Ranking MLB's Greatest Double-Play Duos of the Last 20 Years

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2020

Ranking MLB's Greatest Double-Play Duos of the Last 20 Years

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    Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano
    Derek Jeter and Robinson CanoMike Carlson/Associated Press

    Every baseball fan knows the situation: Runner on first base and fewer than two outs, ground ball up the middle. Fortunate teams are supremely confident in their second baseman and shortstop to make the play.

    If the grounder is within their range, they're turning two.

    Since 2000, Major League Baseball has enjoyed more than a handful of dynamic duos up the middle.

    While contributions at the plate are valuable, the focus of the list is highlighting what players accomplished as defenders. Along with fielding stats, a couple of subjective measuresthe eye test and length of middle-infield partnerships (minimum three years)are factors.

Honorable Mentions

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    JOHN ZICH/Getty Images

    2B Roberto Alomar and SS Omar Vizquel, Cleveland Indians

    How could we not mention this pairing? The problem is Alomar and Vizquel only played two seasons together in the new millennium, and longevity is a big factor of this ranking. Still, both players won Gold Gloves in 2000 and 2001. Amazing duo.

             

    2B Freddy Sanchez and SS Jack Wilson, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Wilson was a premier shortstop for the better part of a half-decade. What prevents this tandem from a higher spot is Sanchez bounced around the Pittsburgh infield when Wilson was a full-time starter.

             

    2B Howie Kendrick and SS Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels

    Kendrick and Aybar both cracked the MLB roster in 2006 and rose to featured roles within a few years. Kendrick was a steady performer, while Aybar had an impressive peak with a Gold Glove in 2011. They typically turned 60 to 80 double plays per year.

             

    2B Dustin Pedroia and SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

    This is a complicated one. Pedroia, a four-time Gold Glove winner, was definitely a star in the field. Advanced metrics hate Bogaertslike, despise himyet he doesn't fail the eye test. Honorable mention it is.

8. 2B Jason Kipnis and SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Francisco Lindor wasted no time making his presence felt at shortstop, winning a Gold Glove in 2016his second big league season. He's consistently played at an above-average level for the Indians and added a second Gold Glove in 2019.

    Without question, Lindor carried the infield from 2015 to '19. Still, his counterpart had a good run in Cleveland.

    Kipniswho joined the Chicago Cubs for 2020posted a .983 fielding percentage during that stretch. While not outstanding, it was still slightly above league average. And with a standout like Lindor on the opposite side, that's good enough for this list. 

7. 2B Jose Vidro and SS Orlando Cabrera, Montreal Expos

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    FRANK FRANKLIN II/Associated Press

    Jose Vidro and Orlando Cabrera manned the infield for the Montreal Expos from the late 1990s almost until the franchise's end.

    Vidro contributed most in the batter's box, but he steadily improved and became a good defender in the early 2000s. Though his fielding performance dropped after the team moved to Washington, he was slightly above average for most of 2000 to 2004.

    On the other hand, Cabrera earned his accolades on defense. In 2001, the shortstop won his first of two career Gold Gloves.

6. 2B Ian Kinsler and SS Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Ian Kinsler headed to the Detroit Tigers in 2014, a year that Jose Iglesias missed entirely because of shin injuries.

    The delay was worth it.

    Over the next three seasons, Iglesias posted a .986 fielding percentage—well above average for MLB shortstops—with only 23 errors. Kinsler notched a .985 clip and won a Gold Glove in 2016. Each year, they turned 80-plus double plays.

    The partnership ended when Detroit shipped Kinsler to the Angels in December 2017.

5. 2B Marcus Giles and SS Rafael Furcal, Atlanta Braves

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    HARAZ GHABARI/Associated Press

    Rafael Furcal made a ton of errors. That much is undeniable.

    He also managed to atone for the mistakes with some spectacular plays that other shortstops could only dream of making. Furcal never won a Gold Glove with the Atlanta Braves, yet he regularly graded out as an above-average fielder.

    For much of 2001 to '05, Furcal shared the middle infield with Marcus Giles. Though never a star defender, Giles was a steady second basemenparticularly in 2003 and 2004 with 26 combined runs saved above average.

4. 2B Jose Altuve and SS Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Even as injuries have regularly derailed Carlos Correa, the shortstop has established himself as a solid defender.

    Through five seasons, Correa has 34 defensive runs saved and an above-average fielding percentage (.979) for his position (.973). Despite making only 75 appearances in 2019, he enjoyed a personal-best year with a .993 fielding clip.

    On the other side of the diamond, Jose Altuve has made enormous improvements. Early in his career, Altuve was a negative on defense. But then he won a Gold Glove in 2015 and has since remained a steady presence for the Astros.

3. 2B Robinson Cano and SS Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Let's be honest here. Derek Jeter, by the end of his career, was a miserable defender. He received his fifth and final Gold Glove (2010) solely on reputation, not performance.

    Nevertheless, he's due some respect for a decent stretch alongside a standout in Robinson Cano.

    Cano earned Gold Gloves in 2010 and 2012 while accumulating 31 combined defensive runs saved. He dealt with a couple of rough years in the field but regularly graded out positively.

    While sharing the field for nine years, they routinely turned 70-plus double plays. Both of them topped the century mark in 2007.

2. 2B Joe Panik and SS Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Over a five-season period from 2010 to 14, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in the even years. The final time, the Giants had Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford carrying the infield.

    Panik, then a rookie, soon developed a strong reputation at second base. After tallying a .996 fielding percentage in 2015, Panik won a Gold Glove in 2016.

    And to think Panik was the "weaker" member of this pairing from 2014 to 19. According to FanGraphs, Crawford amassed 62 defensive runs saved and won three Gold Gloves. They topped 80 double plays in both 2016 and 2017 as well.

    The Giants released Panik in August 2019, ending the impressive six-season run next to Crawford.

1. 2B Chase Utley and SS Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Rollins and Utley
    Rollins and UtleyAssociated Press

    For more than a decade, the Philadelphia Phillies relied on Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins up the middle.

    Utley entered the majors in 2003, joining Rollins in his fourth year and creating a spectacular defensive duo. Rollins won four Gold Gloves in Philadelphia, and Utley racked up a total of 122 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, from 2004 to '10.

    Injuries and normal old regression disrupted the next few seasons, but they turned in a quality 2014 defensively in their final year together on the Phillies. Utley and Rollins would play a portion of 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

       

    Stats via Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.