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Dave Concepcion in . . . The Nagging Question

April 10, 2008
 

Dave Concepcion has a special place in my memory because when I was a kid he once appeared on the cover of Boy’s Life, which my brother had a subscription to as part of his membership in the Cub Scouts. This was for me something like finding some Spiderman comic books or a plate of fudge in the socket aisle at a hardware store. The usual contents in Boy’s Life—fixing stuff, building stuff, lighting fires with no matches, performing resourceful courageous rescues, communing healthily with other young capable outdoorsy boys, cataloguing in a manly scientific way the splendor of nature, helping others, etc.—never interested me, so I was pleased to have something in that corner of my brother’s life that I could relate to.

I don’t actually know how much my brother enjoyed the Cub Scouts, and in fact I’m pretty sure he bailed out prematurely, right around puberty, after he’d earned a couple but not all of the hierarchical series of patches. But into adulthood he has retained a level of comfort with the tasks of the outdoorsman that far surpasses my own. He knows how to set up a tent and identify a bird and start a fire, to name but a few of the things that I approach clumsily and stagger from frustrated, my glasses askew. For him the wild is a place to go to shrink the tasks of a difficult everyday world to a manageable level while simultaneously widening a sense of that everyday world beyond the confines of the necessary economic trenches most of us dive down into most of our days. I like going into the woods for the same reasons, but the work that needs to be done there always gives me back a familiar sense of myself as a generally incompetent guy.

Given this, it occurs to me to wonder where I go, if not the woods, to give myself a sense of competence. The answer is the same now as it would have been thirty years ago, when I was the kid who got excited to see Dave Concepcion on the cover of Boy’s Life. I liked at that time to get away from the world by going into baseball universes inside my head, and the same is true today. What I’m driving at here is that while I may not know how to fix a flat or gut a fish or understand what an IRA is or ballroom dance or tell a joke or build a table, I am, by god, a pretty good leader of imaginary baseball teams in the online Strat-o-matic baseball leagues with player pools based in—where else?—the 1970s and 1980s. I am no Panzer Ace, mind you. (In case you were wondering, Panzer Ace is the unfortunate moniker of the guy who wins just about every league he enters. If inflection of voice were possible in such areas, he would be spoken of on message boards in hushed tones.) But my teams manage to get into the playoffs more often than not.

So what’s my secret, you ask? (I am sure this is the first question that comes to your mind, and not, for example, “Doesn’t it ever occur to you that one day you’ll be on your deathbed wondering why you spent so many hours worrying about imaginary batting orders?”) I’m glad you asked. In two words: Dave Concepcion.

Well, not just Dave Concepcion. But in my experience building a team around a great-fielding shortstop and a great-fielding second baseman, especially if either or preferably both of them can also contribute to the offense, is the best way to ensure that your team will be competitive. Centering your team’s defense, they make mediocre pitchers good and good pitchers great by gobbling up everything hit to them. And if they can hit, as Dave Concepcion could (or, in my imaginary worlds, still can), they make it much easier to build a lineup without any holes, other spots on the diamond being much more easy to fill cheaply with effective offensive players. 

I realize that there is nothing more boring than hearing about someone else’s imaginary sports team, so I understand that I may have killed off most readers willing to start off on the trek of this essay by now. But initially my main goal today, believe it or not, was to give my voice a rest and open up a discussion. It’s just taken me a long time to get to the point I intended to make early on: that according to one of my lone areas of expertise, on-line imaginary baseball, the surest way to build a good team is to start with excellence at shortstop and second base.

That said, here’s the question nagging at me today, one which has me leaning toward including in my own answer the player pictured at the top of the page:

With peak performance and long-term effectiveness having equal importance, which two players made up the best second base and shortstop combination in baseball history?

*  *  *

Also, FYI: There’s an interview with me about baseball cards on ephemera today. The fascinating site, which focuses on various types of collecting, is definitely worth a look.

81 comments

  1. 1.  Do they have to have been teammates in reality? That is, if I said “Dave Concepcion” would I have to include, say, Joe Morgan? Or could I go with Craig Biggio?


