Great Platoons:  1979-1989

We’ve previously undertaken three periodic explorations of the phenomenon of extraordinarly productive left-right platoon partnerships. When we left off, Great Platoons were abounding through the 1970s. Now we’ll enter the 1980s, and see them continuing to flourish.

As a reminder, here are the criteria for inclusion:

- The platoon must have been entirely or significantly structured upon the left-right-batting basis.

- Both platoon partners must have hit well, not just one.

- We’re concerning ourselves only with offensive production, not defense or baserunning.

Something to remember as we proceed is this: Most pitchers are righthanded, usually by around two-thirds to one-third. So the signature aspect of the most strict left-right platoon partnership is that the lefthanded batter will get around twice as many plate appearances as the righthanded batter, give or take for particular circumstances.

1979-80 Baltimore Orioles: Left field

One of the all-time great juggling acts, exhibited by Earl Weaver. This wasn’t a strict left-right platoon, as Gary Roenicke, by far the best defensive outfielder among the quartet, logged most of the starts and innings. But the lefty veteran bats of John Lowenstein and Pat Kelly were definitely getting most of the ABs against the toughest righthanders, and professional lefty-masher Benny Ayala (about whom Bill James at the time wrote, “They should call him ‘Death to Flying Things’”) was deployed almost exclusively against southpaws.

All four did other things as well as play left field, but the Oriole left field was rarely patrolled by anyone other than one of them. The lines we see here are what they hit while playing left, and it was collectively a full ton, even though none of these guys ever established himself as a major league regular on a sustained basis, let alone a star.

Anyone wondering why Weaver was considered a managerial genius need look no further than right here.

1979:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Gary Roenicke    R    95  279   40   70   10    0   18   46   45   58 .251 .369 .480   132
John Lowenstein  L    37  109   19   26    6    2    8   19   13   25 .239 .315 .550   133
Pat Kelly        L    22   66   12   19    5    0    5    9   10    9 .288 .380 .591   163
Benny Ayala      R    23   63   15   16    4    0    6   12    3    6 .254 .279 .603   135
                          517   86  131   25    2   37   86   71   98 .253 .352 .524   137
1980:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Gary Roenicke    R    79  226   34   53   11    0   10   24   31   40 .235 .336 .416   107
John Lowenstein  L    57  163   33   52    6    0    4   18   26   21 .319 .408 .429   132
Pat Kelly        L    35   89   22   28    4    0    1    9   21   15 .315 .438 .393   132
Benny Ayala      R    14   40   10   17    4    1    0    5    4    2 .425 .467 .575   186
                          518   99  150   25    1   15   56   82   78 .290 .393 .429   129

1980 Baltimore Orioles: Catcher

Weaver’s rosters bore an uncanny resemblance to those of Casey Stengel in the manner in which full-time single-position regulars were rare. Like Stengel, Weaver wove players together in complex and frequently-changing combinations, with the left-right axis being only one of several vectors. Also like Stengel, Weaver displayed a knack for coaxing surprisingly strong single-season performances out of marginal role players.

Righthanded-batting Rick Dempsey was Weaver’s primary catcher through this period, but often a lefty-hitting catcher was scrounged up and given 200 at-bats or so a season, resting Dempsey against the tougher righthanders. Here Dan Graham (who?) came out of nowhere to deliver terrific power production before disappearing back into minor league obscurity.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Rick Dempsey     R   119  362   51   95   26    3    9   40   36   45 .262 .333 .425   108
Dan Graham       L    86  266   32   74    7    1   15   54   14   40 .278 .310 .481   115
                          628   83  169   33    4   24   94   50   85 .269 .324 .449   111

1980 Detroit Tigers: First base

As we saw last time, Richie Hebner was among the better platoon hitters in history. Here Sparky Anderson, after regular first baseman Jason Thompson was traded away in late May, cleverly deployed Hebner along with utility men John Wockenfuss and Tim Corcoran at first base, and yielded excellent results.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Richie Hebner    L    61  209   29   59    6    4    7   47   23   28 .282 .350 .450   116
John Wockenfuss  R    52  153   27   40    6    1    7   20   35   32 .261 .402 .451   132
Tim Corcoran     L    48   93   14   33    6    0    3   16   11    4 .355 .419 .516   153
                          455   70  132   18    5   17   83   69   64 .290 .385 .464   131

1980 New York Yankees: Designated hitter-left field

The 1980 Yankees’ roster, constructed by GMs Cedric Tallis and Gene Michael, presented perhaps the deepest offense in baseball history. Partly as a result of injuries, but mainly as a function of the exceptional array of choices available, manager Dick Howser adroitly deployed nine different hitters with from 150 to 328 at-bats, and nearly all delivered positive contributions.

