The Greatest Positional Player Trios

Josh Hamilton has an opportunity to be a part of a historic lineup in Anaheim alongside Mike Trout and Albert Pujols - Victor Decolongon

With the new Pujols-Trout-Hamilton triple threat now being hyped in Anaheim, let's take a look at some of the other more remarkable hitting trios in baseball history.

After signing a contract worth 125 million dollars over 5 years, Josh Hamilton is set to join both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lineup in 2013. Hamilton has been reliably one of the best hitters in baseball over the past few seasons, with injuries keeping him from posting some truly historic numbers in that time.

The signing comes with Hamilton just two years removed from a fantastic 8 WAR MVP season, and he'll join Mike Trout, proud owner of an unearthly 10 WAR rookie season last year, and Albert Pujols, the greatest hitter of the generation. This trio of immense talent is sure to be one of the better offensive threesomes in the game next season, and if everything goes according to plan, perhaps even one of the best in recent history.

Just how well would Hamilton, Pujols, and Trout have to perform to rate as one of the better positional trios since the turn of the century? Here's a look at the top ten:

Best Positional Player Trios Since 2000 by WAR

Team Year Total WAR Name WAR Name WAR Name WAR
STL 2004 24.2 Albert Pujols 8.3 Jim Edmonds 7 Scott Rolen 8.9
SFG 2001 23.1 Barry Bonds 11.6 Rich Aurilia 6.5 Jeff Kent 5
BOS 2011 22.5 Adrian Gonzalez 6.7 Jacoby Ellsbury 8 Dustin Pedroia 7.8
ATL 2003 20.9 Gary Sheffield 6.6 Javy Lopez 6.6 Marcus Giles 7.7
TBR 2009 20.9 Ben Zobrist 8.3 Evan Longoria 6.7 Jason Bartlett 5.9
SEA 2001 20.8 Bret Boone 8.5 John Olerud 4.8 Ichiro Suzuki 7.5
LAA 2012 20.8 Mike Trout 10.7 Albert Pujols 4.6 Torii Hunter 5.5
SEA 2001 20.5 Bret Boone 8.5 Edgar Martinez 4.5 Ichiro Suzuki 7.5
DET 2007 20.0 Magglio Ordonez 6.9 Curtis Granderson 7.2 Placido Polanco 5.9
ANA 2000 19.8 Troy Glaus 7.5 Darin Erstad 8.2 Tim Salmon 4.1

As it turns out, the Angels had one of the better combinations of positional players just last year with Torii Hunter and his 5.5 WAR teaming up with Pujols and Trout. Pujols was also involved in the best of these trios, alongside Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen as a part of the 2004 National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals. It shouldn't be too surprising that any of the Bonds-Kent combos from the early 2000's showed up on the list, but I'm fascinated by how quickly I had forgotten about the Sheffield/Lopez/Giles trio from the Braves in 2003. The Ellsbury/A-Gon/Pedroia combo from 2011 represents the second most recent trio, with career years from all three Red Sox.

If we're looking to quantify the best trio of purely hitters in a lineup since 2000 we can switch the query to Baseball-Reference's batting runs above average:

Best Hitting Trios since 2000 by Batting Runs

Team Year Total bRuns Name bRuns Name bRuns Name bRuns
SFG 2001 184.1 Barry Bonds 115.8 Rich Aurilia 39.5 Jeff Kent 28.8
SFG 2000 165.1 Barry Bonds 62.1 Jeff Kent 57.8 Ellis Burks 45.2
STL 2004 161.6 Albert Pujols 69.3 Jim Edmonds 52.1 Scott Rolen 40.2
NYY 2005 143.9 Alex Rodriguez 65.9 Jason Giambi 43.5 Gary Sheffield 34.5
STL 2003 142.4 Albert Pujols 73.4 Jim Edmonds 36.9 Scott Rolen 32.1
NYY 2005 140.1 Alex Rodriguez 65.9 Jason Giambi 43.5 Derek Jeter 30.7
STL 2003 136.5 Albert Pujols 73.4 Jim Edmonds 36.9 Edgar Renteria 26.2
NYY 2007 135.8 Alex Rodriguez 64.8 Jorge Posada 41.5 Derek Jeter 29.5
NYY 2005 134.1 Alex Rodriguez 65.9 Jason Giambi 43.5 Hideki Matsui 24.7
STL 2003 131.7 Albert Pujols 73.4 Scott Rolen 32.1 Edgar Renteria 26.2

The 2001 Giants weren't so much of a powerful trio as a one-man show that season, with Barry Bonds accounting for over 60% of the the trio's contributions. The 2000 Giants, however, with Ellis Burks instead of Rich Aurilla, provide us with a more 'pure' example of a triple threat with batting run totals of 62, 58 and 45 coming from seperate spots in the lineup. We again see the Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen combination from both 2004 and 2005.

