|Point/Counterpoint: Best Corner Infielders in AL East|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on June 26, 2009
The AL East does not only have three teams with World Series aspirations competing, it also features probably the best corner infield combo in the major leagues. The question is, which one is it? Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees or Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena of the Rays? Jonathan Leshanski and Adam Adkins debate in our new edition of Point/Counterpoint.
Production, Reliability put Yankee Duo Ahead
Photo by Keith Allison used under creative commons license.
In 2008, his rookie year, Evan Longoria OPS’d .874. A fine mark for a rookie, but nearly one-hundred points south of Rodriguez’s mark. It is true that Longoria provides superior defense, but the gap between his defense and Rodriguez’s is not nearly large enough to quell one-hundred points of OPS.
In 2008, Carlos Pena OPS’d .871. Pena’s tale is an odd one, he fell out of baseball for a time, and could not stick with either the Yankees or the Boston Red Sox. But, he hit Tampa in 2007, had a career year, and he’s been an elite first baseman since. His defense is right beneath Albert Pujols’ and in the same category as Teixeira’s. But, the massive crater of distance between their respective OPS’ gives this nod simply to Teix.
And there’s also reliability. Longoria is in his second year, and although he would appear to be a megastar (I picked him to win the AL MVP, after all), it is no guarantee. With Rodriguez, there is a guarantee. You will get an OPS above .900. You will get passable defense. You will get a ton of press.
Longoria has no track record to fall back on.
Same with Teixeira and Pena. One has done it and done it... the other hasn’t, at least not as long.
I think it is clear that Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez form a superior corner infield tandem. In the future, the Rays may take the crown, but right now, they are second.
Youth Gives Tampa Pair the Honor
By Jonathan Leshanski
It’s hard to argue that A-Rod isn’t one of the greatest hitters of all time, but this season sure has to make you wonder if you should phrase that as WAS one of the greatest hitters of all time. Between the surgery on his hip, a divorce, his fling with Madonna and the steroid revelations that have all hit him this season he sure doesn’t look like a Hall of Fame type hitter.
Insert image hereThe truth is A-Rod’s .213-9-28 line just isn’t that impressive. Nor is the fact that right now he can’t be an everyday player. No, A-Rod is the same guy who has choked under pressure time and time again and seems to be doing it once again for a Yankees team which has been staggering thus far.
Photo by Insert Photographer, used under creative commons license.
And if that is all we can expect from A-Rod, then the better 3-4 combination definitely belongs to Tampa Bay.
Evan Longoria looks an awful lot like a young A-Rod, a superstar in the making who at age 23 still has an incredible amount of upside. He’s on pace for a career year in every offensive category (at the moment he’s .309-16-61-45-2). Barring injury he’s a lock for 30 home runs and could easily flirt with 40 to go with 120 RBIs.
But maybe it’s not fair to compare A-Rod to Longoria at this point in his career. Maybe we really should be comparing him to the number four hitter in the Tampa lineup, Carlos Pena. Pena’s average is a lot more like A-Rod’s at a sterling .235. Of course Pena is leading the AL in home runs with 22 and has knocked in 52 RBIs and scored 52 runs. Oh, and did I mention that he does play every day?
Now somewhere in the middle statistically is Mark Teixeira -- one of the best hitting first basemen of this era. His average (.286) is better than Pena’s (.235), but not quite as good as Longoria’s (.309). He’s hit more home runs (20) than Longoria (16), but not quite as many as Pena (22). Tex has more RBIs (56) then Pena (52), but not as many as Longoria (61) thus far.
Admittedly Teixeira has been on fire the last month or so, but without A-Rod he isn’t going to shoulder the load and make up the production that Pena and Longoria are going to have. And production is the definition by which these twosomes will be judged at the heart of their respective lineups.