01/16/08 10:00 AM ET
DP combos thriving throughout MLB
Chemistry up the middle becoming a trend with contenders
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
The Mariners also follow the trend. Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez will be starting their third season together and are signed through 2011 and 2010, respectively.
Three shortstops who may find their own 2007 splashes tough acts to follow: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies -- Now that people know him, can he be as good with everyone watching? Orlando Cabrera, White Sox -- In his 11th season, he hit .300 for the first time, yet the Angels still dealt him away. Can he prove that was a mistake? Ryan Theriot, Cubs -- First he made Cesar Izturis disappear from the lineup, then he made him disappear from Chicago. Can the Cubs' fifth different Opening Day shortstop in as many years make himself at home? And three second basemen: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians -- May rank pretty low on the AL Cabrera totem pole (behind Miguel, Orlando, Melky, perhaps even Daniel), but the Tribe went 28-12 with him in the starting lineup. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays -- His offensive numbers increased across the board for a third straight season, and he topped MLB at the position in assists. Placido Polanco, Tigers -- Zero errors in 141 games ... good luck trying to top that. Leading questions
David Eckstein has always hustled past his physical shortcomings, including limited range, but in Toronto, will he be quick enough to cope with the Rogers Centre turf?Can San Diego shortstop Khalil Greene (27 homers and 97 RBIs in 153 games following two injury-filled seasons) stay healthy? Can A's shortstop Bobby Crosby (213 missed games and five disabled list stints the last three seasons) get healthy? Leading off
Those pepper pots playing in the middle of the infield also stir the pot from the top of the lineup. Last season, nearly half of Major League teams relied on either their shortstop or second baseman to lead off.Revealing an interesting contrast in the two leagues' priorities, 10 of the middle-infield leadoff men were in the NL. Boston's Lugo, Baltimore's Roberts and, before his trade to the Mets, Minnesota's Luis Castillo were the only American Leaguers regularly used in the No. 1 slot. Pop and polish
No question, had Baryshnikov picked up baseball, he doubtlessly would have played either short or second. The positions aren't played as much as they are performed, acts of athletic choreography best seen and appreciated through an action-freezing camera lens.Cal Ripken Jr. and Roberto Alomar notwithstanding, short and second have always been defensive-minded positions. Saving runs is a higher priority than driving them in. Lusty hitting on top of clean fielding is quite a bonus. Top six bonus babies of 2007, tandems with more home runs than errors: Rollins and Utley, Phillies +31 (52 HR, 21 E)
Ramirez and Uggla, Marlins +24 (59, 35)
Alex Gonzalez and Brandon Phillips, Reds +22 (46, 24)
Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy, Brewers +16 (42, 26)
Tulowitzki and Kazuo Matsui, Rockies +13 (28, 15)
Khalil Greene and Marcus Giles, Padres + 13 (31, 18) Keystone factoids
In the most recent survey for classifying free agents (Class A, Class B) which lumps third basemen, second basemen and shortstops, Texas' Michael Young ranked No. 1. In other words, Young rated ahead of guys like Alex Rodriguez, Tejada and Jeter.The Reds' Phillips should have at least gotten the Bronze Medal. The NL fielding leader (.990, on eight errors in 782 chances) saw the Gold Glove go to Orlando Hudson, and, despite being history's second 30-30 second baseman, saw the Silver Slugger go to Utley. Florida's Ramirez and Uggla combined to drive in 169 runs -- one fewer than the Yankees' Jeter and Cano, while combining for twice as many homers as the Bombers' duo. Ramirez-Uggla also joined Jeter-Cano as the Majors' only DP combos to have both halves make 150-plus starts. Young man's turf?
The oldest player on three teams' rosters will be playing in the middle -- second basemen Mark Grudzielanek of the Royals and Jeff Kent of the Dodgers and San Francisco shortstop Omar Vizquel.Elias Sports Bureau special
Jeter (.604) owns the highest winning percentage among all active players who have played a minimum of 1,000 games. The Yanks have gone 1,104-729 since Jeter's debut in 1995.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.