Three different versions of the 2005 Yankees make the list, a testament to the frighting offensive power the team displayed that season. Behind A-Rod (65.9) and Giambi (43.5), the Yankees also boasted strong numbers from Gary Sheffield (34.5), Derek Jeter (30.7) and Hideki Matsui (24.7).

If you want to get an idea of how well these recent trios stack up to some of the more potent in all of baseball history, you may want to get used to seeing the same few names over and over again. The Ruth/Gehrig/John Doe combinations of the late '20s and early '30's own every spot in the top ten except one.

Best Hitting Trios since 1900 by Batting Runs

Team Year Total bRuns
Name bRuns Name bRuns Name bRuns
NYY 1927 243.9 Lou Gehrig 102.7 Babe Ruth 101.6 Earle Combs 39.6
NYY 1930 231.9 Babe Ruth 97.5 Lou Gehrig 95.3 Earle Combs 39.1
NYY 1927 228.7 Lou Gehrig 102.7 Babe Ruth 101.6 Bob Meusel 24.4
NYY 1931 212.4 Babe Ruth 96.8 Lou Gehrig 85.1 Ben Chapman 30.5
NYY 1931 205.5 Babe Ruth 96.8 Lou Gehrig 85.1 Earle Combs 23.6
NYY 1928 187.5 Babe Ruth 85 Lou Gehrig 77.4 Tony Lazzeri 25.1
NYY 1928 185.8 Babe Ruth 85 Lou Gehrig 77.4 Earle Combs 23.4
SFG 2001 184.1 Barry Bonds 115.8 Rich Aurilia 39.5 Jeff Kent 28.8
NYY 1932 180.0 Babe Ruth 75.5 Lou Gehrig 74.9 Tony Lazzeri 29.6
NYY 1932 179.4 Babe Ruth 75.5 Lou Gehrig 74.9 Earle Combs 29

Only the Bonds/Kent/Aurilla trifecta from 2001 prevents a clean sweep of the top ten from Ruth and Gehrig and co. Year after year New Yorkers witnessed two of the greatest hitters destroy pitching staffs together, but is often forgotten how well the other members of Murderer's Row helped in that destructon. Earle Combs, Bob Meusel, Ben Chapman, and Tony Lazzeri all contributed at least 25 batting runs above average at one time or another during that stretch.

If we query for the best positional players since 1900, demanding both defensive value and positional value from our trios, we see that the Ruth-Gehrig attack still reigns supreme over the rest of baseball history, but their dominance is no longer invincible. Ruth and Gehrig again take the top 2 slots with their 1927 season, but a young trio from Seattle in 1996 steals the #3 slot from the Bronx Bombers:

Best Positional Player Trios since 1900

Team Year Total WAR Name WAR Name WAR Name WAR
NYY 1927 30.3 Lou Gehrig 11.5 Babe Ruth 12.1 Earle Combs 6.7
NYY 1927 27.4 Lou Gehrig 11.5 Babe Ruth 12.1 Bob Meusel 3.8
SEA 1996 25.0 Edgar Martinez 6.3 Alex Rodriguez 9.2 Ken Griffey 9.5
DET 1961 24.5 Norm Cash 8.9 Rocky Colavito 7.4 Al Kaline 8.2
NYY 1931 24.3 Babe Ruth 10 Lou Gehrig 8.6 Ben Chapman 5.7
STL 2004 24.2 Albert Pujols 8.3 Jim Edmonds 7 Scott Rolen 8.9
NYY 1930 24.1 Babe Ruth 10 Lou Gehrig 9.2 Earle Combs 4.9
CIN 1972 23.9 Joe Morgan 9.3 Johnny Bench 8.5 Pete Rose 6.1
NYY 1928 23.2 Babe Ruth 9.8 Lou Gehrig 9 Tony Lazzeri 4.4
NYY 1928 23.1 Babe Ruth 9.8 Lou Gehrig 9 Earle Combs 4.3

Norm Cash showed up in last week's greatest #5 hitters post, and his same efforts in that 1961 season help his team claim the #4 spot here alongside Rocky Colavito and Al Kaline. We also see that historic combination of Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen make the list again at #6, just ahead of the 1930 Yankees and three of the more outstanding members of 1972's Big Red Machine.

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