The shuffling Howser performed at these two spots was particularly fruitful: The combined efforts of Reggie Jackson, Eric Soderholm, Bobby Murcer and Bob Watson tore it up at DH, and Lou Piniella, Murcer and Oscar Gamble made left field equally productive. The Yankees won 103 games.

Designated hitter:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Reggie Jackson   L    46  167   25   56    8    2   11   29   23   38 .335 .419 .605   180
Eric Soderholm   R    51  151   24   47    7    1    8   22   17   10 .311 .385 .530   151
Bobby Murcer     L    33  112   14   28    4    1    2   17   10   14 .250 .304 .357    83
Bob Watson       R    21   83   15   26    4    0    4    8   12    9 .313 .400 .506   149
                          513   78  157   23    4   25   76   62   71 .306 .386 .513   154 

Left field:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Lou Piniella     R   102  283   37   86   15    0    2   20   22   18 .304 .353 .378   103
Bobby Murcer     L    44  111   20   31    4    0    9   27   14    6 .279 .349 .559   147
Oscar Gamble     L    34   84   25   29    5    0    9   28   15    6 .345 .440 .726   217
                          478   82  146   24    0   20   75   51   30 .305 .372 .481   149

1980 Pittsburgh Pirates: Left field

Prior to this season, 29-year-old Mike “The Hit Man” Easler and 32-year-old Lee Lacy had been generally underused and underappreciated. Then, platooning in left field for Chuck Tanner in 1980, they opened up this weapons-grade can of whup-ass, and everyone stood up and took notice. Both careers were propelled in a brand-new direction.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Mike Easler      L    91  277   55  103   23    3   16   57   33   37 .372 .433 .650   197
Lee Lacy         R    78  250   42   86   20    4    7   29   25   28 .344 .405 .540   160
                          527   97  189   43    7   23   86   58   65 .359 .420 .598   181

1981 Texas Rangers: First base

In this strike-shortened year, journeymen Pat Putnam and Bill Stein combined for a solid performance.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Pat Putnam       L    95  297   33   79   17    2    8   35   17   38 .266 .304 .418   111
Bill Stein       R    53  115   21   38    6    0    2   22    7   15 .330 .360 .435   134
                          412   54  117   23    2   10   57   24   53 .284 .322 .422   118

1981-82 St. Louis Cardinals: Catcher

One of the first things Whitey Herzog did after assuming the combined GM/field manager role in St. Louis was sign Darrell Porter, whom he’d managed in Kansas City, as a free agent. Herzog then immediately traded both of his incumbent catchers (Ted Simmons and Terry Kennedy), and within the bundle of talent he received in exchange was the veteran Gene Tenace. The platoon combination of Porter and Tenace would prove to be superb.

1981:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Darrell Porter   L    61  174   22   39   10    2    6   31   39   32 .224 .364 .408   117
Gene Tenace      R    58  129   26   30    7    0    5   22   38   26 .233 .416 .403   131
                          303   48   69   17    2   11   53   77   58 .228 .389 .406   124

1982:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Darrell Porter   L   120  373   46   86   18    5   12   48   66   66 .231 .347 .402   109
Gene Tenace      R    66  124   18   32    9    0    7   18   36   31 .258 .436 .500   161
                          497   64  118   27    5   19   66  102   97 .237 .375 .427   127

1982 New York Yankees: Designated hitter

The term “professional hitter” is often used to describe guys like Gamble and Piniella. There’s no precise definition for it, of course, but to me it connotes a player without a heck of a lot to offer as a fielder or baserunner, nor with overwhelming power at the plate, but who makes a good career out of consistently delivering base hits and RBIs. Here these two old pros combined to give the Yankees terrific DH production.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Oscar Gamble     L   108  316   49   86   21    2   18   57   58   47 .272 .387 .522   150
Lou Piniella     R   102  261   33   80   17    1    6   37   18   18 .307 .352 .448   121
                          577   82  166   38    3   24   94   76   65 .288 .373 .489   139

1982 Chicago White Sox: Center field

This was a very good platoon, though not the best of all time. It was, however, quite likely the fastest of all time: Speed merchants Rudy Law and Ron LeFlore combined for 64 steals.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Rudy Law         L   121  336   55  107   15    8    3   32   23   41 .318 .361 .438   119
Ron LeFlore      R    91  334   58   96   15    4    4   25   22   91 .287 .331 .392    98
                          670  113  203   30   12    7   57   45  132 .303 .347 .415   110

1982-83 Baltimore Orioles: Left field

We saw these two above, as part of the four-man crew Earl Weaver deployed in left field in 1979-80. Here a couple of years later, this remarkable pair really hit an exceptional stride. Under Weaver in 1982 and Joe Altobelli in ’83, this was truly one of the greatest platoons of all time.

