Friday, August 17, 2012

Brothers in Baseball

Recently, brothers B.J. and Justin Upton each hit their 100th career home run on the very same night, just an hour apart, which is a pretty cool feat. That made them just the sixth pair of brothers in baseball history with 100+ home runs apiece. Their accomplishment got me thinking about other baseball siblings and wondering where the Uptons might rank among all the brothers who've ever played. I've created just such a list, one man's opinion of the very best siblings in baseball history.

There have been almost 400 sets of brothers to each play in MLB, but the vast majority of those families include at least one brother who played only a few games. Many of the families among those 400s were in baseball's earliest days. I suspect that oftentimes back then, players' brothers were brought in when regulars on the team were injured, which of course would no longer be permitted by modern roster guidelines. Having discovered the nearly 400 candidate families, I set out to determine the best.

I don't think you can simply add two (or more) players statistics together for this sort of exercise. Hank Aaron and Honus Wagner each had a brother who played in the Majors briefly; if I just added their stats together the totals would outpace probably any other pair --did you know the Aaron brothers hit a combined 768 home runs?!-- but that's not quite what I'm after. I'm looking for cases where both brothers were fairly productive players.

Honorable Mention (11-20 in alphabetical order):

Roberto and Sandy Alomar
George and Ken Brett
Harry and Stan Covelski
Bob and Ken Forsch
Brian and Marcus Giles
Livan and Orlando Hernandez
Bob and Roy Johnson
Bob and Irish Meusel
Jesse and Lee Tannehill
Deacon and Will White

Top Active Brothers:

5) Bengie, Jose, and Yadier Molina - Yadier is one of the best catchers in baseball, but since my rankings are based on production from multiple siblings, he can only move the family so far up the list on his own and Jose isn't likely to add much more. to the family's total.

4) B.J. and Justin Upton - The youngest players on this list, they have the greatest remaining potential to shoot up the all-time list. If each Upton were to double their career production so far, they'd be on the cusp of the all-time top ten below.

3) Jeff and Jered Weaver - Jered is one of the five or ten best pitchers in baseball and has a good chance of accomplishing a great deal more in his career. Jeff was good but not great, which limits their potential for climbing onto the all-time list.

2) J.D., Stephen, and Tim Drew - Only Stephen is still playing, but he's still just 29 and could do enough to shoot the Drews onto the all-time list if he ever stays healthy. Plus, J.D. could still return and add a little more too. Tim didn't do much in his brief career, but is included anyway.

1) Livan and Orlando Hernandez - Barely still active and with the way Livan has pitched this year, he isn't adding any further value. So, they're not likely to climb any further on the all-time list, but until Livan hangs 'em up, they're the best brothers with an active member in baseball.

Top Ten Sets of Brothers in MLB History:

10) Felipe, Matty, and Jesus Alou
Career bWAR: Felipe 39.2, Matty 21.5, Jesus -1.0

All three brothers played all three outfield positions and a little 1B and each played for a number of different teams. In 1963, all three of them played for the Giants. All three brothers compiled over 1,000 career hits, Felipe had 2,101 and also hit 206 home runs, while the other two had little power. Felipe and Matty both appeared in multiple All-Star Games, while Jesus, was never more than an average Major League player.

09) Mort and Walker Cooper
Career bWAR: Mort 31.7, Walker 27.2 

They played during the 1940s and 50s, both mostly for the Cardinals. Mort was a pitcher, with a career ERA of  2.97 and a 124 ERA+. He was the NL MVP in 1942, when he led the league in ERA, WHIP, and shutouts. Walker was a catcher and had a career batting line of .285/.332/.464 with a 116 OPS+ in over 5,000 PA. He was named to 8 All-Star teams.

08) Ed, Jim, Joe, Tom and Frank Delahanty
Career bWAR: Ed 66.5, Jim 17.2, Joe 0.5, Tom -0.3, Frank -1.9

The only family in history with five brothers to play in the Major Leagues, their mom and dad must have been  very proud. Ed was one of the best players of the 1800s and is in the Hall of Fame. His 101 career home runs seem quite modest by today's standards, but thy were enough for him to rank 8th on the all-time list when he retired in 1903. Among the other brothers, only Jim appeared in more than 300 games, but he was a solid player, with 1,159 career hits.

07) Ken, Clete, and Cloyd Boyer
Career bWAR: Ken 58.7, Clete 25.5, Cloyd 0.2

Ken was one of the finest 3B in history, we was strong with both the bat and the glove. He was an All-Star in seven different seasons, won five gold gloves, won the 1964 NL MVP, finished in the top ten three other times, and ought to be in the Hall of Fame. Clete was an even better defensive 3B than Ken, certainly one of the ten best ever and arguably second only to Brooks Robinson, but he didn't have his brother's bat. Cloyd was a pitcher, but not a very accomplished one; his career was brief and adds little to the combined Boyer value.

06) Wes and Rick Ferrell
Career bWAR: Wes 57.2, Rick 26.3

Wes was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the late 20s and early to mid 30s, first with the Indians, then the Red Sox. Wes was also a fine hitter, his .446 slugging percentage is the highest in history among pitchers with at least 500 career PA (Wes had over 1,300) and his 38 home runs are the most by any pitcher in history. Rick appeared in nearly 2,000 games, every one of them at catcher. He was named to the American League All-Star game seven times. The Ferrells are the best pair of brothers featuring both a pitcher and a position player in history, in my opinion.

