December 14, 2017

The Most Prolific Slugging Teammates In History (The List Ain't Changing Any Time Soon)

Will Stanton And Judge Become The Most Prolific Slugging Duo Of All Time?

The short answer to the not-so-subtle headline on today's ESPN article by Bradford Doolittle: No.

A longer answer follows:

Doolittle writes:
According to ESPN Stats & Information, last season, [Aaron] Judge and [Giancarlo] Stanton combined for 47 batted balls with an exit velocity of 115 mph or more. The rest of baseball combined for 39 such rockets. ...

Right away, it would seem that the all-time record for team home runs in a season - 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners - will be in serious jeopardy, maybe on an annual basis. As it was, New York led the majors with 241 homers last season, the 16th-highest team total in big league history.

However, the team that ranks 17th on that all-time list might be the most pertinent: the 1961 Yankees. That club bashed 240 homers, 115 of them from Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54). That's the all-time record for teammates in a season and the only time two players on the same team surpassed 50 bombs each in the same season. ...

Most Homers By Teammates In A Season
HRs   PLAYER (HR)          PLAYER (HR)            TEAM
115   Roger Maris (61)     Mickey Mantle (54)     1961 Yankees 
110   Barry Bonds (73)     Rich Aurilia (37)      2001 Giants 
107   Babe Ruth (60)       Lou Gehrig (47)        1927 Yankees 
100   Alex Rodriguez (57)  Rafael Palmeiro (43)   2002 Rangers 
 99   Alex Rodriguez (52)  Rafael Palmeiro (47)   2001 Rangers
If Stanton and Judge had hit all 111* of their 2017 homers for the Yankees, they would have been the second-most prolific tandem in baseball history and just the fifth to crack the century mark. ...

It would be not at all surprising if one of these seasons, the Stanton-Judge duo turns out to be the most prolific home run duo in the history of baseball.
*: 2017 home runs: Stanton 59, Judge 52.

I don't think it's particularly accurate to look simply at home runs (or exit velocity) when trying to pinpoint "the most prolific slugging duo of all time", which, despite Doolittle's focus on home runs, is what the article's headline states. Looking at that list, I'm wondering if I have ever heard A-Rod and Palmeiro discussed as one of the best slugging duos of all-time. I don't think I have. But you damn well know that if Stanton/Judge were in those spots (consecutive seasons!), you'd never hear the friggin' end of it.

Home runs are one way to look at prolific sluggers, but there are others - even if we confine ourselves to counting stats. How about producing, or driving in, runs?

Teammates Combining For 300+ RBI In One Season
1931 NYY  347  Lou Gehrig (185) and Babe Ruth (162)
1927 NYY  339  Lou Gehrig (175) and Babe Ruth (164)
1930 NYY  326  Lou Gehrig (173) and Babe Ruth (153)
1930 CHC  325  Hack Wilson (191) and Kiki Cuyler (134)
1937 NYY  325  Joe DiMaggio (167) and Lou Gehrig (158)
1930 PHA  321  Al Simmons (165) and Jimmie Foxx (156)
1932 PHA  320  Jimmie Foxx (169) and Al Simmons (151) 
1949 BOS  318  Ted Williams (159) and Vern Stephens (159)
1929 CHC  308  Hack Wilson (159) and Rogers Hornsby (149)
1921 NYY  306  Babe Ruth (168) and Bob Meusel (138)
Here is a list of more recent duos:
2005 BOS  292  David Ortiz (148) and Manny Ramirez (144)
1996 COL  291  Andres Galarraga (150) and Dante Bichette (141)
1999 CLE  285  Manny Ramirez (165) and Roberto Alomar (120)
1970 CIN  277  Johnny Bench (148) and Tony Perez (129)
2000 SEA  277  Edgar Martinez (145) and Alex Rodriguez (132)
1999 TEX  276  Rafael Palmeiro 9148) and Juan Gonzalez (128)
In 2017, Stanton (132) and Judge (114) combined for 246 RBI. (For Stanton, that was a career high among his eight seasons, topping his 2014 season by 27 runs. It was also only the second time he had knocked in more than 100 runs.)

To be considered one of the top slugging duos of all-time, Stanton and Judge should have to crack the 300 RBI list. It seems highly unlikely (actually, I'll deem it impossible) that those guys could both match their 2017 totals and somehow drive in an additional 54 runs. Keep in mind that every one of those ten 300-RBI seasons were accomplished during a 154-game schedule. Even with a slightly longer schedule of 162 games for more than five decades, no pair of teammates in the last 68 years has been able to join that elite list.

Most Extra-Base Hits By Teammates, Season
1927 NYY  214  Lou Gehrig (117) and Babe Ruth (97)
1921 NYY  199  Babe Ruth (119) and Bob Meusel (80)
1930 NYY  186  Lou Gehrig (100) and Babe Ruth (86)
2004 STL  182  Albert Pujols (99) and Jim Edmonds (83) 
2001 COL  181  Todd Helton (105) and Larry Walker (76)
I could not find a stand-alone list of these leaders, so they were a little harder to figure out. (Please let me know if I missed anything.) However, it seems very clear that the record is 214.

