Comparing the Uptons to baseball's outfield siblings

AP
Justin Upton, left, acquired by the Atlanta Braves from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player deal last week, stands with his brother B.J, Upton, right, who signed a five-year, $75.25 million contract with Atlanta in November.

When the Braves acquired Justin Upton on Jan. 24, everyone realized how unique the situation was. Two brothers playing on the same team is always worth mentioning. Two brothers sharing an outfield is even more rare.

 

But what Justin and B.J. Upton have in Atlanta is beyond unique. It has a chance to be historic.

 

B.J. has played 966 games in his major league career, for a total of 23.1 fWAR (FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement). Justin has played 731 games in the majors for 17.1 fWAR, totaling 40.2.

 

Where will the Uptons stack up among brothers who shared an outfield in baseball history?

 

History tells us there is the very real possibility they could rank near the top of this exclusive list by the time they are done in Atlanta.

 

As a quick primer, stats you will see are plate appearances (PA), the triple slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), the usual home runs and runs batted in, walk and strikeout percentages (definitions found here; average is 8.5 BB%, 18.5 K%), weighted on-base average (definition found here; average is .320), weighted runs created plus (definition found here; average is 100), and fWAR (definition found here; anything greater than 0 is considered above replacement level).

 

I compiled the stats of every set of brothers who shared an outfield for at least part of one season in baseball history. What I came across are the usual names, although I knew more about some than others. A brief list of the top five:

 

Lloyd and Paul Waner – 17,473 PA, 97.8 fWAR
Hank and Tommie Aaron – 4, 266 PA, 38.6 fWAR
Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero – 2,834 PA, 17 fWAR
Felipe, Jesus, Matty Alou – 5,021 PA, 15.9 fWAR
Clyde and Horace Milan – 1,425 PA, 7.1 fWAR

 

If you know anything about these players, one of the first things you’ll notice is the weight was carried mostly by one of the two brothers, with the exception of the Waners, who are both Hall of Famers. Hank carried Tommie. Vladimir carried Wilton. Felipe carried Jesus and, for the most part, Matty. Clyde carried Horace. This is a trend that’s found throughout the list.

 

In fact, when averaging out the season of each brother each year (and adding the counting stats), the best season outside the Waners is the 1962 Aarons at .277/.351/.496, 53 HR, 166 RBI, 10.3 BB%, 13.1 K%, .370 wOBA, 128 wRC+, 4.9 fWAR. That year, Hank hit .323/.390/.618, 45 HR, 128 RBI, 9.9 BB%, 10.9 K%, .430 wOBA, 165 wRC+, 8.7 fWAR (and for some reason finished sixth in MVP voting). You can see the difference in talent between these sets of brothers.

 

This is where the Upton situation is very unique. B.J.’s best season came in 2008 when he hit .273/.383/.401, 9 HR, 67 RBI, 15.2 BB%, 20.9 K%, .351 wOBA, 116 wRC+, 5 fWAR. Justin’s best season came in 2011 when he hit .289/.369/.529, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 8.8 BB%, 18.7 K%, .385 wOBA, 139 wRC+, 6.4 fWAR. That .281/.376/.465, 40 HR, 155 RBI, 12 BB%, 19.8 K%, .368 wOBA, 128 wRC+, 5.7 fWAR season would nearly tie Lloyd and Paul Waner’s best combined season. May I remind you the Waners are both Hall of Famers.

 

The balance of talent the Uptons bring the Braves is nearly unprecedented. With B.J. at 28 years old and Justin at 25, they are in/entering their prime and have a chance to duplicate or best their individual seasons. If that happens, they could surpass the Waners as having the best combined season from a pair of outfield brothers in baseball history.

 

On the all-time list, reaching the Waners is a different story. Lloyd and Paul played together on the Pirates from 1927-1940, part of 1941, and again in 1944. While the Uptons are guaranteed three years together in Atlanta, playing that long for one team is a bit of a stretch.

 

However, they are still capable of passing the majority of the list. The combined total of B.J. and Justin’s three best individual seasons equals 27.8 fWAR. That would rank ahead of the Guerreros but fall short of the Aarons, who played seven seasons together.

