With Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder adorning the latest cover of Sports Illustrated, it seems like a good time to examine which, if any, other duos in baseball can compete with those roaring Tigers for the title of best 1-2 punch in the game.
Since Fielder joined Cabrera in the Tigers lineup at the start of the 2012 season, the two have hit a combined .322/.407/.569 with 104 home runs and 367 RBIs to form a lefty-righty threat in the middle of the Detroit order that recalls some of the great one-two punches in baseball history, from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz to, well, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. As might be expected, Cabrera and Fielder have been the most productive offensive tandem in baseball this season, as measured by Baseball-Reference's Offensive Wins Above Replacement (oWAR). However, if we expand our view to include baserunning and fielding, two clear weaks spots in Cabrera's and Fielder's game, as well as pitchers and use Baseball-References total-value wins above replacement (bWAR), we get the following list of the most valable all-around duos in baseball so far in 2013. (NOTE: All stats through June 11.)
1. Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, Brewers, 7.3 bWAR
Gomez: .316/.357/.573, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 38 R, 8 3B, 13 SB, 4.2 bWAR
Segura: .340/.373/.538, 9 HR, 29 RBI, 39 R, 6 3B, 19 SB, 3.1 bWAR
Gomez and Segura are on pace to become the first pair of teammates in major league history to each hit at least 20 home runs, with at least 10 triples and 20 stolen bases. Only one player has had a season like that since 2007 (Curtis Granderson in 2011), and there have been only five seasons in major league history in which multiple players have compiled those totals. Gomez and Segura are doing that while swiping bags at a combined 86 percent success rate and playing two of the most valuable defensive positions on the diamond, centerfield and shortstop, respectively, with Gomez likely to finally earn his first Gold Glove in center this year.
Hernandez: 7-4, 2.49 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 5.37 K/BB, 7.0 IP/GS, 150 ERA+, 3.2 bWAR
Iwakuma: 7-1, 1.79 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 6.21 K/BB, 6.8 IP/GS, 207 ERA+, 4.0 bWAR
Iwakuma and Hernandez are second and third in the American League in ERA, respectively, first and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and second and first in innings pitched. There has been no better one-two rotation punch in baseball this season, and the fact that they have combined to go 14-5, a .737 winning percentage, for a team that is eight games below .500 on the season (.439) underscores that fact. When Iwakuma and Hernandez fail to get a decision, the Mariners are 15-32, for a .319 winning percentage that is worse than the Astros' season mark.
Tulo: .353/.420/.651, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 3.7 bWAR
Cargo: .300/.377/.615, 18 HR, 51 RBI, 12 SB, 3.3 bWAR
In terms of a middle-of-the-order, lefty/righty combination, Gonzalez, who hits third, and Tulowtizki, who hits fourth, have rivaled Cabrera and Fielder this season, hitting .325/.397/.632 with 34 home runs and 102 RBIs to the Detroit duo's .323/.418/.571 with 30 homers and 120 RBIs. That alone puts them neck-and-neck with the Tigers' twins at 5.9 oWAR to Cabrera and Fielder's combined 6.0. Add in their speed (Gonzalez is 12-for-13 on stolen bases) and defense (Tulowitzki is a two-time Gold Glove winner, and would be a deserving winner again this year), and Cargo and Tulo (Tugo? Carlo?) sail past their more one-dimensional rivals. What's more, lest you think Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are mere products of Coors Field, the two have hit .326/.389/.656 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs on the road this season. That road performance was buoyed in part by their becoming the first pair of teammates ever to have a three-homer game (Gonzalez) and a five-hit game (Tulowitzki, who also homered twice) in the same game.
In their four-plus seasons as teammates, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez have hit a combined .308/.374/.555 with 226 home runs (113 each) and 744 RBIs and both are under contract to the Rockies through at least 2017.
Wainwright: 9-3, 2.34 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 13.00 K/BB, 7.4 IP/GS, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 161 ERA+, 3.7 bWAR
Miller: 7-3, 1.91 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 4.76 K/BB, 6.3 IP/GS, 1 SHO, 198 ERA+, 3.2 bWAR
Wainwright and Miller announced themselves as the best one-two punch in the National League in May when they became just the third pair of teammates since 1916 to toss consecutive shutouts in which neither allowed more than two hits or walked more than one batter. In Wainwright, who recently signed a contract extension, and Miller, a rookie, the Cardinals can boast the duo on this list that will be under their current team's control the longest. Wainwright's extension lasts through 2018, a year longer than Gonzalez's, keeping him in St. Louis for all six of Miller's team-controlled seasons (don't look now, Tigers fans, but Cabrera's contract expires after 2015).
Goldschmidt: .313/.389/.571, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 43 R, 3.4 bWAR
Parra: .318/.383/.475, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 21 2B, 42 R, 3.5 bWAR Parra wasn't even slated for a starting job coming into the season (which had more to do with the Diamondbacks' management than Parra, whom I would have had in the lineup even before Justin Upton was traded), but he took immediate advantage of Arizona's early-season injuries and has since emerged as one of the team's best players. Parra gets a ton of credit from bWAR for his play in the field, but if you've watched many Diamondbacks games this year, you know that, like Trout last year, he deserves it (note that the three linked plays are all from the last three days). At 26, he is the youngest senior member of any of the seven duos mentioned above. Incidentally, you could win a bar bet by making a friend guess which of these two is the better basestealler. Parra went 15-for-16 on the bases two years ago, but since then Goldschmidt, whose off-season extension was perfectly timed, has stolen 24 bags in 28 attempts (including going 6-for-7 this year), while Parra has just 20 steals in a whopping 36 attempts over the same span, a lousy 56 percent success rate, and has been caught seven times in 12 tries this season.