Remember a few weeks ago when Carlos Correa was struggling? Through his first 15 games, he was hitting .196 with one extra-base hit — a home run on Opening Day. Through May 2, he was still scuffling at .226 with six extra-base hits. Maybe it was the WBC hangover. Maybe it was just a little slump. Whatever the problem, he just wasn’t driving the ball.
Well, scary thought for the rest of the AL West: The Astros were still winning, and now Correa is heating up. While he went 0-for-3 in Monday’s 7-2 win over the Marlins, Correa did draw two walks, and over his past 12 games he’s hitting .413 with eight extra-base hits and more walks than strikeouts, raising his season line to a respectable .288/.369/.468. The Astros are 9-3 in those 12 games, improving their MLB-best record to 27-12.
The #Astros are 27-12 on the season.
The #Cubs started 28-11 last season.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) May 16, 2017
Jose Altuve, Correa’s double-play partner, homered and drove in three runs. His numbers are below what he did last year, when he finished third in the MVP voting, but he’s still hitting a solid .292/.364/.458. So here’s my thought of the night: Where do Correa and Altuve rank in the pantheon of great double-play combos? In 2016, Baseball-Reference valued Altuve at 7.6 WAR and Correa at 6.0 WAR. Both are certainly capable of 5-WAR seasons once again, and that would put them into rarified company.
We’ll get to that list in a moment. Here are some combos that never had two 5-WAR seasons together:
Roberto Alomar and Omar Vizquel, Indians: Together for three seasons, they did have 5-WAR seasons in 1999.
Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, Tigers: Both have strong cases for the Hall of Fame, but they cleared the 5-WAR barrier together only in 1983, with Whitaker at 6.7 and Trammell at 6.0. This was mostly a matter of timing, as Trammell had six such seasons and Whitaker four.
Joe Morgan and Dave Concepcion, Reds: Morgan was a two-time MVP winner, while Concepcion was a plus defender, but he hit .300 just twice and didn’t have much power, so he was a league-average hitter or better only a few times. He cleared 5 WAR just once, in 1974.
Nellie Fox and Luis Aparacio: They teamed together with the White Sox from 1956 to 1962 and finished first and second in the MVP voting in 1959, when the White Sox won the AL pennant. Both are Hall of Famers, but they had zero 5-WAR seasons together. In ’59, MVP Fox is valued at 6.0 WAR, but Aparacio hit just .257/.316/.332 and is valued at 3.3 WAR.
OK, the roll call of multiple 5-WAR seasons together:
Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, Phillies (2007-2008): Rollins won MVP honors in 2007 and Utley finished eighth but probably deserved to win.
Bobby Grich and Mark Belanger, Orioles (1975-1976): Grich was a good hitter at second base, when most second basemen couldn’t hit, and a plus defender. Belanger was an eight-time Gold Glove winner, and the pair swept Gold Glove honors both seasons. Belanger couldn’t hit but did have a fluky solid season in ’76, and he crossed the 5-WAR barrier in ’75 thanks to off-the-charts defensive numbers.
Red Schoendienst and Solly Hemus, Cardinals (1952-53): Who? Schoendienst is a Hall of Famer, but Hemus was a regular for only three seasons. He was really good, though. In 1952, he led the NL with 105 runs, and in 1953 he scored 110. His OBPs those seasons were .392 and .382. He apparently wasn’t much of a shortstop, although Baseball-Reference gives him decent metrics. Here’s the weird thing: After he scored 110 runs, the Cardinals turned him into a utility player. He played 124 games in 1954 but batted just 276 times. The team won 11 fewer games.
Eddie Stanky and Al Dark, Giants (1950-51): They teamed together for four seasons — two years with the Boston Braves and two years with the Giants. They were traded together after the 1949 season. The story goes that Stanky didn’t get along with manager Billy Southworth. He and Dark were best buddies, so they were traded together. Stanky, known as “The Brat,” was one of the game’s all-time great walkers. Only five players have drawn 130-plus walks at least three times: Ruth, Bonds, Williams, Eddie Yost and Stanky. He was traded after ’51 to become player-manager of the Cardinals (he was the guy who eventually sent Hemus to the bench).
Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese (1949, 1951-52): Our only pair to have three seasons that meet our standard. Robinson won MVP honors in 1949 (9.6 WAR), while Reese finished fifth (7.0).
Joe Gordon and Lou Boudreau, Indians (1947-48): Two more Hall of Famers, they led the Indians to the World Series title in 1948. Boudreau (10.4 WAR) was the MVP after hitting .355, and Gordon (6.6) finished sixth after hitting 32 home runs and driving in 132 runs.
Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky, Red Sox (1942, 1946): They might have had more, but Pesky lost three seasons and Doerr one to World War II.
Charlie Gehringer and Billy Rogell, Tigers (1933, 1935) They were the primary DP combo for the Tigers from 1932 to 1938. Gehringer is a Hall of Famer.
So that’s your history lesson. Obviously, it’s difficult to match the longevity of Whitaker and Trammell, but consider this possibility: The only combo to have two 6-WAR seasons was Gordon and Boudreau. Given their ages, Altuve and Correa should both be great together through 2019, when Altuve becomes a free agent. If Houston can keep them together, it seems they have a chance to become one of the game’s greatest DP combos, not just in peak value, but in longevity, as well.
Yes, we’re jealous of Astros fans.
In other happenings on a light night of action …
Indians own Chris Archer. The Rays ace has started six times in his career against the Indians and lost all six games. He was his own worst enemy, walking six batters in five innings of the 8-7 loss. For the Indians, Carlos Carrasco left in the fourth inning with “left pectoral tightness,” so watch for updates there. Given the lack of depth in their system, the bad starts for Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar, and Carrasco’s inability to stay off the DL, I wonder if the Indians will be in the market for a starting pitcher in July. Of their opening five starters, four have ERAs over 5.00 (including Corey Kluber, currently on the DL).
Francisco Lindor hit his ninth home run in 37 games (it took him 72 games to get there last year):
You’re an awesome human, Francisco Lindor.
— Scott Cottos (@ScottCottos) May 16, 2017
Yeah, I’m going to post a Mike Trout video. He homers for the fourth straight game. Given the horrifying output of the rest of that lineup, I’m surprised he’s even seeing strikes to hit right now.
It’s not even fair.
— MLB (@MLB) May 16, 2017
Quick thoughts … Tough first six weeks for the Braves, but Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp are tearing it up, with Freeman hitting his 13th home run and Kemp going 4-for-4 in a 10-6 win over the Blue Jays. … Have any spare change? Like a few million dollars? You might be interested in making a bid for the original founding documents for the National League in 1876. … David Ross advanced to the finals of “Dancing With the Stars.” … Bad day for outfielders: A.J. Pollock (groin strain), Hunter Pence (hamstring) and Carlos Gomez (hamstring) all land on the DL. Maybe trainers need to institute mandatory in-game stretching. Or something. … Has the Terry Collins watch officially started? Another bullpen meltdown for the Mets as the Diamondbacks score five times in the eighth to break open a 1-1 tie. Ahh, the future that 2015 promised seems so long ago.