Iglesias & Kinsler can join select group of Tiger double play partners

Shortstop Alan Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker both hit over .300 in 1983.

Shortstop Alan Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker both hit over .300 in 1983.

The great Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker only did it once in their 19 seasons together. It’s only happened three times in the history of the Detroit Tigers. But this year we may see it happen again. What is it?

An all-.300-hitting double play duo. Shortstop Jose Iglesias and second baseman Ian Kinsler both currently have their batting averages above the .300 mark. If they keep them there, they will become the fourth Tiger middle infield duo to do so. Here’s a look at the three previous times it happened.

Topper Rigney (SS) and Del Pratt (2B) — 1923

You remember these guys, right? Well maybe not.  The duo didn’t play together long, just two seasons (1932-24). In ’23 not only did Rigney (.315) and Pratt (.310) hit .300, but the entire team did! Ty Cobb was the manager so it isn;t any wonder that those guys could hit the ball.

The duo were at much differnet stages of their career: Rigney was a young player trying to prove he was ready for the big leagues while Pratt was a veteran (35 years old in 1923) in his final act as a ballplayer. At one time, when he played for the St. Louis Browns, Pratt was the best power-hitting second baseman in the American League. He retired with 1,996 hits and a .292 average. About Rigney, Cobb once said, “A word about Rigney, who along with Fred Haney is one of the fastest runners on the team. He’ll be hailed as a real star.” Rigney never was a star (he was a shoddy defensive player), but he had a few decent seasons with Detroit before bouncing around to three teams and ending his major league career after six seasons.

Alan Trammell (SS) and Lou Whitaker (2B) — 1983

They debuted on the same day and got their first hit in that same game. They played and learned and became stars together side-by-side in the middle of the diamond for the Tigers from 1977 to 1995. Sweet Lou was the better natural athlete, quicker, faster, a great hitter with an amazing throwing arm. Trammell did everything really well and matured as a hitter becoming a power threat and an MVP candidate. Both players displayed excellent fundamentals and they helped the Tigers win the 1984 World Series when they hit 1-2 in Sparky Anderson’s lineup. But through all those years they only hit .300 in the same season once, in 1983.

1983 was the season when Trammell emerged as a real offensive threat. After two mediocre seasons with the bat, batting coach Gates Brown advised Trammell to close his stance in the middle of the season. The results were dramatic: Tram hit .343 after May 31st to finish at .319 on the season. He carried that momentum into the rest of his career as he hit over .300 five more times.

Sweet Lou had one of his most consistent seasons in 1983: he hit .314 at home and .326 on the road; hit .310 before the All-Star break and .330 after; he batted .330 in July, .339 in August, and .313 in September and October. In June when Trammell got red-hot, Whitaker hit .388. That month the duo combined for 65 hits and batted .371. At the end of the season, Whitaker edged his teammate .320-.319 and they finished third and fourth in the AL batting race.

Jhonny Peralta (SS) and Omar Infante (2B) — 2013

In his second stint as a Tiger, Infante was a much better hitter this time around. He batted .318 despite missing time due to a few injuries. His mark was the highest by a Detroit second baseman since Placido Polanco. It would be his final season with Detroit as he would exit in the offseason for a lucrative free agent contract from the Royals.

This is also the season when Peralta (.303 for the year) was suspended for 50 games for violating MLB’s drug testing policy. He accepted the suspension and returned to play in the final series of the regular season and the postseason.

Iglesias bucking reputation as “all-glove no-bat” guy

When the Tigers acquired Iglesias from the Boston Red Sox in a three-team deal at the trade deadline two years ago, we were warned not tom expect too much from the little shortstop at the plate. His reputation was as an “all-glove, no-bat” middle infielder in the mold of other Latin-born shortstops from the past like Ozzie Guillen, Luis Aparicio, Leo Cardenas, Chico Carrasquel annd others. But Tiger fans have been pleasantly surprised by the stick work that Iglesias has displayed. After missing all of 2014 with shin splints in both legs, the Cuban has his batting average over the .300 mark on the strength of his ability to slap the ball to all fields and his knack for getting infield hits. While the latter tactic is not going to serve him well for the length of his career, it does make him exciting to watch. Since he’s already the most exciting shortstop in the game, that only adds to his appeal.

Kinsler best Detroit second baseman since Sweet Lou

With apologies to Placido Polanco, Kinsler is the best second baseman to wear the Old English D since Whitaker retired in the mid-1990s. Kinsler currently rates among AL leaders in hits, runs scored, multi-hit games, doubles triples, and batting average. He and Iglesias lead the American League in double plays and while Kinsler won’t likely win a Gold Glove for his fielding work, he’s having one of his best seasons in the field. Like Whitaker, Kinsler serves as the spark for the Detroit lineup.

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