  2. 2.  1 I’d assume they’d have to be teammates. Otherwise I could just pair up, say, Honus Wagner and Joe Morgan.


  3. 3.  You know, Josh, I hate to answer the question that I wish you had asked, but it occurred to me last year that the A-Rod/Jeter combo may be the best third baseman-shortstop combo in history. I don’t want us to get all Yankee-centric, and all, but is there a better SS/3b combo than that? Both are Hall of Famers and still in their prime and have been teammates for five years now and will probably remain a SS/3b combo for at least another five years. Just askin’.


  4. 4.  2 Yeah, I figured the same thing (though I wouldn’t pick Wagner and Morgan). Except that Josh phrased this whole thing around “one of [his] lone areas of expertise, on-line imaginary baseball” – and, of course, in that realm, you can build a team with any 2B and SS you want.


  5. 5.  Would you take Biggio over Morgan? Really?


  6. 6.  1 , 2 , 4 : Right, I should have been clearer. Yeah, I was hoping for people’s choices of tandems that had actually (and not just imaginarily) played together.

    I’d also be interested to hear if people think a good 2B-SS combo guarantees a competitive team. Obviously there needs to be other assets on the team, but the pairs that have come to my mind have all been on good to great teams.

    3 : Good question. Jeter’s much-malinged defense (at least in some quarters) would count against him, but it’s hard to argue against that duo as an unrivaled offensive juggernaut.

    Schmidt and Bowa were good, better on defense than ARod-Jeter but of course Bowa provides an enormous dropoff on offense.

    Reese and Robinson deserve to be in the conversation.

    Rosen and Boudreau were excellent for a while.

    How about Ernie Banks and Ron Santo? That’s some offensive pop for you. Santo was a great fielder, and from what I understand Banks was decent for a while. They get my nod even if it’s only for sheer dislike for A-Rod.


  7. 7.  No, if I could, I’d take A-Rod and Robbie Alomar. Are they the best SS-2B combo ever? Probably not. But in 2001, I obliterated everyone my fantasy baseball league thanks in part to my first two picks – A-Rod and Alomar. First thing I thought of as I got to the end of Josh’s great piece.


  8. 8.  7 Fair enough. I actually thought of Alomar, whose peak was spectacular, but he dropped off too precipitously.

    Trammell and Whitaker stand out for me because they were so well balanced. Trammell was a much better hitter than Concepcion, and while Whitaker was certainly no Morgan, he was always underrated. I’m not sure there are many other combos where both players were as good as that, and (obviously) not for as long.

    They played for one Tigers team that won 104 games and a championship, and another that lost 103 and finished 14 games out of sixth place.


  9. 9.  6 You could put Reese and robinson in the 2b-SS conversation, but (a) I don’t think Reese was that great, and (b) I loathe the romantic bullshit that’a attached to that old Dodgers team.


  10. 10.  8 My choice is probably Trammell and Whitaker as well. I seem to recall that they frequently hit next to each other in the lineup as well, though I’m not sure how to verify that without manually combing through years of Retrosheet game logs.


  11. 11.  I second the Whitaker & Trammell vote. They also played together longer than any other double play combo. All those years Trammell was a 1 and Whitaker was a 1 or 2 on defense made for a great strat team.


  12. 12.  8 : Trammel-Whitaker’s a great choice. It’s a tough call for me between them and the Big Red Machine tandem. The latter has an “inner circle” HOFer and a guy who, though maybe not the all-around equal to Trammel was still probably the best shortstop of his era. Then again, the Detroit guys formed the backbone of their team for a longer time.

    Speaking of Alomar, he and Visquel were a pretty good tandem themselves for a little while.


  13. 13.  Juan Uribe and Tadahito Iguchi.


  14. 14.  9 “(a) I don’t think Reese was that great, and (b) I loathe the romantic bullshit that’a attached to that old Dodgers team.”

