By one measure, baseball statistician Bill James has determined the Mets had the worst middle-infield combination in baseball last season, at least when Jose Reyes was paired with Justin Turner. Here's what James and colleagues wrote ...
In The Bill James Handbook 2012, Bill James and Baseball Info Solutions track Defensive Runs Saved to see who the best-fielding shortstops and second basemen were in 2011. In short, Defensive Runs Saved is an estimate of the number of runs each fielder saves with his defense, combining John Dewan’s Plus/Minus System with analyses of bunts, double plays, and more to form a complete evaluation of a fielder.
For anyone who’s watched the 2011 World Series, it’s no surprise that the AL Champion Texas Rangers had the best double-play combination in baseball. Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler totaled 29 Defensive Runs Saved between them—tops in the majors.
Ian Kinsler was runner-up among second baseman with 16 Runs Saved, just one behind Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist (17) and one ahead of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim second-sacker Howie Kendrick (15). Elvis Andrus (13) finished third among shortstops behind Seattle’s Brendan Ryan (18) and Atlanta’s Alex Gonzalez (15). Together, however, Andrus-Kinsler was the most formidable double-play duo in the majors. Kinsler is also the three-year leader among all second basemen with 46 Runs Saved over that time.
So who would form the best double-play combination in the majors? A tandem of Brendan Ryan (18) and Ben Zobrist (17) would have totaled four more Defensive Runs Saved (35) than the next-best possible options. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for everyone involved, every team in the major leagues has to deal with a double-play combination (or combinations) at the keystone sack that is less talented than the fictional Ryan-Zobrist dynamic duo might be. Still, there are some pretty fine combos out there, and some truly awful ones, and some that are merely “middling up the middle."
Here are all 30 double-play combinations, listed by total Defensive Runs Saved in 2011 (included are the shortstop-second base combinations that logged the most innings for their respective teams this season):