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Did Mets have worst double-play combo in 2011?

So says the Bill James Handbook, which rated the double-play tandem of Jose Reyes and Justin Turner the worst in baseball last season, according to the statistic of Defensive Runs Saved.

Here's the info:

It’s a baseball truism that teams want to be “strong up the middle”—that is, they want excellent defenders at catcher, shortstop, second base, and centerfield. The “keystone combination” then is exactly that: the building block on which a team constructs its defense.

In The Bill James Handbook 2012, Bill James and Baseball Info Solutions track Defensive Runs Saved to see who the best-fielding shortstops and second basemen were in 2011. In short, Defensive Runs Saved is an estimate of the number of runs each fielder saves with his defense, combining John Dewan’s Plus/Minus System with analyses of bunts, double plays, and more to form a complete evaluation of a fielder.

For anyone who watched the 2011 World Series, it’s no surprise that the AL Champion Texas Rangers had the best double-play combination in baseball. Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler totaled 29 Defensive Runs Saved between them—tops in the majors. But the New York Mets totaled -22 Defensive Runs, giving them inglorious ownership of the worst keystone combination in baseball.

Jose Reyes finished as the fourth-worst shortstop with -11 Runs Saved (Seattle’s Brendan Ryan was tops with 18, while the New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter was last with -18). Justin Turner finished as the second-worst second-baseman with -11, behind only Houston’s Jeff Keppinger (-12). Which might explain why together, Reyes-Turner were the worst double-play duo in the game.

So who would form the best double-play combination in the majors? A tandem of Brendan Ryan (18) and Ben Zobrist (17) would have totaled four more Defensive Runs Saved (35) than the next-best possible options. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for everyone involved, every team in the major leagues has to deal with a double-play combination (or combinations) at the keystone sack that is less talented than the fictional Ryan-Zobrist dynamic duo might be. Still, there are some pretty fine combos out there, and some truly awful ones, and some that are merely “middling up the middle.”


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