Last year, we had two great dynamic duos in the majors, as Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez of the Tigers and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays each ranked in the top 10 in the majors in wOBA (weighted on-base average). We don't quite have a dominant pair like that this season, as Miggy is missing his partner in crime and players such as Bryce Harper, Nelson Cruz and Mike Trout don't have a great No. 2 guy in support. So which is the best pair right now? The answer might surprise you. (And here's a photo gallery of some of the all-time best duos.)
I was a little hesitant to include this pair because I believe they are due for regression. But right now they're the only teammates both carrying a wOBA of .400 or higher, with Gonzalez ranking third in the majors at .447 and Pederson in 13th at .405.
Gonzalez's OPS is up 200 points over where it's been the past three seasons. What's he doing? Crushing fastballs. From 2012-14, he hit .310 and slugged .505 against fastballs. This season, he's hitting .414 and slugging .759, with six of his 10 home runs.
Pederson's first two months in the majors have been impressive, showcasing a patient approach that results in a lot of walks and a lot of strikeouts while producing a .263/.392/.553 line. Impressively for a young hitter, six of his 12 home runs have coming against breaking balls or changeups. The projection systems don't see him continuing this, projecting more of a .240/.330/.440 hitter. How he adjusts will be interesting to watch. If he does start to struggle a bit, however, you can just replace him on this list with Yasiel Puig when he returns.
This is a different kind of duo as they've combined for just 11 home runs -- with Carpenter outhomering Holliday eight to three -- but the Matts get on base, and that's the name of the game. Holliday is fifth in the majors with a .433 OBP and Carpenter is 20th at .389. They rank 12th and 24th in the majors in wOBA, as Carpenter has added 17 doubles as well. Here's a good piece from Grantland's Ben Lindbergh on Holliday that points out he's being more aggressive than ever on pitches in the strike zone while offering at fewer pitches off the plate. Ben also points out that Holliday is on his way to a 10th consecutive season with a park-adjusted batting line 30 percent higher than league average, something only 13 others have done. Call him Mr. Consistency.
Maybe the most underrated pair here, Brantley had his breakout season in 2014, when he hit .327 with 20 home runs and finished third in the AL MVP voting. It's been more of the same so far in 2015 and he's kind of morphed into a George Brett-type at the plate, with a .316/.394/.503 batting line with 22 walks and only 11 strikeouts to go with some midrange power numbers (five home runs, but a league-leading 17 doubles). His strikeout rate is the lowest of any regular in the majors as he has swung and missed only 17 times all season.
Kipnis struggled through an injury-plagued 2014 and then got off to a slow April and we wondered what happened to the All-Star player of 2013. Be concerned no longer as he's hit .449/.532/.738 in May, with four home runs, 13 doubles and three triples. In the past 20 years, only three players have had a higher batting average in May -- Lance Berkman in 2008 and Todd Helton and Bengie Molina in 2000, when Helton hit .512.
Brantley is proving that last season wasn't a fluke and I'm buying into Kipnis as a legit batting title contender and potential .400 OBP. Overall, his strikeout rate is down nearly 9 percent from where it was two seasons ago. More balls in play equals more hits and harder contact means more extra-base hits. Kipnis ranks 10th in the majors in wOBA and Brantley ranks 22nd.
I guess you can pick any combo you want here -- heck, throw in Russell Martin, who actually is outhitting Encarnacion and Bautista right now. Donaldson has played like an MVP candidate with a .314/.374/.590 line and 13 home runs and 35 RBIs. Yes, the ball has been flying out the Rogers Centre this season, but Donaldson still ranks 11th in the majors in the park-adjusted wRC+.
Encarnacion has 12 home runs, but he's hitting just .225 with a .309 OBP. Bautista is hitting .230/.368/.475 with seven home runs while battling a sore shoulder. One of those guys will have to start hitting better to justify this ranking. Encarnacion's strikeout issue is a bit of a concern, as he struck out just 82 times in 128 games last year, so he's already more than halfway to that total.
Yes, Bryant is this good, this soon, and he's only going to get more dangerous as the season progresses. Rizzo became a star last season and is even better in 2015. Both get on base and both have power. One hits left-handed and the other hits right-handed. Rizzo is fifth in the majors in wOBA and Bryant is 25th. They rank third and 16th in on-base percentage and both could reach 30 home runs. Yes, Bryant's strikeout total is too high, but as long as he's getting on base, that simply makes him kind of a more athletic, right-handed version of Jim Thome: lots of strikeouts, but lots of walks and lots of home runs.
Oh ... and they're 25 and 23 years old.