05) Paul and Lloyd Waner
Career bWAR: Paul 69.8, Lloyd 22.0

Big Poison and Little Poison, both of the brothers are in the Hall of Fame (though Lloyd is a fairly questionable inductee, I think). They played together for the Pirates from 1927 to 1940, giving them more games together than any other brothers. Paul had 3,152 career hits, he was the 7th player in history to get to 3,000. He won the 1927 NL MVP and finished in the top five three other times. Lloyd collected 2,459 hits, no other brothers have both collected 2,000+ hits, or even come particularly close.

04) Pedro and Ramon Martinez
Career bWAR: Pedro 80.5, Ramon 24.2

Pedro was one of the greatest pitchers in history. His prime was shorter than many other pitchers', but the quality of his best seasons matches up well with that of any pitcher. His career 154 ERA+ is the best in history among all pitchers with 1,500+ IP (he pitched 2,827.1 innings). His 291 ERA+ in 2000 is the highest in modern history. No one was ever better than Pedro was between 1997 and 2000. Often lost in all that is the fact that his brother Ramon was also a fine pitcher, with a career ERA of 3.67 in almost 2,000 career innings. Twice he finished in the top five in NL Cy Young voting.

03) Phil and Joe Niekro
Career bWAR: Phil 90.7, Joe 26.2

Two of the finest knuckleball pitchers in history. Phil pitched 5,404 innings, the 4th most in history. Eleven times he was among the top ten in the league in innings pitched. His ERA+ was among the top ten seven times, so he wasn't just quantity, there was a ton of quality there too. He was undervalued during his career; he probably deserved both the 1978 and 1979 NL Cy Young Awards, but finished outside the top five in voting both times. He was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame however. Joe pitched 3,584.1 innings, which would lead most families. He was closer to a league average pitch for most of his career, but had a couple very strong seasons, including 1982, when he carried a 2.47 ERA through 270 innings.

02) Gaylord and Jim Perry
Career bWAR: Gaylord 84.5, Jim 38.3

Gaylord won the 1972 AL Cy Young with Cleveland and the 1978 NL Cy Young with San Diego. He also had 2nd and 4th place finishes in other years. He ranks 6th all-time in innings and 9th in strikeouts. He finished in the top ten in the league in ERA 11 times and in strikeouts 12 times. He is in the Hall of Fame. Jim won the 1970 Cy Young with Minnesota, making the Perry family the only one in history with multiple Cy Young winners. He finished in the top ten in the league in ERA five times. Jim gets my vote for being the best player in history who wasn't the best player among his siblings, and if this were limited to only two brothers per family, the Perry brothers would rank #1.

01) Joe, Dom, and Vince DiMaggio
Career bWAR: Joe 75.1, Dom 29.8, Vince 15.9

The DiMaggio family has what no other family can match, three legitimately good brothers. Joe and Dom would rank #2 by themselves, Vince pushes them over the top. Joe is a legend and among the very best players in history. He won three AL MVP Awards, finished in the top ten seven other times, and of course had the 56-game hitting streak that still stands as the Major League record. Dom played his entire career for the Red Sox; he was a seven-time All-Star and collected 1,680 hits, despite missing three full seasons due to his military service during WWII. Vince sent ten seasons over in the National League, where he had 959 career hits, including 125 home runs. He was named to a pair of All-Star Games.

There you have it, the very best brothers in baseball history. The Upton brothers are to be congratulated for each having hit 100+ home runs. They have a chance of eventually becoming the first brothers ever to hit 200+ and of entering the top ten siblings in baseball history, but they've got a ways to go yet.


  1. Man, "Butts" Wagner never had a chance, did he?

    1. Johnny Dickshot and Rusty Kuntz both made it to the big leagues, so most anything is possible.

  2. Bill James worked out a simple formula utilizing his win shares system wherein the number one player in family earns the family 1 point per win share. The second best 2 points per share, the third 3 per, and so on. So there is a premium of having multiples, where the "lesser" brothers were accomplished. Top 3 results were:

    The Alous (1440 points)
    Felipe - 244
    Matty - 179
    Moises - 142
    Jesus - 78

    The Dimaggios (1239)
    Joe - 385
    Dom - 220
    Vince - 138

    The Bondses (1040)
    Barry - 438
    Bobby - 301

    1. Interesting. It looks like the DiMaggios would still be on top in his system, since that would remove Moises from the Alous.

      I used bWAR as something of a foundation for my rankings, and a solid second brother was also the key in my system.

  3. How did the Maddux brothers finish? I know Mike was avg., but Greg was great.

    1. I couldn't say exactly where the Maddux brothers were, though they were certainly one of the 35-40 families I looked at. The second-best brother is the far more important one in my methodology, and as a league-average relief pitcher for most of his career, Mike didn't produce enough for them to hit the top twenty.

      Greg Maddux is my favorite pitcher ever (I even named a stat after him. I can't hyperlink in the comments, but you can find a direct link above and to the right, under "popular posts") so I'd love for him to have made his way onto this list, but it just wasn't to be.