Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Great pitcher/centerfielder combos

This year, whenever Clayton Kershaw takes the mound and Matt Kemp mans center field, the Dodgers will boast one of the greatest pitcher/center field combos of all time. Last year, they combined for 17 Wins Above Replacement* — 10 for Kemp, 7 for Kershaw. That's not the highest total of all time, but it's not too far off. In fact, based on my research, it ranks as the sixth highest pitcher/CF total of all time. Here's the top 10:

1. 1912 Red Sox: Tris Speaker (11) / Joe Wood (9.6)
2. 1965 Giants: Willie Mays (11) / Juan Marichal (9.2)
3. 1956 Yankees: Mickey Mantle (12.9) / Whitey Ford (5.8)
4. 1937 Yankees: Joe DiMaggio (9.0) / Lefty Gomez (8.9)
5. 1997 Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr. (9.4) / Randy Johnson (7.7)
6. 2011 Dodgers: Matt Kemp (10) / Clayton Kershaw (7)
7. 1985 Cardinals: Willie McGee (8.5) / John Tudor (7.5)
8. 1964 Dodgers: Willie Davis (7.6) / Don Drysdale (8.2)
9. 1953 Phillies: Richie Ashburn (6.0) / Robin Roberts (9.6)
10. 1964 Dodgers: Willie Davis (7.6) / Sandy Koufax (7.8)

Just a few steps behind: Puckett/Viola 1988, Jones/Maddux 2000, Aaron/Spahn 1961, Wynn/Messersmith 1974, Jones/Glavine 1998, Snider/Newcombe 1956

Some notes:

- No surprise to see Speaker and Wood at number one. Those were two genuinely historic performances, but if you notice, they barely beat out Mays/Marichal, which were simply two great seasons of many for those two all-timers.

- It's great to see Willie Davis, a truly underrated Dodger, on this list. He had numerous good seasons and a couple of great seasons; 1964 was his best but not either Koufax's or Drysdale's best.

- Willie McGee is the big surprise on this list. He really only had one good season, but he won the MVP for it and went to the World Series. That's called great timing.

*I used Baseball-Reference WAR totals. Fangraphs only provides historical WAR for position players, not pitchers, so I couldn't compare the two totals.

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