Seventy years ago it was 56 versus .406. Now the Yankees--Red Sox rivalry is spiced up by Dontcha Know versus Laser Show. If the Robinson Cano--Dustin Pedroia debate hasn't risen to the level of Joe DiMaggio--Ted Williams, the argument over who is the best second baseman in the game is as heated as the one over who should have been the 1941 American League MVP.
Cano, about 10 months older than Pedroia, took an early lead by virtue of reaching the majors in 2005, nearly two years before Pedroia did. Cano's aggressive approach and line-drive stroke produced a .342 batting average and an All-Star appearance in '06. The following year Pedroia played his first full season and snagged Rookie of the Year honors, but Cano matched him double for double and maintained a lead. In '08 Pedroia won the AL MVP, leading the league in runs, hits and doubles, while Cano had the worst year of his career, shifting the advantage to the Red Sox' second baseman. The two were roughly even in '09, but last season Pedroia's broken foot and Cano's improved plate discipline moved the Yankee back in front. This year Cano, despite a regression in plate discipline, is having another solid season (.295/.344/.506), while Pedroia has reestablished himself as an MVP candidate (.310/.401/.480, 22 SB).
The sabermetrics lean Pedroia's way. He and Cano have been dead even as hitters since 2007, but Pedroia has been more valuable on the bases and in the field. He rates better in all the major defensive metrics and by a significant amount in some. Cano has been much more durable, missing just nine games since '07, which has helped him close the gap. It's a close call, and neither team would likely trade its player for the other, but by the numbers Pedroia is a little bit better than Cano.