A player has collected more than 103 extra-base hits in a season only five times in history - and four of those are on the list above. The one that is not: Chuck Klein of the 1930 Phillies. He had 107 and his teammate Lefty O'Doul had 66, for a total of 173. Stanton (91) and Judge (79) combined for 170 extra-base hits in 2017. (And, again, Stanton's previous high was 68, in 2014.)

Most Combined Total Bases By Teammates, Season
1927 NYY  864  Lou Gehrig (447) and Babe Ruth (417)
1929 PHI  802  Chuck Klein (405) and Lefty O'Doul (397)
I believe those are the only seasons in history in which teammates combined for 800+ total bases (again, I hope I have not missed anything). Just under that number, Gehrig and Ruth combined for 798 in 1930 and Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio had 784 in 1939. In 2017, Stanton (377) and Judge (340) combined for 717 total bases.

Highest Combined Slugging Percentage By Teammates, Season
1927 NYY  1.537  Babe Ruth (.772) and Lou Gehrig (.765)
1930 NYY  1.453  Babe Ruth (.732) and Lou Gehrig (.721)
I believe those are the only two times in history that teammates have had slugging percentages over .700. (Only 16 players in history have even slugged .700 in a season, and those 16 players have done it 35 times, with Ruth having nine seasons, Bonds with four, and Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx each with three.)

Sidebar: One thing we can all agree on is that Lou Gehrig was an insanely great hitter, just a fucking beast at the plate. When I think about how underrated he is, I get a headache. It's criminal. How in the hell did he knock 185 (!) runs in 1931 (the all-time AL record) when Ruth, batting ahead of him, knocked in 162 (tied for 19th-best, all-time)? How many men did they leave on base in innings in which they both batted? Like, nine, all year?

Also, note how those .700+ slugging seasons are grouped:
1876-1919 (44 years):  0
1920-1934 (15 years): 18
1935-1993 (59 years):  5
1994-2004 (11 years): 12
2005-2017 (13 years):  0
In 116 years of non-juiced balls/players: 5 times. In the other 26 years: 30 times.

Some other seasons:
2001 SFG  1.435  Barry Bonds (.863) and Rich Aurilia (.572)
1921 NYY  1.405  Babe Ruth (.846) and Bob Meusel (.559)
1928 NYY  1.357  Babe Ruth (.709) and Lou Gehrig (.648)
2004 SFG  1.341  Barry Bonds (.812) and J.T. Snow (.529)
1932 PHA  1.297  Jimmie Foxx (.749) and Al Simmons (.548)
1998 STL  1.292  Mark McGwire (.752) and Ray Lankford (.540)
2001 CHC  1.266  Sammy Sosa (.737) and Rondell White (.529)
1996 STL  1.262  Mark McGwire (.730) and Geronimo Berroa (.532)
In 2017, Stanton (.631) and Judge (.627) had a combined slugging percentage of 1.258. Could they each add upwards of 75-100 points of slugging EACH in 2018? No. (They will not even increase their total by 75 points (i.e., each improving by 38 points).) Again, no major league batter has slugged .700 in any of the last 13 seasons. The closest was .671, by Albert Pujols in 2006. And the last non-Bonds player to slug .700 was Larry Walker, way back in 1999. (From 1958-1993 - 36 seasons - no one slugged .700.)

Although they are both young (Stanton is 28 and Judge will turn 26 next April) and talented (even though most people forget or overlook the fact that Judge has played exactly one full season), they would both need an unprecedented leap in production to truly be considered among the greatest and most productive slugging duos in baseball history. And - it should go without saying - they would have to keep up that historic production for several seasons.

Finally, take another look at the ESPN graphic at the top of this post. I know it's silly to expect sober perspective or historical accuracy from ESPN, but have we really "never seen anything quite like" these two guys when it comes to a pair of slugging teammates? That claim seems far beyond even the ever-elastic bounds of normal sports hyperbole. They've never been in the same lineup! They haven't played even one spring training game together! Yet ESPN is telling us - not merely asking, but telling! us - that they are beyond anything the game has ever seen! In fact, it's been "proven"! (When it comes to mindless hype, yeah, this may be unprecedented.)


allan said...

WAR (as per BRef)
1927 NYY - Gehrig (11.3) and Ruth (11.2) = 22.5
2017 ... - Judge (7.2) and Stanton (6.5) = 13.5

WAR (as per Fangraphs)
1927 NYY - Ruth (13.0) and Gehrig (12.5) = 25.5
2017 ... - Judge (8.2) and Stanton (6.9) = 15.1

FenFan said...

As always, you've done a nice job looking at the whole picture versus one or two "hand picked" statistics that tell only a small part of the story. Judge and Stanton may prove to be a nice 1-2 punch in the middle of the MFY lineup for the next few seasons but they have much to prove before they can be compared to the likes of Ruth and Gehrig.