1982:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
John Lowenstein  L   111  302   67   97   15    2   23   60   52   54 .321 .420 .613   181
Gary Roenicke    R    82  174   26   43   13    1   10   33   25   33 .247 .358 .506   135
                          476   93  140   28    3   33   93   77   87 .294 .400 .574   167

1983:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
John Lowenstein  L   107  290   48   82   12    2   14   52   44   50 .283 .375 .483   137
Gary Roenicke    R    80  170   29   57    6    0   15   46   17   12 .335 .399 .635   183
                          460   77  139   18    2   29   98   61   62 .302 .384 .539   157

1983 Toronto Blue Jays: Catcher

Here Ernie Whitt and Buck Martinez, each a solid performer but neither a star, were leveraged by the always-brilliant Bobby Cox to their best advantage, producing terrific catcher offense.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Ernie Whitt      L   123  344   53   88   15    2   17   56   50   55 .256 .346 .459   115
Buck Martinez    R    88  221   27   56   14    0   10   33   29   39 .253 .337 .452   111
                          565   80  144   29    2   27   89   79   94 .255 .343 .457   113

1983 Milwaukee Brewers: Left field

Ben Oglivie was a platoon player for most of his career, though he was so good that he emerged for a few seasons as an outstanding full-timer. At 34, on the downside he was partnered by manager Harvey Kuenn with the powerful-but-limited Mark Brouhard to deliver strong results.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Ben Oglivie      L   125  411   49  115   19    3   13   66   60   64 .280 .371 .436   130
Mark Brouhard    R    56  185   25   51   10    1    7   23    9   39 .276 .315 .454   117
                          596   74  166   29    4   20   89   69  103 .279 .356 .441   126

1983 Philadelphia Phillies: Second base

Kiko Garcia was often the provider of late-inning breathers to the 39-year-old great Joe Morgan, but he also took most of the starts against southpaws. It made for an exceptionally good second base tandem, and the Phillies won the pennant.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Joe Morgan       L   123  404   72   93   20    1   16   59   89   54 .230 .370 .403   116
Kiko Garcia      R    84  118   22   34    7    1    2    9    9   20 .288 .344 .415   111
                          522   94  127   27    2   18   68   98   74 .243 .365 .406   115

1983 Atlanta Braves: First base

Neither was ever a major star, but both Chris Chambliss and “Bull” Watson spent the 1970s delivering solid, consistently good performance. Here, in the sunset phase for both of these “professional hitters,” they were nicely paired by manager Joe Torre.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Chris Chambliss  L   131  447   59  125   24    3   20   78   63   68 .280 .366 .481   127
Bob Watson       R    65  149   14   46    9    0    6   37   18   23 .309 .376 .490   132
                          596   73  171   33    3   26  115   81   91 .287 .369 .483   128

1984 Cleveland Indians: Right field

This is a great illustration of the value of a platoon: George Vukovich and Carmen Castillo were both humdrum journeymen, neither good enough to be a regular. But paired up as platoon partners, each was optimized, and they delivered a splendid result.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
George Vukovich  L   134  437   38  133   22    5    9   60   34   61 .304 .354 .439   117
Carmen Castillo  R    87  211   36   55    9    2   10   36   21   32 .261 .329 .464   116
                          648   74  188   31    7   19   96   55   93 .290 .346 .448   117

1984 Philadelphia Phillies: First base

We saw Corcoran and Wockenfuss above, with the 1980 Tigers. Here they were blended with another utility guy, Len Matuszek, to generate a lot of offense.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Len Matuszek     L   101  262   40   65   17    1   12   43   39   54 .248 .350 .458   124
Tim Corcoran     L   102  208   30   71   13    1    5   36   37   27 .341 .440 .486   159
John Wockenfuss  R    86  180   20   52    3    1    6   24   30   24 .289 .390 .417   126
                          650   90  188   33    3   23  103  106  105 .289 .394 .455   138

1984 New York Mets: Second base

Because of the extraordinary defensive demands, straightforward left-right platoons in the middle infield have been rare throughout history; indeed at shortstop they’ve been nearly nonexistent. But they’ve occurred occasionally at second base.

Wally Backman presented a mixed-bag skillset that lent itself to platooning. He was nominally a switch-hitter, but in practice he was so ineffective from the right side that he was effectively a lefthanded hitter. And while he delivered excellent on-base ability from the left side, his defense was just barely adequate.

