October 31, 2014

All-Time Infields: 2009 Yankees and Phillies Are in the Discussion

November 1, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

The 2009 baseball championship is underway, Yankees vs. Phillies. A few weeks ago the sports editor for my city’s local paper, Bob Matthews of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, noted how strong the Yankees infield is this year (defined as 1B, 2B, 3B, and SS — not including catcher). But now with the Phillies as their opponent, it is interesting to note that they too have a strong infield foursome. Here are the numbers from this year for these eight players:

Yankees 2009:
1B: Mark Teixeira (.292, 39 HR, 122 RBI, .383 OBP)
2B: Robinson Cano (.320, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 48 D)
SS: Derek Jeter (.334, 18 HR, 66 RBI, .406 OBP, 30 SB)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (.286, 30 HR, 100 RBI, .402 OBP, 14 SB)

Rodriguez had a down year by his standards, but of course he has very high average numbers. And if you define infield as including catcher, than the Yankees this year have the ever-steady Jorge Posada who hit .285, 22 HR, 81 RBI.

Phillies 2009:
1B: Ryan Howard (.279, 45 HR, 141 RBI, 37 D)
2B: Chase Utley (.282, 31 HR, 93 RBI, .397 OBP, 23 SB)
SS: Jimmy Rollins (.250, 21 HR, 77 RBI, 31 SB)
3B: Pedro Feliz (.266, 12 HR, 82 RBI)

Clearly not the equal of the Yankees, but still quite good overall. Rollins had a very slow start, and only returned to form late in the year. And both he and Feliz have pathetically low OBP (.296 and .308 respectively). And finally if you throw catcher into the mix, the Phillies don’t matchup well with the Yankees, since Ruiz (.255, 9 HR, 43 RBI) is no equal of Posada.

Matthews’ column mentioned several other famous infields, so I thought I’d provide his commentary, and chime in with some of my own in each case.

1913 Philadelphia Athletics — 1B Stuffy McInnis, 2B Eddie Collins, SS Jack Barry, 3B Home Run Baker. They were called “The Million-Dollar Infield” because manager Connie Mack said he wouldn’t sell them for $1 million. Now he couldn’t get a decent spare infielder for $1 million.”

For some reason he declined to give the stats for this foursome, perhaps assuming most readers wouldn’t be impressed with the deadball era numbers. Here they are:
1B: Stuffy McInnis (.324, 4 HR, 90 RBI, 16 SB)
2B: Eddie Collins (.345, 3 HR, 73 RBI, 55 SB, .441 OBP)
SS: Jack Barry (.275, 3 HR, 85 RBI, 15 SB)
3B: Home Run Baker (.337, 12 HR, 117 RBI, 34 SB, .413 OBP)

One interesting thing to note about this group is their young ages that season: 22, 26, 26, and 27 respectively.

1927 New York Giants — 1B Bill Terry (.326, 20 HRs, 121 RBI), 2B Rogers Hornsby (.361, 26 HRs, 125 RBI), SS Travis Jackson (.318, 14 HRs, 98 RBI), 3B Fred Lindstrom (.306, 7 HRs, 58 RBI). They’re all Hall of Famers, though Jackson and Lindstrom were controversial selections.”

Obviously Terry and Hornsby were the big mashers in this group, kinda like Howard and Utley for this year’s Phillies infield.

1934 Detroit Tigers — 1B Hank Greenberg (.339, 26 HRs, 139 RBI), 2B Charlie Gehringer (.356, 11 HRs, 127 RBI), SS Billy Rogell (.296, 3 HRs, 100 RBI), 3B Marv Owen (.317, 8 HRs, 96 RBI).”

Interestingly, once again the stronger half is the 1B/2B side, where again we have two major hall-of-famers in Greenberg and Gehringer. And a few more numbers from this statistics-inflated era: Greenberg hit 63 doubles this year and Gehringer hit 50; the OBPs for these four were .404, .450, .374, and .385 respectively. Oh, and they had two other Hall-of-Famers in their lineup that year: catcher Mickey Cochrane (.320, 2 HR, 76 RBI) and outfielder Goose Goslin (.305, 13 HR, 100 RBI).

1976 Cincinnati Reds — 1B Tony Perez (.260, 19 HRs, 91 RBI), 2B Joe Morgan (.320, 27 HRs, 111 RBI, 60 stolen bases), SS Dave Concepcion (.281, 9 HRs, 69 RBI), 3B Pete Rose (.323, 10 HRs, 63 RBI). If you could use the best season of each of the four players, they’d be No. 1. But this was their best season collectively with Rose at third base. Perez and Morgan are Hall of Famers. Rose has Hall of Fame numbers. Many people believe Concepcion has been shortchanged by the voters. He was an excellent fielder and a tough clutch hitter.”

And yes, they had Johnny Bench as their fifth infielder behind the plate, but he had poor numbers in 1976 hitting .234 with 16 HR and 74 RBI. And I’m not one who thinks that Concepcion has been shortchanged by HOF voters: a fine career with 9 all-star selections and 5 gold-gloves, but he is not a Hall-of-Famer.

2004 Texas Rangers — 1B Mark Teixiera (.281, 38 HRs, 112 RBI), 2B Alfonso Soriano (.280, 28 HRs, 91 RBI), SS Michael Young (.313, 22 HRs, 99 RBI), 3B Hank Blalock (.276, 32 HRs, 110 RBI). Underrated. Could be No.2 or No. 3.”

Here we see Mr. Teixiera again.