    It’s a pretty good bet that (a) is a direct result of (b). Because Reese was a truly fantastic player both offensively and defensively. I think I might go with Reese and Robinson, actually. Jackie’s greatness needs no description here, but whenever you can pair him with a guy who received MVP votes in 13 consecutive seasons, you’re doing pretty good.

    Another possible candidate would be Honus Wagner and Claude Ritchey. Ritchey was just pretty good, not a star, but he comes paired with Honus Freaking Wagner, so the sum of the parts is perhaps greater than any other combo.


  15. 15.  14 : Ritchey had a .348 lifetime OBP. Not too shabby. Better than Concepcion in his own unequal pairing with Morgan.

    But while checking Concepcion’s OBP I also see that he was an all-star TEN seasons in a row.


  16. 16.  14 I’ll take your word for Reese on defense, as I have to take it for anyone I didn’t see. But I see absolutely no reason to believe that he was “a truly fantastic player” offensively.

    I agree with you on your second point. Honus Wagner teamed up with my sister would still rate some consideration.


  17. 17.  I didn’t see Reese play either, obviously; I’m just going by what I’ve heard over the years from those who did. I get the impression that had Gold Gloves existed during his career, he would have finished second most years to Marty Marion.

    At various times Reese ranked among the league leaders in batting average, hits, OBP, runs scored, doubles, triples, walks, and stolen bases. He had a .366 career OBP, which is the fifth-best ever by a shortstop. He also had a Jeteresque presence as the captain of a dynastic team, if you’re into that sort of thing.


  18. 18.  Some other pairs I’ve thought of that haven’t been mentioned yet:

    Tinker-Evers: Deemed overrated by virtue of the famous poem, these two have I think lately garnered more positive consideration in light of the fact that their fielding and hitting numbers were pretty darn good in historical context. I might be wrong about that, though. But my guess is they’re the winningest pair.

    Collins-Barry: Half of the $100,000 infield, this pair includes in Collins a towering figure on par with Morgan and Wagner

    Gehringer-Rogell: Tigers mid-’30s duo might have some of the best offensive numbers of any pair.

    Gordon-Rizzuto: Not sure how long they played together, but I think they were together for a decent peak.


  19. 19.  12 Certainly no manager has ever had the privilege of managing two better 2B-SS combos than Sparky Anderson.

    If we count just those years where the 2 were teammates:

    Jackie and Pee Wee: total WARP3 = 170.7
    WARP3/year (10) = 17.1

    Whitaker and Trammell: total WARP3 = 274.4*
    WARP3/year (19) = 14.4

    Morgan and Concepcion: total WARP3 = 149.9
    WARP3/year (8) = 18.7

    Ritchy and Wagner: total WARP3 = 149.1
    WARP3/year (9) = 16.6

    So, overall, Lou and Alan get the benefit of longevity (most total WARP3), but thanks to Morgan pairing with Concepcion at the peak of his (Joe’s) career, per year that duo rules.

    *Freaky fact: despite Alan playing one more year than Lou, they have the exact same career WARP3, 137.7 – thanks to Trammell’s goose egg his one year without his keystone partner (1996).


  20. 20.  Also, especially for 13 : Fox-Aparicio


  21. 21.  19 : Thanks a lot for those numbers. If you have the time for it and are so inclined, I’d love to also see the numbers for the guys in 18 and 20 .


  22. 22.  Winning percentages for the Cubs during the Tinker-Evers reign at SS and 2B:

    ’03: .594
    ’04: .608
    ’05: .601
    ’06: .763
    ’07: .704
    ’08: .643
    ’09: .680
    ’10: .675
    ’11: .597
    ’12: .607


  23. 23.  But those winning percentages might have merely been the result of chance. (rimshot)


  24. 24.  No love for Rafael Santana and Wally Backman?


  25. 25.  17 Ehhh, being in the top ten a bunch of times doesn’t impress me as “truly fantastic.” Neither does “Jeteresque presence,” whether for Reese or Jeter. (In fact, that does speak precisely to the romantic bullshit.) As far as I can tell, Reese was pretty darn good, but not “truly fantastic.”


