When it comes to turning a smooth double play, just watch Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler.
There’s almost nothing better in baseball than when a second baseman and shortstop make a double play look easy as can be.
Of course, teams would like to not have to turn double plays because that means that somehow an opponent got on base, but turning two makes everything all better more often than not.
But there are only so many middle infielders that have the ability to get two for the price of one on a consistent basis from various parts of the infield. It’s not rare that we see an errant throw to second base that delays the throw to first, which would result in the batter getting in safely.
So which second basemen and shortstops are the best at turning a double play? Let’s get right into it, ranking the top seven combos in baseball today.
*All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus.
Second Baseman: Omar Infante
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta
Omar Infante has been in the league for a long time and has nearly always played well defensively. He’s played several different positions, but second base has been him primary home throughout the bulk of his career.
Infante has been a part of 400 double plays in 652 games at second base since 2002. After getting traded to the Detroit Tigers in the middle of last season, he started 12 and turned 15 double plays in 61 games. Through 22 games this season, he’s already started six and turned seven.
Infante’s counterpart at shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, isn’t really known for his defensive prowess, although he isn’t a very good hitter either. He is, however, on his way toward hitting 1,000 career innings at shortstop, which could come this season barring an injury.
Peralta has been a part of 670 double plays throughout his career at short. He’s started at least 32 in each of the last two seasons while turning at least 40 as well. In 25 games this season, Peralta has started five and turned seven.
Second Baseman: Danny Espinosa
Shortstop: Ian Desmond
Danny Espinosa has only been in the league since 2010, but he’s already established himself as one of the better two-way second basemen in baseball. He’s yet to be rewarded for either, but could easily take home some hardware after this season.
Ignoring the fact that Espinosa has played 38 games at shortstop, he has 187 double plays to his credit throughout his four-year career. He was a part of 87 double plays back in 2011, starting 33 and turning 52 while finishing 16. His total dropped last season to 64. This season, he’s started seven and turned 11 in 23 games.
Ian Desmond made his debut a year earlier than the Washington Nationals second baseman, but he’s not played nearly as well defensively. He still has, however, been very good at turning two, when presented with the opportunity to do so.
Since 2009, Desmond has been a part of 255 double plays at shortstop. His total has declined each year since 2010, but has still completed at least 62 in each of the three seasons. His career high came in 2010 when he started 39, turned 44 and finished four—which was Espinosa’s first year. He’s turned and started 10 this year.
Second Baseman: Darwin Barney
Shortstop: Starlin Castro
The Chicago Cubs seem to have found their second baseman for the future, Darwin Barney. Barney, who made his debut back in 2010, has been stellar defensively and took home the NL Gold Glove at second base last season.
Barney didn’t start to see regular time in the field until 2011, but he took advantage of it every chance he got to get outs. He started 23 double plays that year and turned 38. Then last season, he really put himself in a good position to succeed, starting 34 and turning 56. Through 14 games this season, he’s been a part of eight.
Part of Barney’s success, though, has to go to his teammate and starting shortstop, Starlin Castro. A star in the making, Castro is definitely more of an offensive threat than a defensive asset, mainly because he commits a lot of errors. He’s booted 88 balls since 2010.
But in terms of turning two, Castro has been very good for the Cubs. He’s been a part of at least 70 in each of the last three seasons and has nearly had an even balance between starting and turning double plays. He set a new career-high in both categories last season when he totaled 86 on the season. He has 11 this year.
Second Baseman: Jason Kipnis
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera
Jason Kipnis is still developing, entering just his second full season in the big league, but it appears that he’s going to be a decent two-way second baseman. His UZR may not reflect that yet, but he still may be figuring out the best way to approach big league hitters from a defensive standpoint.
Kipnis’ first full season, last season, was a good one in terms of connecting with Asdrubal Cabrera—and some other infielders—to turn two. He was able to start 44 double plays as well as turn 48. He finished two for a total of 92, which was tied for the fifth most among all second basemen.
While Cabrera is one of the better overall shortstops in baseball, it’s not really because of how well he plays defensively. In fact, he’s actually pretty bad on defense. Since 2007, he has a -32.3 UZR at shortstop. For those who don’t know, that’s very, very horrible.
Cabrera, however, has been getting better at turning two frequently. Although it does have to do with a bit of luck, he’s increased his total each year since 2010. Last season, Cabrera set a new career-high as he hand a hand in 90 double plays. But since 2007, he only has 340 total. Through 21 games this season, he’s completed 13.
Second Baseman: Dustin Ackley
Shortstop: Brendan Ryan
The Seattle Mariners have turned the third most double plays in baseball since 2012 and much of that credit has to go to their middle infielders, Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan. Neither are offensive threats, but both are defensive masterminds.
Ackley is only in his third big league season, but has already conquered second base. He has good range, a strong arm and knows where he needs to be and how to get there at all times. In 86 games his rookie year, he was a part of 46 double plays. Then last season, he started 36 and turned 50 while also finishing six for a total of 82. He has 14 through 27 games this season.
Ryan is arguably the top defensive shortstop in baseball overall, compiling a 48.4 UZR at shortstop since making his major league debut back in 2007. If he could start hitting for average, he’d easily be a star. But unfortunately for him, offense still gives him plenty of headaches.
For the last four seasons, all Ryan has done is turn double play after double play. Since 2007, he’s been a part of 382 at short. Last season, he was one shy of 100 total after starting 49, turning 52 and finishing three. Through 23 games this season, he’s turned and started six for a total of 12.
Second Baseman: Gordon Beckham
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez
Gordon Beckham may not be one of the best second basemen in baseball, mainly because he’s struggled at the plate, but that shouldn’t take away from how well he plays defensively. He doesn’t commit many errors and is quick with his release.
Since making his major league debut back in 2010, Beckham has had a hand in 277 double plays. While some players on this list have been balanced in terms of starting and turning two, Beckham is the opposite. He’s turned 79 more double plays than his started over the course of his career. He’s only played in seven games this season and has started one and turned five.
Beckham wouldn’t be able to turn so many if Alexei Ramirez wasn’t such a good fielder. One of the better defensive shortstops in baseball, Ramirez has been able to do quite a bit of damage in terms of retiring baserunners since 2008. It almost seems like every time there’s a man on first, a routine grounder gets hit his way.
Ramirez is currently nine double plays shy of 400 for his career as he frequently has a hand in around 85-95 per season. In 2010, he was a part of 101, which is his career-high. Last season, he started 50, turned 38 and finished five. This season, he’s completed 13 through 27 games.
Second Baseman: Ian Kinsler
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus
Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus are quite the defensive tandem in the middle of the Texas Rangers’ infield. Both are stars offensively, but don’t always get the credit that they deserve on the defensive side of the ball. Kinsler is a very good defensive second baseman and Andrus is great at short.
Together, Texas’ combo is nearly unstoppable. What’s kind of interesting, though, is that the most double plays Kinsler has had a hand in over the course of his career came before Andrus made his major league debut. That’s right, in 2008 when Michael Young was the shortstop, Kinsler totaled 123 for the year.
Since Andrus’ debut in 2009, Kinsler has been a part of 352 twin killings. Andrus already has 376 career double plays and he’s only entering his fifth season in the big leagues. On average, Andrus turns more than one double play every pair of games, which if you ask me, isn’t half bad at all.
Errors have plagued Andrus through his big league career, committing 79 over the last four seasons, but that hasn’t had a direct effect on how he and Kinsler have worked together. Last season, Andrus started 43 double plays and turned 41, while also finishing eight. Through 26 games this season, he’s already totaled 16.