Counting down the top hitter-pitcher duos in baseball: a primer

Don’t you love spring training? There’s baseball, live baseball, live baseball with real MLB players that I can see on my TV. It’s wonderful. It’s also a time where other than a few positional battles and cool storylines (there’s a ambidextrous pitcher!) there really isn’t much to talk about of much importance.

The spawn of this lack of conversation is, of course, plenty of silliness. Players are in the best shape of their life! 26 year old career minor leaguers are destroying spring training! Gordon Beckham is confident this year will be different!

From this boredom inevitably come conversations to get us through this last stretch before the regular season. On Saturday, I started such a conversation by asking my twitter followers whether they’d rather have Chris Sale and Jose Abreu or Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley.


Soon enough, this evolved into a conversation as to what team has the best position player-pitcher combination in baseball.

Many people whose opinions I respect weighed in, and I strongly recommend reading the threads in response to those two tweets.

This conversation was hardly enough for me, however, and I decided to embark on a journey to rank all the top pitcher-position player pairs in baseball.  Though I had my own ideas, I first decided to do some statistical comparison with some (admittedly very flawed) metrics for some background. I used three  different rankings: combined 2014 bWAR for the top position player/pitcher on each team, PECOTA projected 2015 WARP  for the same, and an average of the ranking of each team’s top finisher in the Cy Young Award and MVP Award (not counting pitchers in the MVP race or teams without point-getters in both races). The results are as follows: 

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As you can see, there is some disagreement in these rankings, but an overall sense of agreement. For the most part, the elite teams are the Dodgers, Mariners, White Sox, Nationals and Tigers; depending on which rankings you are looking at, the Angels and Indians join their ranks. 

In the next few days, I will be counting down my own top pairs in baseball. My rankings will be strictly for 2015, not necessarily rewarding for lifetime achievement nor for team control or youth. My task will be twofold- first, I must choose each team's pairs (not every one is as obvious as Chris Sale and Jose Abreu), and two, rank said pairs. Obviously, there will be disagreement about my rankings, both among the staff here and from our readers, but I am excited to release them, and hopefully provoke a (fun, mostly meaningless, etc.) discussion from them. 


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