Grounding into Double Plays

This article was written by Stanley F. Kuminski

This article was published in the 1976 Baseball Research Journal


Joe Torre’s frustrating 1975 season was “highlighted” by the July 21 game against the Astros where he grounded into four consecutive double plays. Batting ahead of him was Felix Millan, who had 4 singles, but was wiped out each time Tone hit the ball. For Torre, it was a National League record for grounding into twin killings in one game. He is one of the all time leaders in that department, having been victimized 265 times in his career.

The double play is an important part of game strategy, for nothing ruins a rally like a twin killing. Yet, little statistical research has been done in this area. The National League started compiling these records in 1933 and the American League only since 1940. Consequently, no one knows how many times Ty Cobb was doubled up, or Honus Wagner, or even Zeke Bonura in his early years. However, it is safe to say that the all time record for grounding into double plays was not established by Cobb or Wagner. This is not just because they were fast runners but that there were fewer double plays made in their eras.

Who, then, holds the career record? Apparently it is Henry Aaron, with 320 futile efforts. He is followed by Brooks Robinson, a long-service righthand batter who is slow afoot. Brooks holds the AL record with 290. Obviously, he is not as slow as Ernie Lombardi, but Lom did not have such a long career. Ernie hit into double plays most frequently, once every 20 times at bat. This is based on his career record since 1933 of 261 wipeouts in only 5260 at bats.

If Lombardi was the easiest player to double up, who was the toughest? Logic would indicate that he would have to be a lefthand hitter, who wouldn’t have to take that extra step or two. Well, it is necessary to settle for a compromise candidate, Don Buford, who was a switch hitter. Before he left for Japan in 1973 he had grounded into only 33 double plays in 4553 at bats, or once every 138 times at the plate. He tops all lefthand batting speedsters like Lou Brock, Richie Ashburn, and Joe Morgan. And don’t forget another “Don,” who went to Japan – Don Blasingame – who was almost as tough to double up as Buford.

The righthand batters most difficult to catch in double plays were George Case, based on less than his full career, and Bert Campaneris, who is still going strong. Research on the available records has turned up some surprises. For example, Bill “Swish” Nicholson of the Cubs was harder to double up than Willie Davis, one of the fastest runners in the game, who also batted from the left side. In Nicholson’s case, he was known to uppercut the ball a little to get it out of the park. And Johnny Mize, hardly a gazelle on the basepaths, was an infrequent victim of the double play. The same applies to big Willie Stargell. Of course, both batted from the left side and went for the fences.

We will discuss further the advantage of lefthand batters when we take up season records. First let us show some career totals and frequency rates, below.

 

High Career Totals For GDP

Player

Bat

A.B.

GDP

/AB

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Aaron

R

12093

320

38

Brooks Robinson

R

10389

290

36

Roberto Clemente

R

9457

275

34

AlKaline

R

10116

271

37

Frank Robinson

R

9939

266

37

Joe Torre

R

7513

265

28

Ernie Lombardi

R

5260*

261*

20

Ron Santo

R

8143

256

32

Willie Mays

R

10881

251

43

Stan Musial

L

10972

243

45

Harm Killebrew

R

8147

243

34

Ernie Banks

R

9421

229

41

Dick Groat

R

7484

220

34

Frank Howard

R

6488

218

30

Orlando Cepeda

R

7927

218

36

 

Low Frequency Rates For GDP

Player

Bat

A.B.

GDP

/AB

Don Buford

S

4553

33

138

Don Blasingame

L

5296

43

123

Lou Brock

L

8642

78

111

Richie Ashburn

L

8365

83

101

Joe Morgan

L

5406

55

98

George Case

R

3964*

42*

94

Bert Campaneris

R

6644

73

91

Stanley Hack

L

7100*

78*

91

Bill Nicholson

L

5534

61

91

Arky Vaughan

L

6125*

70*

88

Bill Bruton

L

6056

73

83

Augie Galan

S

5937

72

83

Maury Wills

S

7588

92

83

Dick McAuliffe

L

6185

77

80

Sandy Alomar

R

4485

56

80

*Incomplete career records

 

It is obvious that on a career basis the righthand batter will normally have the higher GDP totals. Stan Musial is the only lefthander in the top 15. On the low frequency rates, it does not always turn out that way. This is also the case when it comes to the season leaders. In fact, in 1975 the tables got turned when Don Money of Milwaukee, a right-hand batter, was nabbed only 1 time, while Willie Montanez, batting left, was doubled up 26 times to lead the National League.