  26. 26.  Okay. You can word it however you want.


  27. 27.  Or my faves from the Mighty Mite/Great Names division, Freddie Patek and Cookie Rojas? I know that by 1976, Frank White had supplanted Rojas as the regular second baseman, but c’mon, Cookie and Freddie wore uniform #s 1 and 2 — how much more of a tandem could they have been?


  28. 28.  18 , 22 I think the positive consideration has had to do particularly with Evers. Not only was his 1908 season outstanding, he capped it by being the guy who made the heads-up play to get Merkle out, maybe, sort of.


  29. 29.  28 : Yeah, reading about Evers doggedly pursuing a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat during that Merkle play always reminds me of what you hear about Jackie Robinson during the Bobby Thomson home run: all hell was breaking loose and all the Dodgers were slumping off the field but Robinson stood and watched to see if Thomson might in his euphoria miss a base. A couple of competitive SOBs to every bitter end, Evers and Robinson.


  30. 30.  26 I’d say Reese wasn’t as good as Trammell. But if it’s any help, I think he was pretty clearly better than the even-more-overrated Rizzuto.

    I’ll also admit that I got turned against the whole crop of 1940s-50s infielders who were voted into the HOF because they were buddies with the Veterans Committee guys. Everyone got in except Slats Marion, which makes me wonder if he slept with someone’s wife.


  31. 31.  The long-term effectiveness component to the question makes it hard to pick any combination other than Trammell and Whitaker.

    Ritchey and Wagner played together for four seasons, Wagner and Dots Miller for three (Miller could hit, not a lot of defense though). Reese and Robinson played together five years. Vaughan played most with Pep Young, who wasn’t very good. Ripken played mostly with… Ripken (ugh).

    If they’d lined up their careers a little better, Bret Boone and Barry Larkin would have been a heckuva combination.

    Lazzeri and Crosetti are an excellent combo, all the more so for having played in New York and yet not being well-remembered.


  32. 32.  The main problem with the Lazzeri-Crosetti pairing was that Crosetti was terrible.


  33. 33.  32 : Crosetti on face value looks to have had a few decent years early in his career, but of course that’s during the era when everyone and his grandma was hitting .300. His site on bb-ref is sponsered by someone claiming he’s arguably the greatest player not in the hall of fame, which seemes a tad questionable.


  34. 34.  “In fact, that does speak precisely to the romantic bullshit.”

    One needs to be careful. Winning games is not “bullshit”, romantic or otherwise. Winning games matters. You may legitimately say that a player’s contribution to his team’s wins (of whatever sort) are larger or smaller, but being a key component of an excellent team is not “bullshit”. It’s data, and it’s evidence, that deserves to be treated as such.

    As for Reese, it’s quite clear to me that in the decade after the war, he was a legitimate superstar – easily considered one of the eight best players in the National League. (This follows the assumption I have always made that baseball usually has an average of one superstar per team).


  35. 35.  34 : That’s an interesting claim. Not being an expert on that era or that team, I’d rank Reese (and I like him) as the fourth-best player on his own team, after Robinson, Campanella, and Snider.


  36. 36.  29 In Stan Isaacs’ forthcoming book Ten Moments That Shook the Sports World, Isaacs quotes an interview he conducted with Reese about Thomson’s homer in which Reese said: “I know Jackie was a great competitor,” Reese said. “But I doubt that he did that.”


  37. 37.  36 : Damn, I hate when my treasured pieces of romantic bullshit get debunked.


  38. 38.  36 There’s a famous photo that shows him doing it, while the other Dodgers are walking away toward the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds.

    http://tinyurl.com/6dn3b8


  39. 39.  38 : Nice.


  40. 40.  Paul Molitor & Robin Yount?


  41. 41.  Molitor played only 304 games at second during the years when Yount was a shortstop. But during those 304 games, they were probably a pretty damn good combo.


  42. 42.  Who played 2b when Ripken was at short for all those years with the Os?


