Sunday, April 17, 2011

Best 1-2 Punch?

Last week on several ESPN podcasts and blog posts the question which team in the game today has the best 1-2 punch offensively? If you navigate your way over to the Sweet Spot blog, Steve Berthiaume comes to the mathematical and logical conclusion that the Colorado Rockies combination of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitski forms the best punch in the game.

He uses WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a prime tool in establishing this conclusion (as well as some 2011 adjustments). On the same post he compares that tandem to others like Josh Hamilton/Nelson Cruz in Texas, Albert Pujols/Matt Holliday in St. Louis, Prince Fielder/Ryan Braun in Milwaukee and Joey Votto/Jay Bruce in Cincinnati.

Below are the combined WAR of each of those tandems:

Pujols (7.3)/Holliday (6.9) -- 14.2
Hamilton (8.0)/Cruz (5.1) -- 13.1
Votto (7.4)/Bruce (5.3) -- 12.7
Tulowitski (6.4)/Gonzalez (6.0) -- 12.4
Fielder (4.1)/Braun (4.2) -- 8.3
(Source: ESPN Sweet Spot Blog)

To provide some perspective, Texas, Colorado, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati have ALL gone to the playoffs (or won championships) in the last decade. As a Jays fan, I was a little surprised to not see any names on any lists. Do I simply look through blue-tinted glasses in awe of Jose Bautista's ability to draw walks and hit home-runs (not to mention his great beard). So I looked back through the past couple years...hoping to see a 1-2 punch that would compare (using WAR as a basis for comparison).

2010 - Jose Bautista (5.6)/Vernon Wells (4.0) = (9.6 WAR)
2009 - Marco Scutaro (5.5)/Aaron Hill (5.4) = (10.9 WAR)
2008 - Scott Rolen (3.8)/Marco Scutaro (4.1) = (7.9 WAR)
2007 - Aaron Hill (5.2)/Alex Rios (4.5) = (9.7 WAR)
2006 - Troy Glaus (4.6)/Reed Johnson (3.6) = (8.2 WAR)

Of the best 5 tandems in the game today, the Toronto Blue Jays best two players have only matched one of them...the 8.3 Combined WAR of the Milwaukee Brewers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. In 2010 Fielder failed to match his career average numbers in AVG., HR, RBI, OPS and doubles, yet did set a career high for walks. Braun, similarly missed his career average in AVG. HR, RBI, Slugging % and OPS (On Base % + Slugging).

What does all that mean? It means that while Blue Jays fans might love their current team and think that the pieces needed for a playoff run are on the current roster (or in the high minors)...we haven't had the 1/2 punch that any of the perennial playoff contenders have on their own current rosters.

**as an interesting point of reference, the 1992 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays 1/2 punch would have been Roberto Alomar and Devon White with a combined 11.7 WAR.

***just another point of note, the 1993 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays 1/2 punch would have been Roberto Alomar and John Olerud with a combined 14.3 WAR. That line-up also had 4 players with an above 5.2 WAR and only one everyday player with a negative WAR. In other words...they were REALLY REALLY GOOD!

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