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Fearsome duos: MLB’s top tandems

Fearsome duos: MLB’s top tandems

It can be easy to isolate individual performers and statistics in baseball, sabermetrics has provided a framework to really quantify an individual's value. Sometimes it can be nice to gently zoom out and appreciate that baseball is a team sport. One with a rich history of dynamic duos: Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig. Willie Mays & Willie McCovey. Mickey Mantle & Yogi Berra. Jeff Bagwell & Craig Biggio. Chipper Jones & Andruw Jones. These top tandems offer an insight into some of the most talented teams in baseball history.

So what are baseball’s best duos today? We are focusing on positional player pairings and using their combined fWAR to rank them below.

1. Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout (2.9) and Taylor Ward (2.7)

Combined WAR: 5.6

The top pairing in the majors might come as a half-shock. Trout racing up the fWAR leaderboards is not surprising, he’s been the best player of the last 11 years. But Taylor Ward?! Over the first couple of months of the MLB season, Ward is leading baseball in batting average (.370), on-base percentage (.481), OPS (1.194) and OPS+ (248). Only three players currently sport a wRC+ over 200, one is Aaron Judge and the other two? Trout and Ward. Having both at the top of the order for the Angels has been a nightmare for opposing pitchers, navigating past these two and you get to face the reigning AL MVP, Shohei Ohtani. Ward and Trout have combined for 21 home runs and 62 runs scored on the year in only 45 games; a key reason to the Angels sporting one of the best run differentials in baseball and an early winning record (27-18) that has been elusive for the Halos in previous seasons.

2. San Diego Padres: Manny Machado (3.5) and Eric Hosmer (1.1)

Combined WAR: 4.6

Machado finished third in NL MVP voting last year; this year he has elevated his production further. Machado is leading the NL with a .365 AVG, .440 OBP and .604 SLG and leading the majors with 3.5 fWAR. The Padres have been playing very well of late matching the Dodgers tit-for-tat at the top of the NL West and Machado can take plenty of credit. Hitting the ball harder than ever, his evolution as a leader all too evident. Picking up the slack alongside him is veteran Eric Hosmer, especially with Fernando Tatis Jr. suffering a fractured wrist during the offseason. Hosmer has slowed down a bit since his torrid April where he hit .389 to help the Padres finish 14-8, their best end-of-April record since 2010.

3. New York Yankees: Aaron Judge (3.0) and Giancarlo Stanton (1.4)

Combined WAR: 4.4

The Bronx Bombers have been in full swing during May, hitting for power, average and drawing walks against all opponents that dare throw anything over the plate. The numbers have simply been off the charts. During the month of May, Aaron Judge has slashed .355/.432/.829 with 11 HR and 21 RBIs and Giancarlo Stanton has hit .310/.398/.634 with 7 HRs and 21 RBIs. They’ve been so good that they’ve overshadowed the club’s elite pitching performances as they have driven the Yankees to one of the best starts in the franchise’s storied history. Despite being teammates since 2018, they have never started a season like this. The Empire strikes back!

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Mookie Betts (2.3) and Freddie Freeman (2.0)

Combined WAR: 4.3

Betts arrived in Los Angeles in 2020 with an MVP and World Series ring under his belt, Freeman arrived with an MVP and World Series ring a year later. The two have combined forces at the top of the Dodgers lineup in what projects to be one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. Betts has heated up significantly in the month of May, slashing .325/.394/.675 with 7 HR and 20 RBIs as he cites a better head space being a key factor. Freeman has quietly gone about his business posting a .321/.411/.494 line with 12 doubles and 12 BBs to 10 Ks. Freeman doesn’t give away at-bats and has been even better than advertised; the pair have set the tone for the Dodgers as they set their sights on winning the NL West and a second World Series in three years.

5. St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado (2.1) and Paul Goldschmidt (1.9)

Combined WAR: 4.0

Nolan Arenado started the year insanely hot, batting .375/.444/.681 with 5 HRs and 17 RBIs in April, winning the NL Player of the Month award and helping the Cardinals to an 11-9 record. Remarkably after starting the season cold-ish, Paul Goldschmidt has been even better during the month of May, slashing .392/.449/..772 with 6 HR and 23 RBIs. Which has been convenient as Arenado has slowed down from his torrid pace. Nevertheless with a record of 24-19, St. Louis is within three games of Milwaukee, the NL Central leaders, with a favorable schedule to come. Having outscored the Giants and Padres 33-10 over the last two Sundays the Cardinals are sporting the second-best run differential in the National League, getting their middle-of-the-order hitters firing at the same time will spell trouble for the rest of the competition.

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