I was telling a friend the other day that there are only two Aerosmith albums that I like from start to finish -- Toys in the Attic and Rock in a Hard Place. But then he stopped me right there and said that what I had just said didn't make any sense because Rock in a Hard Place isn't really an Aerosmith album since Joe Perry and Brad Whitford weren't in the band when this album was written and recorded.
"So are you going to tell me that the Yankees aren't the Yankees now because they don't have Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on their team any more?" I countered.
The conversation took a few more turns that are of no importance to this post, but the next day as I rehashed this friendly argument, I got to wondering if Ruth/Gehrig was the most awesome pairing ever in a MLB lineup. It had to have been, right, I mean, whom was the best batter Willie Mays ever had batting in front of or behind him, Willie McCovey? What about Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, or Barry Bonds?
Then I jumped to recent history and remembered the behemoth pairing of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz the Angels had to deal with during the second golden age of Angel baseball (which spanned the time from the World Series victory to Vladimir Guerrero's final Angel at bat.
To read up on the first Golden Age of Angel Baseball, you could check out my eBook of the same name available on Amazon). Currently, Robinson Cano hitting in front of Nelson Cruz is a rather fearful combination. But when it comes to the Angels, the greatest back-to-back hitters in franchise history have to be Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, doesn't it?
Well, the only way to find out is to roll up one's sleeves and dig into the data.
**spends and hour and a half clicking around Angel pages on Baseball-Reference**
As you would imagine, any pairing with Mike Trout is going to dominate a list of the most fearsome duos in Angel history. If you want to determine who was the best based on the amounts of runs the two Angel hitters drove in, then indeed, sitting on the top of the pile is the 2014 efforts of Trout and Pujols, who combined to drive in 216 runs while hitting back-to-back.
But, since many people consider the RBI statistic to be a matter of circumstance rather than of talent, I have compiled this list based on combined OPS+:
- Tim Salmon & Chili Davis (1995) 311 OPS+
- Mike Trout & Albert Pujols (2012) 306 OPS+
- Mike Trout & Albert Pujols (2013) 295 OPS+
- Mike Trout & Albert Pujols (2014) 294 OPS+
- Mike Trout & Albert Pujols (2015) 294 OPS+
- Kole Calhoun & Mike Trout (2016) 289 OPS+
- Brian Downing & Bobby Grich (1979) 287 OPS+
- Tim Salmon & Chili Davis (1994) 281 OPS+
- Jim Fregosi & Don Mincher (1967) 281 OPS+
- Jim Fregosi & Joe Adcock (1964) 280 OPS+
Shocked to find Salmon and Davis in the number one position on this list? I know I was, but 1995 was the year Salmon had a Mike Troutian 165 OPS+, and his partner in crime, the veteran Chili Davis had an incredible 146 OPS+, which ranks higher than any OPS+ Albert Pujols has posted during his Angel tenure.
A couple more notes about this list:
While most of these pairings occupied the 3 and 4 spots in the batting order, in 2016 Calhoun was hitting in the 2-hole in front of Trout. What is truly amazing to me though, is the powerful pairing of Downing and Grich in 1979 because all year long, they hit 5-6, 6-7, and even 7-8 in the lineup.
Additionally, everyone on this list is an OF/DH/1B, but the high-ranking Downing and Grich played catcher and second base that year, (which was arguably the year of the greatest offensive team the Angels have ever had).
An honorable mention has to go to the 2008 pairing of Mark Teixeira hitting in front of Vladimir Guerrero. They don't officially count because the Angels acquired Tex in a trade in late July, and the pair only played together in 54 games, but they were a destructive force of nature.
Tex had a .449 OBP with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, and 43 RBI. Guerrero compounded that with 14 doubles, 10 home runs, and 37 RBI of his own. They also combined to score 65 runs.
Oh, one final thought:
Speaking of Bobby Grich, the Veterans' Committee is going to be voting on his era this off-season. He needs to get into the Hall of Fame during his lifetime, while he can enjoy it. Jonah Keri says it is a travesty that Grich has not been recognized with a plaque in the Hall at Cooperstown, and I completely agree. The question is, how can we help to get his name on the ballot?