  43. 43.  How about Buddy Myer and Cecil Travis for the Senators during the late 1930s? They’re overlooked because neither are in the Hall of Fame, they played for mediocre teams, and the franchise that they played for no longer exists. Check out that 1938 season…4th and 5th in batting, Myer’s 2nd in OBP, Travis’s OBP is over .400, all that in Griffith Stadium, and their defensive stats look pretty good. Even with that production, the team finished a game under .500. Maybe for the same reason that Tinker/Evers are so famous, having played for great teams, these guys are forgotten because they played for mediocre teams.

    Also, I think Evers/Maranville should be mentioned for the 1914 ‘Miracle’ Braves. While it was basically one-off because Evers got old, they finished first and second in the voting for the proto-MVP that year. Evers had a good year at the plate (.390 OBP) and he had the “veteran leader” cachet by that point. Maranville hit .246 although his overall offensive numbers aren’t that awful in context, especially for an SS. His defense is ridiculous though. He had nearly 200 more chances than anybody else and almost twice as many double plays. That’s crazy.

    And can you imagine two more mismatched personalities as a DP combo? I wonder how many times Evers tried to strangle Maranville?


  44. 44.  Well, Billy Ripken for a time, so that cinches the “Best 2b/ss combo from the same womb” category.

    I wanted to give a quick shoutout to Doerr/Stephens from those 1940s Sox teams.

    But yeah, Reese and Robinson for me, too. Bullshit aside, nobody wanted to win more than Jackie.


  45. 45.  43 : Good call on Myers-Travis.

    44 : I also thought about Stevens-Doerr while scouring my mind for a worthy Bosox combo. They were pretty potent, and Doerr at least was a good fielder. I think Stevens had the reputation for being something of a fire hydrant out there.

    Doerr-Pesky might be an even better ticket. Not sure how long they played together exactly, but I think it might have been for more games than Stevens and Doerr.


  46. 46.  35 Hodges was arguably better as well.


  47. 47.  44 Just to be clear: I’m definitely not taking a thing away from Robinson. If anything, the historical focus on his breaking the color line has tended to underrate how great a player he was.


  48. 48.  46 : I’d say Hodges and also Furillo to a lesser extent probably had stretches where they were carrying more of the load than Reese, but I’d still take the shortstop before either of them over the long haul (but then again, of course, I like building teams around middle infielders).


  49. 49.  For what it’s worth, here are the collective Bill James rankings of each pair mentioned so far (minus those who somehow didn’t make his all-time positional top 100, such as Wally Backman):

    14: Robinson (4) and Reese (10)
    22: Trammel (9) and Whitaker (13)
    27: Morgan (1) and Concepcion (26)
    28: Aparicio (13) and Fox (15)
    53: Myer (24) and Travis (29)
    57: Gehringer (8) and Rogell (49)
    58: Evers (25) and Tinker (33)
    92: Collins (2) and Barry (90)

    Gordon (16) and Rizzuto (16) only played together 3 seasons.

    Doerr (18) teamed with three ranking shortstops throughout his career: Stephens (22) for three years, Pesky (20) for four years, and Cronin (8) for four years.

    As for the list, the leaders didn’t play all that much as a DP combo. Robinson was primarily a second baseman for just five seasons, according to bb-ref. Besides them, the only pair on the list that has both members in the Hall of Fame is Fox and Aparicio.


  50. 50.  One more I forgot to add, slotting in just after Tinker and Evers:

    60: Wagner (1) and Ritchie (59)


  51. 51.  At first I was genuinely surprised that no one, through 50 comments, had so much as mentioned Bill Russell and Davey Lopes.

    But then I went back and checked the numbers, and realized that I thought of them so highly simply because (a) they played a bunch of years together and (b) that was right when I was a kid getting into baseball, so my memory has a bias in their favor.
    Funny how that can play tricks on you.


  52. 52.  49 Gordon also played three seasons at 2B for Cleveland with Lou Boudreau, who must rank decently on James’ list, at SS.


  53. 53.  51 : You know, for all the time they played together effectively Lopes and Russell definitely deserve mention.