Finding a righthanded-batting second baseman who could field better than Backman wasn’t hard to do, and such a player would complement him nicely. Here Davey Johnson fit him with obscure scrubeenie Kelvin Chapman, who hit surprisingly well in this season.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Wally Backman    B   128  436   68  122   19    2    1   26   56   63 .280 .360 .339    99
Kelvin Chapman   R    75  197   27   57   13    0    3   23   19   30 .289 .356 .401   114
                          633   95  179   32    2    4   49   75   93 .283 .359 .359   104

1985 Toronto Blue Jays: Third base

Rance Mulliniks was a terrific-hitting platoon third baseman under Bobby Cox and Jimy Williams for Toronto in the 1980s. His longtime platoon partner, Garth Iorg, was sound with the glove but rarely hit especially well. In this season, though, he matched Mulliniks line drive for line drive, and the Blue Jays won their first division championship.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Rance Mulliniks  L   129  366   55  108   26    1   10   57   55   54 .295 .383 .454   126
Garth Iorg       R   131  288   33   90   22    1    7   37   21   26 .313 .358 .469   122
                          654   88  198   48    2   17   94   76   80 .303 .373 .460   124

1985 New York Yankees: Third base

In his first full season, Mike Pagliarulo sat down against the toughest lefties in favor of utility infielder Andre Robertson, who pulled a .328 average out of thin air.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Mike Pagliarulo  L   138  380   55   91   16    2   19   62   45   86 .239 .324 .442   110
Andre Robertson  R    50  125   16   41    5    0    2   17    6   24 .328 .358 .416   114
                          505   71  132   21    2   21   79   51  110 .261 .333 .436   111

1985 San Diego Padres: Second base

Tim Flannery had no power, but was a good on-base guy. Here Dick Williams partnered him with veteran supersub Jerry Royster to excellent effect.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Tim Flannery     L   126  384   50  108   14    2    3   40   58   39 .281 .386 .341   107
Jerry Royster    R    90  249   31   70   13    2    5   31   32   31 .281 .363 .410   117
                          633   81  178   27    4    8   71   90   70 .281 .378 .364   110

1986 Houston Astros: Third base

Longtime utility man Denny Walling delivered a few strong years as the Astros’ platoon third baseman, and this was the best, paired with veteran Phil Garner.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Denny Walling    L   102  312   46   94   21    1   11   50   27   23 .301 .353 .481   131
Phil Garner      R    84  279   41   77   13    2    8   36   24   42 .276 .332 .423   110
                          591   87  171   34    3   19   86   51   65 .289 .343 .453   122

1986-87-88 New York Mets: Second base

Given that he was a protégé of Earl Weaver, it isn’t surprising that through his long and successful managerial career Davey Johnson was extremely attentive to platooning possibilities. In these seasons he alternated Backman with Tim Teufel, who like Backman wasn’t much with the glove, but who hit with unusual pop for a second baseman.

1986:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Wally Backman    B   124  387   67  124   18    2    1   27   36   32 .320 .376 .385   114
Tim Teufel       R    93  279   35   69   20    1    4   31   32   42 .247 .324 .369    94
                          666  102  193   38    3    5   58   68   74 .290 .356 .378   106

1987:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Wally Backman    B    94  300   43   75    6    1    1   23   25   43 .250 .307 .287    62
Tim Teufel       R    97  299   55   92   29    0   14   61   44   53 .308 .398 .545   153
                          599   98  167   35    1   15   84   69   96 .279 .360 .416   128

1988:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Wally Backman    B    99  294   44   89   12    0    0   17   41   49 .303 .388 .344   117
Tim Teufel       R    90  273   35   64   20    0    4   31   29   41 .234 .306 .352    93
                          567   79  153   32    0    4   48   70   90 .270 .354 .347   107

1986-87-88 New York Mets: Center field

Neither Lenny Dykstra nor Mookie Wilson was better than average defensively in center field, but both were fine hitters and baserunners. Johnson made optimal use of them, starting Dykstra against righthanders, and the switch-hitting Wilson against southpaws, while also finding frequent opportunities for Wilson in left and right field. Here we see the excellence they jointly produced as center fielders.

