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Dr. Lineup: The Three and Four Hitters
Reggie Yinger | Saturday October 27th, 2012
Miggy and Fielder were monsters during the 2012 season (US Presswire)
Miggy and Fielder were monsters during the 2012 season (US Presswire)
There was an article a few days ago from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick discussing Detroit Tigers superstars Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The article details the pair's friendship since Fielder arrived in in Detroit prior to the start of the 2012 season.

Among other things, Crasnick's article featured a detailed quote (near the end) from former Tigers pitcher Jack Morris. Crasnick quoted Morris as saying:

"They're [Fielder and Cabrera] the quintessential back-to-back frickin' threats in the lineup"

The quote from Morris tickled my nerdy baseball side and I decided to put Jack's quote to the test to see if in fact, Miggy and Fielder were "the quintessential frickin' threats" he proclaimed them to be.

Below are all three and four hitters from the 2012 regular season ranked by wRC (weighted runs created) broken down by team. These numbers are only for three and four hitters who started the game in that spot (throws out pinch hitters).

Google Visualization API Sample

**I used 75 plate appearances in order to remove the guys who filled in. Basically, I wanted the regular 3 & 4 hitters.

The results are pretty clear. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder were monsters during the 2012 regular season from the three and four spots in the lineup. The next closest team were the Milwaukee Brewers with 243 wRC thanks to terrific seasons from Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez.

While most teams had a regular duo of three and four hitters, some teams used several players (for various reasons) in the middle of the order. For example, the Cleveland Indians created 166 wRC from the three and four spots this season using seven different hitters.

Below is a table of players just for the 2012 season by wRC and lineup spot. All three and four hitters.

Google Visualization API Sample
Player Team Lineup wRC
Miguel Cabrera DET 3 143
Ryan Braun MIL 3 137
Andrew McCutchen PIT 3 131
Prince Fielder DET 4 122
Matt Holliday STL 3 118
Buster Posey SF 4 115
Adrian Beltre TEX 4 114
Josh Hamilton TEX 3 110
Albert Pujols LAA 3 108
Joe Mauer MIN 3 107
Chase Headley SD 3 107
Aramis Ramirez MIL 4 107
Joey Votto CIN 3 105
David Wright NYM 3 105
Ryan Zimmerman WSH 3 99
Adam Jones BAL 4 95
Paul Konerko CWS 4 94
Carlos Gonzalez COL 4 88
Adam Dunn CWS 4 87
Josh Willingham MIN 4 83
Matt Kemp LAD 3 79
Billy Butler KC 4 79
Josh Reddick OAK 4 77
Robinson Cano NYY 4 76
Melky Cabrera SF 3 75

Pretty easy to see why the Tigers were at the top of the list. Players like Andrew McCutchen and Chase Headley will continue to fly under the radar (to casual baseball fans) until their respected teams start winning. However, they are still very good at creating offense.

To dig deeper, I wanted to see how the 2012 Tigers Duo compared to other three and four hitters from previous seasons. Were Cabrera and Fielder a one-of-a-kind duo in 2012, or were other teams just as good in previous years?

Below is a chart that is identical to the the first chart posted, but it also includes the 2011 and 2010 seasons.

Google Visualization API Sample

Over the past three seasons, the Tigers 2012 duo of Fielder and Cabrera was the best in all of baseball in terms of wRC. Although Fielder left the Brewers and contributed to the Tigers in 2012, Aramis Ramirez did a significant job in filling in for Prince, helping Braun boost the Milwaukee Brewers near the top again in 2012.

Over the past three seasons, Milwaukee has led all of baseball with 725 wRC from the three and four hitters in the lineup. The first two interesting numbers that jump out from the three year numbers are the San Francisco Giants (116 wRC in 2011 and jumped up to 231 wRC in 2012) and the Boston Red Sox (233 wRC in 2011 fell down to 139 wRC in 2012).

Obviously the biggest factor for the Giants jump in 2012 was in large part due to a healthy season from Buster Posey. Although Posey's numbers are expected, Melky Cabrera also posted 75 wRC from the number three spot before his suspension. Also chipping in was Pablo Sandoval from the three spot with 41 wRC.

The Red Sox had all kinds of issues in 2012, and the middle of their lineup didn't help. Adrian Gonzalez contributed 18 wRC in 201 plate appearances before his departure to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The biggest helper in 2012 was Dustin Pedroia with 44 wRC. Back in 2011, the Red Sox had Kevin Youkilis helping out with 78 wRC and Adrian Gonzalez had 123 wRC. David Ortiz contributed a combined 48 wRC in 2011 and 2012 from the three and four spots in the lineup.

The table below gives a break down of the top contributors by wRC by season from the time period between 2010 and 2012.

Google Visualization API Sample
Player Team Year Lineup wRC
Miguel Cabrera DET 2012 3 143
Miguel Cabrera DET 2011 4 137
Ryan Braun MIL 2012 3 137
Jose Bautista TOR 2011 3 136
Joey Votto CIN 2010 3 135
Joey Votto CIN 2011 3 133
Andrew McCutchen PIT 2012 3 131
Ryan Bruan MIL 2011 3 128
Miguel Cabrera DET 2010 4 124
Adrian Gonzalez BOS 2011 3 123
Prince Fielder MIL 2011 4 123
Albert Pujols STL 2010 3 123
Prince Fielder DET 2012 4 122
Paul Konerko CWS 2010 4 118
Matt Holliday STL 2012 3 118
Buster Posey SF 2012 4 115
Adrian Beltre TEX 2012 4 114
Justin Upton ARI 2011 3 114
Mark Teixeira NYY 2010 3 112
Josh Hamilton TEX 2012 3 110
Albert Pujols LAA 2012 3 108
Albert Pujols STL 2011 3 107
Joe Mauer MIN 2012 3 107
Chase Headley SD 2012 3 107
Aramis Ramirez MIL 2012 4 107
Joey Votto CIN 2012 3 105
David Wright NYM 2012 3 105
Ryan Braun MIL 2010 3 103
Matt Holliday STL 2010 4 102
Troy Tulowitzki COL 2011 4 102
Vernon Wells TOR 2010 4 100

No real surprises on the list, except for Vernon Wells in 2010. With all his recent struggles and trade to the Los Angeles Angels, some likely forget he had some good seasons in Toronto. Overall, the players that remain constant threats in the middle of the lineup are Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, and Albert Pujols.

In conclusion, the 2012 season was a big production year for the bats in the middle in the lineup. The Cabrera and Fielder duo was one of the best baseball fans have seen in recent memory, but could be a consistent theme for the next few seasons.
Reggie YingerReggie is a writer and the co-founder of Baseball Press. He enjoys fantasy baseball and hates when players bunt in baseball.