In what sounded like a typically hyperbolic comment during the nationally televised Yanks-Sox series this past weekend, the Yankees infield was dubbed one of the greatest in history.
It’s hard to compile cumulative stats across multiple positions and then rank those stats historically – which is another way of saying I just don’t know how to do it – but looking at the individual marks being set by the Yankees infielders, maybe it’s not such a crazy notion after all. Consider the stats after the (Derek Jeter) jump(throw):
In the history of the game only seven shortstops have accumulated at least 200 hits, 100 runs, and 30 stolen bases in a season. Only Derek Jeter has done it more than once and with the 2009 season he has now done it three times. Only four shortstops have ever done all this and also hit for at least .300 – A-Rod did it once in 1998, Hanley Ramirez did it in 2007, Honus Wagner did it in 1908, and Derek Jeter has done it three times (’96, ’08, and ’09).
Since integration in 1947, only four second basemen have totaled more than 200 hits, 100 runs, a BA of at least .320, and fewer than 70 SO in a single season: Pedroia in ’08, Loretta in ’04, Jackie Robinson in ’49, and – if he can keep his BA (.322) above .320 and doesn’t strike out more than 7 times in the next week – Robinson Cano.
Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter are the only 2B-SS combo to ever each reach the 200-hit mark in the same season.
Only two first basemen since integration (Mattingly in '85 and Vaughn in '96) have compiled at least 595 AB, 120 RBIs, 100 runs, and a 145+ OPS in one season. Teixeira's '09 numbers: 120 RBIs, 101 runs, 146 OPS+, 38 HR, and a .294 BA.
In the history of the game, only four third basemen have reached at least 120 hits, 90 RBIs, and 25 HRs in fewer than 125 games. They are Bob Horner in ’79, Ryan Braun in '07, Brett in ’83 (pine tar!!!), and Aramis Ramirez in ’05. If his .403 OBP does not drop by more than 3 points, A-Rod will be the only 3B in history to compile the above counting stats in so few games while also maintaining an OBP above .400. If he gets 6 more RBIs in his next 5 games (certainly not a given), he will have accumulated more RBIs (99) in less than 125 G than any 3B in history with the exception of Brett’s stellar 1980 season when Brett tallied 118 RBIs in 117 games(!). As of today, A-Rod is at 120 G with 123H, 93 RBIs, 28 HRs, 142 OPS+, .285 BA, .403 OBP, SLG .524, 76 runs).
Combine these offensive accomplishments with what is not stellar but is certainly an across-the-board above-average defensive performance by this infield in '09 (thanks in no small part to Jeter's defensive resurgence). A-Rod ranks 7th among AL third basemen in UZR (-7.7) and 5th in fielding percentage(.966) ; Teixeira ranks 6th among AL 1B in UZR (0.6) and 1st in FP (.966); Cano ranks 7th among AL 2B in UZR (-6.0) and 7th in FP (.984); and Jeter ranks 4th among AL SSs in UZR (7.2) and 2nd in FP (.985) — only Cesar Izturis has fewer errors at SS than Jeter's 8.
Best ever? I have no clue. But it doesn't seem as laughable to me today as it did when I first heard it.