Just How Good Is the Dynamite Duo of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez?
BDD's Exclusive Excerpt of the Maple Street Press 2007 Red Sox Annual:
Since Big Papi was picked up off the scrap heap following the 2002 season, he and Manny Ramirez have ranked with some of the all-time great combinations from a New England perspective, rivaling Orr and Esposito, Russell and Cousy, even Lexington and Concord.
During their four years in the Sox lineup together, Ramirez and Ortiz have socked 333 homers, a sum eclipsed only by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (359 for the 1927-1930 Yankees) and Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez (352 for the 1996-99 Mariners) among teammates batting consecutively in the order. Their 1,005 runs batted in ranks fourth all-time behind the aforementioned pairs and the tandem of Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx (1929-1932 Athletics).
In 2004, Ramirez and Ortiz were the first American League teammates since Ruth and Gehrig to each hit at least .300 with 40 home runs and 100 RBI. It would be simple to rest on those numbers, but digging deeper into the data uncovers a lot more about how fortunate Boston fans have been to watch these guys.
So, just how good are Ortiz and Ramirez as a one-two punch? How do they stack up with other great tandems in team and baseball history?
To obtain a baseline comparable to Ortiz and Ramirez, we’ll consider only those players that batted consecutively in the order for the majority of four straight seasons. A few exceptions can be made for injuries and for time missed serving military commitments, but the restriction rules out most platoon players. For those who played together longer than four seasons, we’ll look only at their most collectively productive stretch.
The teammates should also be somewhat balanced in their production. There have been countless lopsided pairings over baseball history that, taken in sum, might pass statistical muster. But to include duos such as Nap Lajoie and Bill Bradley (1903-06 Indians), or Tris Speaker and Larry Gardner (1919-22 Indians) would defeat the spirit of the study. Players’ achievements must stand out individually as well as collectively.
These criteria narrow the field substantially. In addition, 30 years of free agency has spurred players to jump ship in search of better deals, leaving team rosters far less stable. The pickings are made even slimmer by managers’ tendencies to shuffle lineups to play match-ups, hot streaks, or hunches.
The selected filters still leave 40 highly productive duos to consider. Nearly all include at least one present Hall-of-Famer or a strong candidate for future induction. Ranking the duos involves some subjectivity, which is the fun part of a study like this. There is really no reliable way to weight each of the metrics appropriately. An effort can be made to strike a balance between gross and rate-based production, and to note any disparities between the hitters in each pairing.
Once tabulated, the data generates a few surprises.
For one thing, the famed Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle didn’t crack the top 10. Due to injuries, they barely combined for a full season’s production in 1963. Had they remained healthy, they’d likely rank in the top five tandems. Still, Mantle created 10.2 runs every 27 outs and logged a 189 OPS+, while Maris put up 7.2 and 150 numbers. Their 295 combined homers ranks ninth despite the shortage in playing time.
The Top 10 shapes up like this:
10. Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda, 1961-64 Giants
9. Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr., 1996-99 Mariners
8. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, 2003-06 Red Sox
7. Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols, 2002-05 Cardinals
6. Ty Cobb and Harry Heilmann, 1921-1924 Tigers
5. Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, 1999-2002 Giants
4. Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, 1959-62 Braves
3. Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx, 1929-32 Athletics
2. Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx, 1939-42 Red Sox
1. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, 1927-30 Yankees
-- Mark Brown is a reporter for the Falmouth Enterprise newspaper on Cape Cod and a member of Sons of Sam Horn.
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