 

Any way you look at it, the Uptons are almost guaranteed to make an impact on the list of brothers who shared an outfield. If they have some of their best seasons in a Braves uniform, which is entirely possible given their ages, they have a chance to make history.

 

PART II

The complete list of brothers who shared an outfield for at least part of one season:
Lloyd and Paul Waner – 17,473 PA, 97.8 fWAR
Hank and Tommie Aaron – 4, 266 PA, 38.6 fWAR
Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero – 2,834 PA, 17 fWAR
Felipe, Jesus, Matty Alou – 5,021 PA, 15.9 fWAR
Clyde and Horace Milan – 1,425 PA, 7.1 fWAR
Billy and Tony Conigliaro – 1,717 PA, 5.8 fWAR
Jose and Ozzie Canseco – 583 PA, 5.1 fWAR
Fred and Josh Clarke – 687 PA, 4.4 fWAR
Bill and Roy Thomas – 644 PA, 3.5 fWAR
Tony and Chris Gwynn – 598 PA, 2.5 fWAR
Al and Danny Gardella – 517 PA, 1.9 fWAR
Jerry and Scott Hairston – 812 PA, 1.9 fWAR
Gee and Hub Walker – 901 PA, 1.8 fWAR
Hector, Jose, Tommy Cruz – 483 PA, -0.1 fWAR

 

There are 14 sets of brothers who have shared an outfield for at least part of one season. The Waners and Aarons own nine of the top 10 combined seasons. The Guerreros have the 10th best. The only other brothers among the top 18 seasons are Felipe and Jesus Alou at 14th, Jose and Ozzie Canseco at 17th, and Billy and Tony Conigliaro at 18th.

 

The threshold for the Uptons to have the best combined season for outfield brothers came in 1927 by Lloyd and Paul Waner: .368/.417/.480, 11 HR, 158 RBI, 7 BB%, 2.7 K%, .415 wOBA, 138 wRC+, 5.7 fWAR.

 

Felipe, Jesus and Matty Alou remain the only three brothers to share an outfield at the same time, coming in 1963. Felipe was a full-time right fielder, while Jesus and Matty split time among the three outfield spots.

 

There were three instances where the Alous made up the entire Giants outfield that year. On Sept. 15, the Giants beat the Pirates 13-5. Manager Al Dark apparently let the Alous have some fun, creating an all-Alou outfield in the eighth inning. Matty was in left, Felipe in center and Jesus in right.

 

On Sept. 17, the Giants beat the Braves 11-3. The Giants beat on Warren Spahn for four runs in three innings, including a home run by Felipe. In the ninth inning, Matty was in left, Felipe played center and Jesus was in right. Also in this game, with all three Alous in the outfield, Tommie Aaron pinch hit in the ninth. Hank started in right field for the Braves, making it a game in which five siblings stepped on the field.

 

On Sept. 22, the Giants beat the Mets 13-4. Dark had an all-Alou outfield in the seventh inning, with Matty in left, Felipe in center and Jesus in right.

 

In 1990, Jose Canseco hit .274/.371/.543, 37 HR, 101 RBI, 12.8 BB%, 28.1 K%, .399 wOBA, 157 wRC+, 5.4 fWAR. Brother Ozzie had 20 plate appearances that year. They shared an outfield once: July 26, Angels 4, Athletics 2 in 11 innings. Jose started in right field, Ozzie was in left.

 

The Hairstons, a famous baseball family, represented the Padres in 2010. Jerry played everywhere, including the corner outfield spots, and Scott played a lot of innings in left and center. They shared an outfield three times: April 9, 19 and 20. Also, on July 1, they split the game in left field.

 

Other interesting facts as I did this research that don’t involve outfield brothers:

 

Dick and Hank Allen were brief teammates in ’72 when Dick won MVP.
Carson and Lyle Bigbee together on 1921 Pirates; Carson 146 games in OF, Lyle 8 innings on mound; Lyle played 13 games in OF with Philadelphia A’s previous season.
Hall of Famer Buck Ewing played 81 games at catcher in 1890; John Ewing threw 267.1 innings; brother battery for 35 games, including 28 starts (sabr.org).
Hall of Famer Rick Ferrell and Wes Ferrell were brother battery as teammates between 1934-37, 1937-38.

 

Sources: FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.

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