It was only the fourth time since these records were first compiled that a lefty had topped the circuit in either league. In 1960, Wally Moon of the Dodgers tied for NL leadership, and Carl Yastrzemski led twice in the AL, once with a surprisingly high total of 30. In fact, the Red Sox have traditionally had some rather high totals, whether they batted left or right. Jackie Jensen, one of the best base stealers of the 1950s, nevertheless led the league 3 times in GDP. Bobby Doer, and Vern Stephens each led twice, and 4 other Boston players led once each. Maybe the infielders at Fenway Park play in closer because of the nearness of the leftfield wall.

Only six players have gone essentially a complete season without hitting into a double play. This is based on a minimum of 350 at bats over the 154-game schedule, and 400 for the current 162 games. Augie Galan holds the all-time mark by going zero in 646 at bats in 1935. In 1968, both Dick McAuliffe and Roger Repoz in the AL had unblemished records. Tony Bartirome of the Pirates had the distinction of never having grounded into a double play in the majors. He topped the NL in 1952 and that was the only season he played.

Here is the annual list of those hitting into the most double plays, and those hitting into the fewest per time at bat. Note that Pee Wee Reese and Dave Philley appear on both lists.

 

Players Grounding Into Most Double Plays

 

National League

 

 

American League

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1933

Ernie Lombardi, Cin.

26

 

(not compiled until 1940)

 

1934

Ernie Lombardi, Cin.

24

 

 

 

1935

Hank Leiber, N.Y.

20

 

 

 

1936

Harold Lee, Boston

23

 

 

 

1937

Frank Demaree, Chi.

23

 

 

 

1938

Ernie Lombardi, Cin.

30

 

 

 

1939

Billy Jurges, Chi.

26

 

 

 

1940

Frank McCormick, Cin.

23

 

Lou Boudreau, Clev.

23

1941

Frank McCormick, Cin.

22

 

Frankie Hayes, Phil.

23

 

 

 

 

Pete Suder, Phil.

23

1942

Nick Witek, N.Y.

23

 

Joe Gordon, N.Y.

22

1943

Sid Gordon, N.Y.

26

 

Jim Bioodworth, Det.

29

1944

Ernie Lombardi, N.Y.

23

 

George Kell, Phil.

0.3

1945

Babe Dahigren, Pitt.

23

 

Rudy York, Detroit

23

1946

Andy Seminick, Phil.

19

 

Sam Chapman, Phil.

22

1947

Andy Pafko, Chicago

19

 

Bobby Doerr, Bos.

25

 

George Kurowski, StL.

19

 

 

 

1948

Nippy Jones, StL.

25

 

Vern Stephens, Bos.

25

1949

Sid Gordon, N.Y.

24

 

Bobby Doerr, Bos.

31

1950

Del Ennis, Phil.

25

 

Bill Hitchcock, Phil.

30

1951

Sid Gordon, Bos.

28

 

Vern Stephens, Bos.

22

 

 

 

 

Sam Mele, Wash.

22

1952

Roy Campanella, Bkn.

22

 

Dave Philley, Phil.

29

1953

Joe Adcock, Mil.

22

 

Minnie Minoso, Chi.

23

1954

Del Ennis, Phil.

23

 

Jackie Jensen, Bos.

32

1955

Pee Wee Reese, Bkn.

22

 

Bill Tuttle, Det.

25

1956

Carl Furillo, Bkn.

27

 

Jackie Jensen, Bos.

23

1957

Granny Hamner, Phil.

23

 

Jackie Jensen, Bos.

22

1958

Gene Green, StL.

24

 

Hector Lopez, K.C.

23

1959

Del Crandall, Mil.

24

 

Sherman Loilar, Chi.

27

1960

Rob. Clemente, Pitt.

21

 

Br. Robinson, Balt.

29

 

Wally Moon, L.A.

21

 

 

 

1961

Frank Bolling, Mil.

25

 

Gene Green, Wash.