Now I’ll toss a few more into the mix for your consideration:

1906 Cubs:
1B: Frank Chance (.319, 57 SB, .419 OBP)
2B: Johnny Evers (.255, 49 SB)
SS: Joe Tinker (.233, 30 SB)
3B: Harry Steinfeldt (.327, 29 SB, .395 OBP)

This being the dead-ball era, the HR numbers were low and everyone stole lots of bases. Two of these four had high BA and OBP, but obviously the fame of the defense from “Tinker to Evers to Chance” is what gets them mentioned in discussions of all-time infields.

1951 Dodgers:
1B: Gil Hodges (.268, 40 HR, 103 RBI, 118 R, .374 OBP)
2B: Jackie Robinson (.338, 19 HR, 88 RBI, 106 R, 25 SB, .429 OBP)
SS: Pee Wee Reese (.286, 10 HR, 84 RBI, 20 SB)
3B: Billy Cox (.279, 9 HR, 51 RBI)

This foursome was together for a number of years, from 1948 – 52, with Jim Gilliam coming into the picture for 1953-54. You could argue their infield was better in any of those years, but I’ve chosen 1951 as what I think is one of the better statistical combinations in this span.

1970 Orioles:
1B: Boog Powell (.297, 35 HR, 114 RBI, .412 OBP)
2B: Davey Johnson (.281, 10 HR, 53 RBI)
SS: Mark Belanger (.218, 12 SB)
3B: Brooks Robinson (.276, 18 HR, 94 RBI)

This infield was together for several years, from 1968 – 1972, with Bobby Grich replacing Johnson in 1973. Brooks and Belanger were particularly strong fielders. Take your pick between 1969 and 1970 as to which was the better offensive foursome. Belanger was generally a very weak hitter, though he hit .287 in 1969 (Brooks had an off-year hitting only .234 that season).

1979 Dodgers:
1B: Steve Garvey (.315, 28 HR, 110 RBI)
2B: Davey Lopes (.265, 28 HR, 73 RBI, 109 R, 44 SB)
SS: Bill Russell (.271, 7 HR, 56 RBI)
3B: Ron Cey (.281, 28 HR, 81 RBI)

This infield foursome was together for a very long time, 1974 – 1981.   One could argue which was their best overall season offensively: 1977, 1979, or others. Russell was generally the weakest offensive player of the crew, lacking both the power of Garvey and Cey and the speed of Lopes (whose 28 HR in 1979 were an abberation — he only topped 11 in two other seasons his entire career, with 17 in 1978 and 17 in 1983).

1982 Brewers:
1B: Cecil Cooper (.313, 32 HR, 121 RBI)
2B: Jim Gantner (.295, 4 HR, 43 RBI)
SS: Robin Yount (.331, 29 HR, 114 RBI, 129 R, 46 D)
3B: Paul Molitor (.302, 19 HR, 71 RBI, 136 R, 41 SB)

The 1982 World Series team clearly had a great infield. Gantner was the weakest hitter of this group, though he came through in this season with a .295 average.

2000 Indians:
1B: Jim Thome (.269, 37 HR, 106 RBI, 106 R, .398 OBP)
2B: Robert Alomar (.310, 19 HR, 89 RBI, 111 R, 39 SB)
SS: Omar Vizquel (.287, 7 HR, 66 RBI, 101 R, 22 SB)
3B: Travis Fryman (.321, 22 HR, 106 RBI, 38 D, .392 OBP)

Thome and Alomar had more impressive numbers in some of the other years. But this was arguably the best all-around offensive year for this foursome. And their collective defense was outstanding.

1999 Mets:
1B John Olerud (.298, 19 HR, 96 RBI, 107 R, .427 OBP)
2B Edgardo Alfonzo (.304, 27 HR, 108 RBI, 123 R, .385 OBP)
SS: Rey Ordonez (.258, 1 HR, 60 RBI)
3B: Robin Ventura (.301, 32 HR, 120 RBI)

Ordonez was a light hitter. But amazingly, only 27 errors in 1999… for all of them combined!

So which is the best infield-four of all time… I’m not entirely sure. The Yankees of 2009 are great, but so were the others listed above. Thoughts?

Comments

3 Responses to “All-Time Infields: 2009 Yankees and Phillies Are in the Discussion”
  1. Mike Lynch says:

    Great article, Tom! Being a Red Sox homer I’d like to throw a BoSox infield into the mix. I’m not sure if this is the best Sox infield of all-time, but it’s the one that immediately came to mind.

    1950 Red Sox:
    1B: Walt Dropo (.322, 34 HR, 144 RBI, 101 R, .583 SLG)
    2B: Bobby Doerr (.294, 27 HR, 120 RBI, 103 R, 11 3B, .519 SLG)
    SS: Vern Stephens (.295, 30 HR, 144 RBI, 125 R, .511 SLG)
    3B: Johnny Pesky (.312, 1 HR, 49 RBI, 112 R, 104 BB, .437 OBP)

    The Sox also had Birdie Tebbetts behind the plate (albeit for only 74 games) who batted .310 with a .377 OBP in 268 at-bats, and Billy Goodman, who won the batting title with a .354 average, posted a .427 OBP, and scored 91 runs in 110 games. Goodman spent some time in the outfield that year, playing 45 games in left, but played more games on the infield (3B: 27, 1B: 21, 2B: 5, SS: 1).

  2. Tom Stone says:

    Wow… thanks Mike… not sure how I missed this one. Very impressive numbers for these guys that year!

  3. Cliff Blau says:

    The 1913 Athletics infield was called the “$100,000 infield”, not the Million Dollar Infield. At that time, the record price paid for an individual player was what, $13,500 for Marty O’Toole?

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