It's fairly difficult to imagine what it's like being a pitcher on the mound with Game 2 of the World Series on the line, and seeing Miguel Cabrera slowly walking toward the plate from the on-deck circle. I can only assume that, from a pitcher's perspective, Cabrera appears to walk in slow motion with glowing red irises, growling and gnashing his demon's teeth, while the sights and sounds of Hell begin emerging from the surrounding shadows. In fact, from that particular vantage point, it may be no coincidence at all that Cabrera's OPS is at .999 this year, a number which is really just an especially screwed-up "666", if you think about it.
But, even after Cabrera, your date with the devil isn't quite over. If somehow by the grace of god you've miraculously survived the at-bat, Prince Fielder then emerges from the flames.
Facing this sort of 1-2 punch in the middle of the Tigers line-up on Baseball's biggest stage is genuinely the stuff of nightmares. Perhaps this sort of back-to-back threat in a World Series brings back recent memories of Ortiz/Manny in 2007, or Bonds/Kent in '02, or even Belle/Thome back in '95. Or perhaps you believe the Cabrera/Fielder assault is much more intimidating than that?
In order to find the meanest, most dangerous, most intimidating pair of offensive threats to terrorize an opposing pitching staff in the World Series, I set up a query using a combination of Baseball-Reference csv data and the Lahman database. I asked for a list of player-pairs from the same World Series-bound team that had amassed at least 30 Batting Runs each during the regular season. (I also limited the returns to the live-ball era, and one entry per team-season, as several clubs had more than two players with 30+ batting runs.)
WORLD SERIES BASH BROTHERS
|#||Team||Year||NAME_1||Bat Runs||NAME_2||Bat Runs||Combined Bat Runs|
|1||New York Yankees||1927||Lou Gehrig||102.7||Babe Ruth||101.6||204.3|
|2||New York Yankees||1928||Babe Ruth||85||Lou Gehrig||77.4||162.4|
|3||San Francisco Giants||2002||Barry Bonds||108.8||Jeff Kent||45.7||154.5|
|4||New York Yankees||1932||Babe Ruth||75.5||Lou Gehrig||74.9||150.4|
|5||New York Yankees||1926||Babe Ruth||97.5||Lou Gehrig||44.3||141.8|
|6||New York Yankees||1937||Lou Gehrig||73.4||Joe DiMaggio||60.8||134.2|
|7||New York Yankees||1961||Mickey Mantle||80||Roger Maris||54.1||134.1|
|8||New York Yankees||1936||Lou Gehrig||88.4||Bill Dickey||39.1||127.5|
|9||Chicago Cubs||1929||Rogers Hornsby||76.5||Hack Wilson||49.1||125.6|
|10||St. Louis Cardinals||2004||Albert Pujols||69.3||Jim Edmonds||52.1||121.4|
|11||New York Yankees||1956||Mickey Mantle||84.5||Bill Skowron||31.7||116.2|
|12||San Francisco Giants||1989||Kevin Mitchell||60.5||Will Clark||55.3||115.8|
|13||New York Yankees||1941||Joe DiMaggio||66.1||Charlie Keller||45.8||111.9|
|14||Toronto Blue Jays||1993||John Olerud||64.3||Paul Molitor||42.5||106.8|
|15||Baltimore Orioles||1966||Frank Robinson||71||Boog Powell||32.9||103.9|
|16||New York Yankees||1999||Derek Jeter||58.1||Bernie Williams||44.6||102.7|
|17||Detroit Tigers||1940||Hank Greenberg||61.7||Rudy York||40||101.7|
|18||Oakland Athletics||1990||Rickey Henderson||61.5||Jose Canseco||37.3||98.8|
|19||Cleveland Indians||1995||Albert Belle||59.2||Jim Thome||39.5||98.7|
|20||Detroit Tigers||1935||Hank Greenberg||59.7||Charlie Gehringer||38.6||98.3|
|21||New York Yankees||1939||Joe DiMaggio||59.1||George Selkirk||37.5||96.6|
|22||Detroit Tigers||1934||Charlie Gehringer||50.3||Hank Greenberg||45.5||95.8|
|23||Milwaukee Brewers||1982||Robin Yount||58.7||Cecil Cooper||36.2||94.9|
|24||Detroit Tigers||2012||Miguel Cabrera||52||Prince Fielder||42||94|
|25||Cleveland Indians||1948||Lou Boudreau||57.7||Ken Keltner||36.2||93.9|
|26||St. Louis Cardinals||2004||Jim Edmonds||52.1||Scott Rolen||40.2||92.3|
|27||Cincinnati Reds||1976||Joe Morgan||57.1||Pete Rose||34.4||91.5|
|28||St. Louis Cardinals||1944||Stan Musial||57.3||Johnny Hopp||34.1||91.4|
|29||Oakland Athletics||1988||Jose Canseco||56.8||Dave Henderson||32.7||89.5|
|30||Cleveland Indians||1997||Jim Thome||47||Manny Ramirez||42||89|
Obviously we're not dealing with a Gehrig/Ruth combo here in 2012, so if you're looking for a Cabrera/Fielder comp you may want to scroll down the list some. Both Gehrig and Ruth compiled 100 batting runs a piece in 1927, leading an offense that many believe was the greatest of all-time. Imagine both Fielder and Cabrera merged into one, and you have Babe Ruth. Multiply that by two and you have the Yankees #3 and #4 hitters in 1927.
Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent make the list, and at #3 overall to boot, but the bashing from this duet was clearly one-sided in nature. Not to diminish the talents of Jeff Kent at all, whose 45 Batting Runs put him on a par with what Fielder has done here in 2012, but Bonds' 108 is the highest individual total of all 60 of these player-seasons.
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, for those with memories as poor as mine, did not make the cut as I expected, with Manny compiling a paltry 16 batting runs during the 2007 regular season.
Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds make the list on the merits of their 2004 season, with 69 and 52 runs respectively, but it's worth mentioning here that Scott Rolen also produced at least 40 Batting Runs in the same line-up. Somehow, this offensive powerhouse did not win the World Series. In fact they were swept 4-0, by the curse breaking Boston Red Sox, as Edmonds could only muster a pathetic .100 wOBA and Rolen an even worse .042 wOBA in those four crucial games.
So the presence of Cabrera and Fielder in the Tiger line-up doesn't necessarily spell certain doom for the San Francisco Giants pitching. As we are all aware, anything can happen in a sample that is limited to at most seven games. Such an abbreviated time-frame can even permit the complete neutralization of some of the more famous slugging duos in World Series history. This holds true even for the notorious "M&M brothers" from the legendary 1961 season, who went on to post the lowest offensive numbers of the group in that year's World Series:
WORST BASH BROTHERS WORLD SERIES PERFORMANCES
|30||New York Yankees||1961||Mickey Mantle||6||.151||Roger Maris||23||.249||.229|
|29||St. Louis Cardinals||2004||Albert Pujols||17||.368||Jim Edmonds||16||.100||.238|
|28||Cleveland Indians||1948||Lou Boudreau||24||.362||Ken Keltner||23||.146||.256|
|27||Oakland Athletics||1988||Jose Canseco||22||.195||Dave Henderson||22||.347||.271|
|26||St. Louis Cardinals||1944||Stan Musial||26||.408||Johnny Hopp||27||.175||.289|
|25||New York Yankees||1937||Joe DiMaggio||22||.306||Bill Dickey||21||.281||.294|
Unlike Mantle and Maris, however, Ruth and Gehrig never really had a problem dealing with small sample sizes. In four separate World Series, the two for a combined wOBA of at least .480, including 3 consecutive seasons from 1926-1928. Their 1928 series in particular was just shy of obscene:
BEST BASH BROTHERS WORLD SERIES PERFORMANCES
|1||New York Yankees||1928||Babe Ruth||17||.865||Lou Gehrig||17||.887||.876|
|2||New York Yankees||1932||Babe Ruth||20||.528||Lou Gehrig||20||.715||.622|
|3||San Francisco Giants||2002||Barry Bonds||30||.722||Jeff Kent||31||.374||.545|
|4||Toronto Blue Jays||1993||John Olerud||22||.347||Paul Molitor||28||.651||.517|
|5||New York Yankees||1926||Babe Ruth||31||.595||Lou Gehrig||29||.418||.509|
|6||New York Yankees||1927||Lou Gehrig||18||.454||Babe Ruth||18||.512||.483|
Cabrera and Fielder will likely face Giants' southpaw Madison Bumgarner tonight in Game 2, after a very pedestrian combined performance against Barry Zito in Game 1. Are you hoping for a a Mantle/Maris Series from these two Bash Brothers? Or a Ruth/Gehrig?
Batting Runs courtesy of Baseball-Reference, post-season data courtesy of the Lahman database, wOBA weights courtesy of Fangraphs.
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