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The Best Double Play Combos

November 12, 2012

Awards like The Fielding Bible Awards and The Gold Gloves focus on the defensive merits of individuals. Before we are too far removed from the season, let’s take a look at one of the areas where teamwork comes into play defensively. Middle infielders play two of the most demanding defensive positions, and they rely on each other to be successful.

Here are the top-five double play tandems in baseball this season, based on Defensive Runs Saved (DRS):

Best Double Play Combos in 2012
Team Second Baseman Shortstop Total DRS
Mariners Dustin Ackley (11) Brendan Ryan (27) 38
Cubs Darwin Barney (28) Starlin Castro (3) 31
Red Sox Dustin Pedroia (11) Mike Aviles (14) 25
Braves Dan Uggla (4) A. Simmons (19) 23
Orioles Robert Andino (5) J.J. Hardy (18) 23
Reds Brandon Phillips (11) Zack Cozart (12) 23

Fielding Bible Award winners Brendan Ryan and Darwin Barney helped propel their respective teams into the top two spots on this list. Ryan led his nearest competitor at shortstop—Andrelton Simmons—by eight Runs Saved and Barney led his nearest competitors at second base—Robinson Cano and Alexi Casilla—by 13 Runs Saved. Dustin Pedroia and Mike Aviles were more of a surprise in third place. Pedroia is an excellent defender and a former Fielding Bible Award and Gold Glove winner, but Aviles had been used more often at second and third base before 2012. There was some concern that he might have difficulty defensively at shortstop going into the season, but his play has allayed those concerns.

Simmons only played in 49 games, but that was still enough for him and Dan Uggla, in a career year defensively, to make it into the three-way tie for fourth place. They were joined by Robert Andino and J.J. Hardy from the Orioles and Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart from the Reds.

Here are the bottom-five double play tandems in baseball this season:

Worst Double Play Combos in 2012
Team Second Baseman Shortstop Total DRS
Brewers Rickie Weeks (-30) Cody Ransom (-1) -31
Astros Jose Altuve (-18) Jed Lowrie (-3) -21
Dodgers Jerry Hairston (-6) Dee Gordon (-14) -20
Giants Ryan Theriot (-12) Joaquin Arias (-7) -19
Marlins Donovan Solano (1) Jose Reyes (-16) -15

Similar to but opposite of Ryan and Barney, Rickie Weeks single-handedly pulled the Brewers to the bottom of the league. Weeks has never been a good defender, but the 30 runs he cost his team defensively this year nearly doubled his previous worst season (-16 Defensive Runs Saved in 2010). Cody Ransom, on the other hand, was basically a neutral defender. The Brewers cycled through seven players at shortstop, none of which moved the needle too significantly.

Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon anchor the next two combinations. They are both young players, and the Astros and Dodgers are hoping that they can improve defensively as they gain experience. A couple of World Series champion Giants, Joaquin Arias and Ryan Theriot, cost the Giants 19 runs defensively between them. San Francisco moved away from using both Arias and Theriot as the season progressed, replacing them with defensive wizard Brandon Crawford and the always reliable Marco Scutaro. Donovan Solano and Jose Reyes of the Marlins round out the NL-dominated list.

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