26

 

Ron Santo, Chicago

25

 

 

 

1962

Ken Hubbs, Chicago

20

 

Carl Yastrzemski, Bos.

27

1963

Rob. Clemente, Pitt.

24

 

Frank Maizone, Bos.

24

 

 

 

 

Dick Stuart, Bos.

24

1964

Joe Torre, Mil.

26

 

Carl Yastrzemski, Bos.

30

1965

Joe Torre, Mil.

22

 

Jerry Adair, Balt.

26

 

Players Grounding Into Fewest Double Plays Per at Bat

 

National League

 

 

American League

 

1933

Chuck Klein, Phil.

3

 

(not compiled until 1940)

 

1934

Pepper Martin, StL.

1

 

 

 

1935

Augie Galan, Chi.

0

 

 

 

1936

Joe Moore, N.Y.

3

 

 

 

1937

Lou Chiozza, Phil.

2

 

 

 

1938

Lonnie Frey, Cin.

1

 

 

 

1939

Billy Myers, Cin.

3

 

 

 

1940

Stanley Hack, Chi.

3

 

Jeff Heath, Clev.

2

1941

Melvin Ott, N.Y.

2

 

Red Rolfe, N.Y.

3

1942

Pete Reiser, Bkn.

0

 

Tommy Henrich, N.Y.

3

1943

Lonnie Frey, Cin.

2

 

George Case, Wash.

3

1944

Johnny Rucker, N.Y.

2

 

Wally Moses, Chicago

1

1945

Wm. Wietelmann, Bos.

1

 

George Myatt, Wash.

3

1946

Grady Hatton, Cin.

3

 

Thurman Tucker, Chicago

2

1947

Pete Reiser, Bkn.

3

 

Dale Mitchell, Clev.

2

1948

Richie Ashburn, Phil.

1

 

Tony Lupien, Chi.

3

1949

Pee Wee Reese, Bkn.

5

 

Floyd Baker, Chicago

3

1950

Grady Hatton, Cin.

3

 

Mickey Vernon, Clev.

3

1951

Richie Ashburn, Phil.

4

 

Dave Philley, Phil.

5

1952

Tony Bartirome, Pitt.

0

 

Jim Rivera, StL-Chicago

4

1953

Cal Abrams, Pitt.

2

 

Billy Goodman, Boston

2

1954

Whitey Lockman, N.Y.

3

 

Al Smith, Clev.

2

1955

Billy Bruton, Mil.

2

 

Al Smith, Clev.

4

1956

Don Blasingame, StL.

3

 

Jim Rivera, Chicago

3

1957

Bob Skinner, Pitt.

2

 

Robert Boyd, Balt.

4

1958

Wally Post, Cin.

3

 

Roger Mans, Clev.

2

1959

Don Blasingame, StL.

3

 

Bob Richardson, N.Y.

3

1960

Richie Ashburn, Phil.

4

 

Norman Cash, Det.

0

1961

John Roseboro, L.A.

1

 

Mickey Mantle, N.Y.

2

1962

Al Spangler, Hous.

1

 

Tom Tresh, N.Y.

3

1963

Lou Brock, Chicago

2

 

Dave Nicholson, Chicago

3

1964

Willie Davis, L.A.

4

 

Don Blasingame, Wash.

1

1965

LouBrock, StL.

2

 

Don Blasingame, Wash.

2

1966

Joe Morgan, Hous.

2

 

Don Buford, Chicago

3

1967

Joe Morgan, Hous.

2

 

Dick McAuliffe, Det.

2

1968

Willie Davis, L.A.

3

 

Dick McAuliffe, Det.

0

1969

Lou Brock, StL.

2

 

Ted Uhlaender, Minn.

3

1970

Bobby Bonds, S.F.

6

 

Dick McAuliffe, Det.

1

1971

Ron Hunt, Montreal

 

 

Don Buford, Balt.

2

1972

Bill Russell, L.A.

4

 

Dick McAuliffe, Det.

2

 

Rick Monday, Chicago

4

 

 

 

1973

Derrel Thomas, S.D.

2

 

Sandy Alomar, Cal.

2

1974

Mike Schmidt, Phil.

4

 

Cesar Tovar, Texas

3

1975

Joe Morgan, Cin.

3

 

Don Money, Mil.

1

 

 

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