I must’ve looked at 50 covers for this book online. None of them had pictures of Felipe and Moises.

[Look, this might possibly amuse you somewhat, but if you’ve got anything better to do with your next 10 minutes, just move on. But if you’re tired of the Hot Stove League, this is…. something else.]

Today’s analysis starts where so many of my analytical questions start: in my neighborhood bar.  We were watching 13-year-old Charlie Woods in a golf tournament with some old balding guy as his caddy and we started thinking about great father-son athletes.  All the usual names came up.  But of course the vast majority were situations where the father and the son played the same sport, for reasons that are explained by both nature and nurture.  Grant and Calvin Hill are the great counterexample here, but if Pat Sr had had a little better career, the Mahomes’ would probably be in the mix as well.

But I then asked the question: what if you thought of pitching and batting as fundamentally different sporting profiles?  Who is the best pitching-batting father-son duo of all time, and who is the best batting-pitching father-son duo?  Now that started a bar conversation.  And while we came up with a number of the pairs in the list I’m about to give you. It’s an interesting data exercise as well.  (At least to someone who finds data exercises intrinsically interesting.) And while one of us (not me) came up with number 1 on the list, there were quite a few that nobody came up with. While I’m explaining what I’m doing, give the question a little thought yourself. 

So where to start?  Well, the very first place (thanks, Google) is Baseball Almanac’s list of all the father-son pairs in MLB history.  267 pairs. Without that, this would have been impossible.  With it, it was pretty simple. For each father-son pair, you then get four numbers: Father’s Pitching WAR, Father’s Batting WAR, Son’s Pitching WAR, Son’s Batting WAR.  These are all available in two pretty easy files to use at Baseball Reference (here and here) after a little manipulation to sum across guy’s careers.

But to get the best pair, you can’t just add the relevant WAR components.  If you do, you’ll find that the best dad-pitching, son-batting duo is Roger Clemens (138) + Kody Clemens (-.38), with the Bonds’ (163/0) being tops in the other direction.

So the right way to do this is using geometric averages, not sums.  This is what Bill James used to create his Power-Speed number, which was sqrt(HR x Steals).  The farther apart the two numbers, the closer the rating is to the bottom number.  And if the two ratings are equal, they geometric rating matches it as well. (If the bottom rating is below zero, I just set it to zero.)

So here are the top 20:

DadBat WARPitch WarSonBat WARPitch WarGMean
Tom Gordon-0.135.0Dee Strange-Gordon12.7-0.121.1
Vern Law6.326.0Vance Law10.60.116.6
Chris Speier30.60.0Justin Speier0.07.715.3
Dave LaRoche0.714.4Adam LaRoche14.20.014.3
George Sisler54.82.3Dave Sisler0.03.012.9
Tony Armas15.80.0Tony Armas, Jr.-1.58.311.5
Diego Segui0.612.0David Segui10.40.011.2
Jeff Shaw-0.213.9Travis Shaw8.30.010.8
Dixie Walker0.42.5Dixie Walker44.90.010.6
Bob Oliver4.30.0Darren Oliver1.021.29.5
Ivan Rodriguez68.70.0Dereck Rodriguez-
Mel Stottlemyre2.440.7Todd Stottlemyre1.921.08.8
Jimmy Cooney8.30.0Johnny Cooney8.59.28.7
Tom Gordon-0.135.0Nick Gordon2.0-0.38.4
Dizzy Trout4.645.2Steve Trout0.113.27.8
Jim Bagby1.229.7Jim Bagby, Jr.
Gary Roenicke15.40.0Josh Roenicke-
Dixie Walker0.42.5Harry Walker12.40.05.6
Ron Davis-0.14.9Ike Davis5.70.15.3
George Sisler54.82.3Dick Sisler7.20.04.1

There are several interesting things in this list:

  • There are no Bonds, no Alous, no Griffeys, no Boones.  There are only two Hall of Famers: George Sisler, and he is paired with both of his children Dave and Dick; and Pudge Rodriguez, whose son Dereck converted to pitcher, earned 1.3 WAR and now appears to be about done.
  • Dee Strange-Gordon is still active, of course, so barring a number of highly negative years, their lead will widen.  Nick Gordon could rise on this list quite rapidly if he stays a 2-ish WAR player.  Indeed, he could easily pass his big brother.
  • The forgettable Dixie Walker, Sr. is the bookend to Sisler – he had two accomplished batting sons combined with his own undistinguished pitching career to make this list.
  • Mel, Sr. and Todd Stottlemyre are on this only because Mel could hit.  Same with the Trouts. Pitchers with positive career batting WARs are rare. There are a few more examples farther down the complete list, including Clyde and Jaret Wright.

Anyway, the current answer is Flash and Dee Gordon.  I wanted Adam LaRoche to finish higher, but 4th is pretty respectable, and the LaRoche’s are the most balanced pair on the list, with almost identical careers of 14+ WAR.

In my bar discussion, I thought Ron and Ike Davis would rank more highly.  Apparently, I overrated both of them. They were pretty balanced.

From bar discussion to computer crunching to blog post.  That’s how I roll.