Ranking Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder Among Best 3-4 Combos in MLB Today
When healthy, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland has the ability to pencil in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the 3-4 spots on a nightly basis, giving his lineup a fearsome presence hard to find anywhere else in the sport.
From the days of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz to Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, there have been some dynamic 3-4 combos in recent baseball history. Of course, the original 3-4 combo, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, set the stage for all other combos to try emulating.
In 2013, five duos stand out among the best.
Where does the Tigers burly, powerful combo rank?
Let's take a look, baseball fans!
*All stats valid through July 25 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
5. Joey Votto-Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
Votto: .321/.434/.508, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 154 OPS+
Phillips: .263/.316/.408, 12 HR, 81 RBI, 94 OPS+
If Reds manager Dusty Baker stacked his lineup properly, Joey Votto would likely be higher on this list with a different tag team partner, outfielder Jay Bruce.
Instead, the Reds win and thrive with an old-school, conventional lineup, separating lefties and fixating on RBI men in the middle and speed at the top.
While Phillips is a nice player and All-Star, his 94 OPS-plus drags this due down to the bottom of our list.
Votto, despite only 47 runs batted in, is a star. With a .434 on-base percentage and 25-plus home run power, he represents one of the most difficult hitters to face in baseball.
4. Adrian Gonzalez-Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
Gonzalez: .301/.355/.480, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 137 OPS+
Ramirez: .384/.438/.686, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 211 OPS+
Over the past two months, no combination in the sport has wreaked more havoc on opposing pitchers. With Yasiel Puig atop the order, Gonzalez and Ramirez have garnered copious RBI opportunities while crushing National League pitching.
Credit for this duo belongs to Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and a deep-pocketed ownership group for taking advantage of the willingness in Boston and Miami, respectively, to sell two of baseball's biggest stars in recent years.
Last summer, Los Angeles used their deep pockets to transform the future of their lineup and infield by adding Gonzalez and Ramirez in separate deals.
When healthy, few infielders are more prolific at the dish. When together at a combo, few 3-4 pairings can match their production.
3. Dustin Pedroia-David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Pedroia: .303/.381/.416, 6 HR, 58 RBI, 117 OPS+
Ortiz: .323/.404/.597, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 168 OPS+
While Pedroia and Ortiz may be dissimilar in build, appearance and style, they complement each other perfectly in the 3-4 spots in Boston's lineup.
Both get on base, drive in runs and work the count. Pedroia, just days after signing a long-term, lucrative deal to stay in Boston long-term, will be the face of the franchise when Ortiz succumbs to age and departs.
For now, Big Papi provides amazing lineup protection for the Red Sox second baseman. Despite starting the year on the disabled list due to foot problems, Ortiz has retained his form from last summer as a fierce hitting designated hitter.
With a 168 OPS-plus, the 37-year-old Ortiz has the third highest mark of any of the 10 individual members on this list.
2. Carlos Gonzalez-Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Gonzalez: .297/.366/.597, 26 HR, 67 RBI, 144 OPS+
Tulowitzki: .327/.392/.591, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 150 OPS+
If Tulowitzki was slightly more durable and/or Cabrera and Fielder were slightly less of modern day iron men, the Rockies combo might take the top spot on this list.
For now, they remain second, but their standing in the NL West race or home games in Colorado shouldn't make fans appreciate this duo any less.
If the Rockies could ever put a top-notch pitching staff on the mound, Tulo and CarGo could lead this franchise to big things in October.
1. Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Cabrera: .358/.454/.666, 31 HR, 96 RBI, 197 OPS+
Fielder: .267/.359/.451, 17 HR, 74 RBI, 117 OPS+
Two things separate Cabrera-Fielder from the rest of the field: Consistency and durability.
Until the recent hip injury suffered by Miguel Cabrera, the duo, despite their non-athletic looking frames, have been as durable as any pair of players in the sport.
Here are the year-by-year games played breakdown for both Tiger sluggers since 2006:
Fielder: 157, 158, 159, 162, 161, 162, 162
Cabrera: 158, 157, 160, 160, 150, 161, 161
Jim Leyland knows his sluggers come to play, and when they do, hitting follows.
Lead by another MVP level season from Cabrera, the Tigers duo is as good as it gets in baseball right now, and, perhaps, on dueling paths to Cooperstown.
Agree? Disagree? How would you rank the top 3-4 combos?
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