    James has Lopes ranked as the 23rd best all-time at 2B and Russell as the 69th best SS.

    52 : James has Boudreau at 12.


  54. 54.  In case there are any Strat fans out there, here’s a link to the best 1970s-based team I’ve been able to put together:

    http://tinyurl.com/4c2tju

    In Grich and Burleson I had a couple gold glovers to center the defense and also hit (especially Grich).


  55. 55.  Nice team Josh. It’s funny that you mention building a solid Strat team around a good 2nd basemen and shortstop. In a draft league I was in back in the 80’s, my best friend won a championship when he had to play a “4” at shortstop……Jim Morrison of the Pirates!


  56. 56.  55 : Yeah, I think there’s really an endless amount of ways to build a strong team (or to build a stinker, as I’ve also found). I’ve never been able to stomach playing a 4 at 2B or SS, but I have fairly often used a good-hitting 3, such as Steve Sax or Roy Smalley, at one of the positions.


  57. 57.  When all is said and done, it will be interesting to see where Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins will rank in such a discussion…


  58. 58.  Utley and Rollins over the last three years (Utley’s first full season) have a combined WARP3 of 56.2. Averaging out to 18.73 a year between the two of them.


  59. 59.  58 : Wow, that average puts them a hair better than Concepcion/Morgan (see 19 ).


  60. 60.  The Toy Cannon came up as a SS and Morgan as a 2nd baseman in the same year.

    http://www.truebluela.com/2007/12/31/19214/691

    but when I reviewed the box scores I couldnt find one instant where they played the keystone together. That would have been a fun combo if Wynn could have handled SS but alas he became a centerfielder.

    Davy Lopes more then held his own but Bill Russel brings down the duo.

    The Trammel/Whitaker duo was my favorite


  61. 61.  I am posting my answer before reading the other people on here who are far more knowledgeable than me. I’d like to be biased and pick Yankees but I don’t think there’s the combo that Josh wants. Even if jeter and cano play 5 more years together their defense will always be suspect.

    For all around players that tandemed well I’m going to say trammell and Whitaker. They were awesome.

    2nd place: aparicio and fox. The only evidence I have is that they’re both HOFers and both had a Hartland made for them in the late 50’s-early 60’s. What other combination can claim that??!!


  62. 62.  Looks like Trammel and Whitaker are getting the consensus nod. Can’t argue with that.

    I still think the Reds duo of the best shortstop of his era and arguably the best second baseman ever has got to be right up there, though.

    And I think I might give Fox and Aparicio the bronze ahead of Robinson and Reese for their relative longevity as a tandem.


  63. 63.  My favorite shortstop, strat-wise, was Tony Fernandez.

    Many a time his great numbers at ss turned a lunchtime league game my way.

    But away from the dice he never had 2B to make a team like Trammell and Whitaker.

    In fact, Paula Edelson had Trammell, damn her . . . [insert boring meandering daydream about great strat battles. . . ]


  64. 64.  Since the analysis of the best seems to have run its course, what was the worst shortstop-and-second combination in MLB history?

    I was looking through the Padres’ early seasons on Retrosheet, and it took them almost 15 years to put together what could be considered an average-to-good middle infield (Juan Bonilla, in his rookie year, and Ozzie Smith.)

    Some of their early combinations are painful to even think about.
    Jose Arcia and Tommy Dean, anyone?


  65. 65.  65 : Great question. I tried to think of the worst Red Sox duo from my lifetime and Glenn Hoffman sprung to mind, but he was paired with Jerry Remy during the two years that he was a mediocre-fielding, poor-hitting shortstop. Stumped, I went where all inquiries into terrible major league baseball eventually end up–the 1979 Oakland A’s. Ladies and gentlemen: Rob Picciolo and Mike Edwards. This pair had an OPS+ of 114 that year. Combined.

    But I guess the best answer to the question would be a Whitaker-Trammell negative, i.e., a pairing that stunk it up together for years. I can’t think of anyone who fits that bill offhand, but hopefully someone else can.


