run and RBI totals won’t suffice. The most commonly accepted stat in comparing offensive skills is OPS or OPS+. OPS+ is a weighted version of on-base plus slugging percentage (100 is average, above is better, below is worse). So, let’s compare.

Yankees ‘09 OPS+ Phillies ‘09 OPS+
Teixeira 149 Howard 140
Cano 129 Utley 136
Rodriguez 147 Polanco 88
Jeter 132 Rollins 86
Total 557 Total 450

Sorry, it’s not even close. I’d say the Phillies have the better top 3 (despite the numbers), but the Yankees easily have the better four.

Defense: I’d say both have very good defenses, but having Teixeira as an anchor at first base gives the Yankees the slight edge. Howard had 14 errors, Teixeira had 4 (in four less games).

Forgetting someone? The column didn’t even include catchers, which is a position some might consider in comparing infields. And this category would no doubt go to the Yankees. I’ll take Jorge Posada, even at age 38, any day over Carlos Ruiz or Brian Schneider.

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