1986:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Lenny Dykstra    L   122  417   74  123   25    7    8   45   57   53 .295 .378 .446   130
Mookie Wilson    B    58  221   43   75   10    5    7   25   18   38 .339 .388 .525   154
                          638  117  198   35   12   15   70   75   91 .310 .381 .473   139

1987:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Lenny Dykstra    L   110  413   81  118   35    3   10   41   36   65 .286 .349 .458   117
Mookie Wilson    B    79  278   37   79   13    6    6   22   24   60 .284 .344 .439   111
                          691  118  197   48    9   16   63   60  125 .285 .347 .450   114

1988:

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Lenny Dykstra    L   106  417   64  111   19    3    8   32   25   42 .266 .311 .384   104
Mookie Wilson    B    78  268   42   78    9    5    6   31   21   48 .291 .342 .429   126
                          685  106  189   28    8   14   63   46   90 .276 .324 .401   114

1987 Toronto Blue Jays: Designated hitter

Rarely has a team come up with two young first basemen, simultaneously, with this kind of power. The late-’50s Giants with Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey are the only other case that comes to mind. Twenty-three-year-olds Fred McGriff and Cecil Fielder were each destined for home-run-champ stardom as regular first basemen. But for the moment they were parked behind incumbent defensive standout first baseman Willie Upshaw, and were partnering in a prodigious DH platoon.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Fred McGriff     L   107  295   58   73   16    0   20   43   60  104 .247 .376 .505   130
Cecil Fielder    R    82  175   30   47    7    1   14   32   20   48 .269 .345 .560   133
                          470   88  120   23    1   34   75   80  152 .255 .366 .526   131

1987 Milwaukee Brewers: Catcher

Previously, we’ve touched on the long-and-winding-road career of B.J. Surhoff in its defensive context. Here we see him as a 22-year-old rookie catcher, laying out line drives. Manager Tom Trebelhorn platooned him with free-swinging journeyman Bill Schroeder, who typically hit for power but never before or again delivered anything close to this kind of average. It added up to an exceptionally productive catcher offense.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
B.J. Surhoff     L   115  395   50  118   22    3    7   68   36   30 .299 .350 .423   102
Bill Schroeder   R    75  250   35   83   12    0   14   42   16   56 .332 .379 .548   139
                          645   85  201   34    3   21  110   52   86 .312 .362 .471   119

1987 Chicago Cubs: Center field

Manager Gene Michael had freshly signed free agent star Andre Dawson in right field, but the rest of his outfield was a grab-bag full of spare parts and unproven talents. “Stick” methodically sorted it into sensible and highly effective platoon arrangments.

In center, 22-year-old Dave Martinez, in his first full season, was given room to blossom as veteran speedster Bob Dernier manhandled the southpaws.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Dave Martinez    L   126  439   66  128   18    8    7   34   52   92 .292 .368 .417   105
Bob Dernier      R    58  168   34   56    4    3    7   15   12   14 .333 .381 .518   132
                          607  100  184   22   11   14   49   64  106 .303 .372 .445   114

1987 Chicago Cubs: Left field

While in left, veteran Jerry Mumphrey and rookie Rafael Palmeiro took turns punishing the righthanders, stepping aside to allow 30-year-old obscurity Brian Dayett to mash the lefties.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Jerry Mumphrey   B    72  283   34   85   18    1   10   29   24   39 .329 .385 .523   135
Brian Dayett     R    48  147   17   39   10    0    5   17   15   26 .298 .367 .489   121
Rafael Palmeiro  L    41  149   19   38    9    0    8   18   13   14 .284 .342 .530   124
                          579   70  162   37    1   23   64   52   79 .280 .370 .466   129

1988 Pittsburgh Pirates: Catcher

Neither Mike LaValliere nor Junior Ortiz had any power at all, but both were reliable singles-slappers, and “Spanky” displayed excellent strike zone discipline to boot. Paired by Jim Leyland, they delivered solid offense from the catching spot.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Mike LaValliere  L   120  352   24   92   18    0    2   47   50   34 .261 .353 .330    99
Junior Ortiz     R    49  118    8   33    6    0    2   18    9    9 .280 .336 .381   107
                          470   32  125   24    0    4   65   59   43 .266 .349 .343   101

1989 Chicago Cubs: Left field

A couple of years later, and a new cast of characters was milling about the Friendly Confines. Don Zimmer was now in charge, and through his 13 seasons as a big league manager, it must be said that he rarely displayed much lineup-construction élan. But here Popeye deftly cobbled together rookie Dwight Smith, veteran journeyman Mitch Webster and converted backup catcher Lloyd McClendon into a nifty left field unit, and Zim’s Cubs captured the lone championship of his managerial career.

Player           B     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Dwight Smith     L    71  238   29   70    9    2    5   26   20   37 .294 .354 .412   113
Mitch Webster    B    45  154   26   43    8    2    2   10   17   26 .279 .351 .396   108
Lloyd McClendon  R    45  134   33   42   10    1    7   25   20   13 .313 .396 .560   164
                          526   88  155   27    5   14   61   57   76 .295 .365 .445   129
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