  66. 66.  I wanted to say Tim Foli and Rennie Stennett of the Pirates, but they didn’t play together that long (just 1979) and did win a world series together despited posting a 56 and 83 OPS+ in that championship season. BLECH! They might be the worst combination ever to win a world series though I’m sure someone will prove me wrong.

    Okay, just based on quiet introspection, I’m going to vote for Rafael Ramirez and Glen “mother” Hubbard. I guess I am picking them because in the early to mid 80’s, no matter where you lived, the Atlanta Braves were shoved down our collective throats through TBS and we really only got a weekly escape via the game of the week.

    They played together from 1980-1987 (as a starting combo mostly from 1981-1986). Ramierz posted a lifetime OPS+ of 77 and Hubbard posted a lifetime OPS+ of 85. While both these numbers are well below “league average” they’re actually higher than I would have guessed since both players stunk offensively!

    From 1981-86 Hubbard averaged an OPS+ of 85.5, while Raffy averaged averaged a robust 74. Even in their peak years (roughly 1982-1984) neither of them ever cracked 100 (league average) even once. In fact, neither reached league average for a single season ever. That’s pretty damn bad.

    On the other hand, in 1982 Hubbard (111) and Ramirez (130) were involved in turning more double plays than any other NL combo (Herr at 97 and Ozzie Smith at 101 were second). I don’t know much about defense, and errors and assists seem like butter knife analytical tools, but that’s a lot of double plays to turn, particularly when compared to Ozzie Smith.

    On the basis of turning double plays in one year (yeah I know, sample size), I’d say that Ramirez and Hubbard wouldn’t be the worst regular combo, but if it’s offense only then who would be worse over a 5 year period?


  67. 67.  65 Yeah, it’s tough to come up with two guys who were bad enough, long enough.

    In a search for a potential answer, I looked up one of my favorite less-remembered horrible teams, the 1982 Cincinnati Reds (61-101.)
    And their keystone combo?
    Ron Oester and Dave Concepcion.


  68. 68.  66 67 Oester had a career 87 OPS+ which is marginally higher than Hubbard’s 85. Concepcion had a career OPS+ of 88 which is a lot higher than Raffy’s 77. And Davey also had 7 seasons where he was league average or better. So I still think that the Hub and Raffy were the worst keystone combo ever.


  69. 69.  Bill James in his Win Shares book lists the worst double play combo (that is, literally the worst at turning double plays) as the 1926 Dodgers, Chick Fewster and Butler, whose first name isn’t listed and I am too lazy to look up.

    Second is the 1974 Padres, Enzo Hernandez and Derrel Thomas.


  70. 70.  69 but I think that the issue is offense and defense. Hub and Raffy knew how to turn two (at least in 1982 they sure did).


  71. 71.  Using Baseball-Reference, I was able to determine that there have been 11 teams in baseball history which featured at least two full-time middle infielders each with an OPS+ worse than 60. They are:

    1970 NL Montreal Expos 3 Bobby Wine / Gary Sutherland / Marv Staehle
    1980 AL Baltimore Orioles 2 Mark Belanger / Kiko Garcia
    1970 NL Philadelphia Phillies 2 Larry Bowa / Denny Doyle
    1970 NL St. Louis Cardinals 2 Dal Maxvill / Julian Javier
    1965 NL San Francisco Giants 2 Hal Lanier / Dick Schofield
    1953 NL Cincinnati Reds 2 Roy McMillan / Rocky Bridges
    1949 NL Pittsburgh Pirates 2 Stan Rojek / Monty Basgall
    1944 AL Chicago White Sox 2 Roy Schalk / Skeeter Webb
    1937 NL Philadelphia Phillies 2 George Scharein / Del Young
    1934 AL St. Louis Browns 2 Ski Melillo / Alan Strange
    1927 AL St. Louis Browns 2 Wally Gerber / Ski Melillo

    The worst combo may be on this list, but it also may not, as a lot of the more recent players (Maxvill, Lanier, McMillan, Belanger, Javier, etc.) had spectacular defensive reputations. I think if you’re going to be a contender for worst DP combo of all time, it has to start with bad defense.


  72. 72.  71 I’m not trying to be contrary, but are these players that played for 5 years or more or are we talking about 1-2 years? Any team can have a bad combo for a year, but for 5 or more is just unacceptable, which is what the Braves did.

    Also, Belanger and Kiko were both shortstops, Rich Dauer was the 2nd baseman on that team and he had a 91 OPS+ in 1980. The O’s won 98 games that year thanks mostly to their solid pitching and good years from Bumbry, Singleton and Murray.


  73. 73.  72 That’s one year. The year that’s listed next to each name. Obviously, if a combo was bad enough, they wouldn’t stick around long enough to form a long-term pairing.

    I don’t think Hubbard and Ramirez are a realistic candidate. Hubbard was an absolutely phenomenal defensive second baseman. The reason they played together for that long is because it was believed their defense justified their lack of offense. Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t, but I don’t think they can be claimed to be the worst


  74. 74.  yeah, but who’s worse than them for 5 years offensively?


  75. 75.  Hey, how ’bout the 1969-1973 Yankees?
    Horace Clarke and Gene Michael.
    That was a little before my time, but how good were they?

    I know Clarke had a little speed, but I don’t remember ever hearing he or Stick spoken of very highly.


  76. 76.  Gene Michael had a lifetime OPS+ of 67, which is exactly 10 points less than Raffy Ramirez. Horace Clarke had a lifetime OPS+ of 83, which is less than Hubbard’s 85.

    DING DING DING we obviously have a new champ until someone can find a starting combo that was worse for 5 or more years. Also, I don’t know if Gene and Horace played good defense, but Hub and Raffy did (at least in 1982 they turned the most DPs in the NL).


  77. 77.  Michael and Clark also have the distinction of being something of a negative image of Tinker and Evers. In a historical light, Tinker and Evers (see 22 for the winning percentage of the Cubs during their reign) personify the small island of Cubs dominance in an otherwise vast sea of Cubs falure. Michael and Clarke, on the other hand, presided over the usually dominant Yankees’ glummest, most irrelevant years.

    As far as their defense, all I can offer is that the Strat-O-Matic 1970s online game has both of them listed as 3s with fairly low e-ratings. Not bad, but perhaps not good enough to save them from being dubbed, all things considered (limp offensive skills, cruddy team, longevity), the worst double play combo of all time.


  78. 78.  If they haven’t been mentioned already, my nominees are Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.


  79. 79.  Watching the Yankees play the Orioles over the weekend, this thought struck me: if Adam Jones can become even a lousy major-league hitter, better than replacement but below average, he could be Cesar Geronimo.

    And immediately this thread came to mind, because here’s a category where the Big REd Machine has to win hands down: everyday defensive strength up the middle. I haven’t done a lick of research, but I expect that Bench, Morgan, Concepcion and Geronimo will be extremely tough to beat.


  80. 80.  The Orioles had some great defense up the middle as well – for the eight year span 1969-1976, Davey Johnson/Bobby Grich (2B), Mark Belanger (SS), and Paul Blair (CF) won 20 of a possible 24 gold gloves. Toss in either Etch or Elrod catching and you have a formidable match-up to that Big Red Machine team.

    (Note: From 1974-1977, Bench-Morgan-Concepcion-Geronimo swept all 16 possible Gold Gloves).


  81. Concepcion should be in the Hall. He was the best shortstop of the 70’s. Don’t give me that Larry Bowa crap. Belanger may have been his equal defensively (I didn’t see him enough to know for sure). Concepcion had amazing range, a remarkably strong and accurate arm and great instincts. He was also the best hitting shortstop of his day. The writers have always overlooked defense..there are plenty of great defensive players that deserve to be in the Hall. And there should not be a quota of Hall of Famers from the Big Red Machine.

    Throw out all the number crunching and buy the 1975 World Series DVD collection…it’s a bargain. For $40 you get the entire Series on seven DVDs. Watch and behold #13.



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