Red Sox Memories: Greatest outfields in franchise history
Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, and Duffy Lewis first formed their offensive and defensive collective in 1910, but the five-years for 1911-1915 saw two World Series wins. Hooper and Speaker are in the HOF and Lewis hit .289 in his Red Sox career. What is of interest is this was never ranked on FanGraphs metrics as the best outfield in any one season. They averaged 13.8 fWar in that time frame. The Athletics and Tigers fared better.
Speaker was gone from Boston after 1915 and shipped to the Indians where he won his only batting title. Speaker was also the Most Valuable Player in 1912. All three were steady and productive on offense in an age that devalued the home run and elevated speed and defensive prowess.
Speaker is considered one of the great defensive players at his position noted for his remarkable ability to play shallow. That style resulted in the accumulation of both assists and double plays – may of those DP’s were unassisted. Speaker also transitioned from the Dead Ball Era to the Lively Ball Era both offensively and defensively.
One historical note with Speaker is he almost became a New York Giant. In 1907, Speaker arrived in Boston and the Red Sox were so impressed with his .158 average that he was not offered a contract in the offseason. Speaker – a Texan – dropped in on John McGraw whose Giants were spring training in Marin, Texas, and offered his services. McGraw refused – twice – and Speaker stayed with Boston.
Lewis was so adept at managing the incline in left field that it soon took on the name of “Duffy’s Cliff.” Lewis also reportedly had a strong arm and would routinely get 20+ assists.
The last is Hooper who covers the large Fenway Park (no bullpens) right field with skill and possibly the strongest arm of his era. Ed Barrow in his “My Fifty Years In Baseball” lays claim to this being the best defensive outfield he saw.
Then comes the Total Zone. How accurate is that metric? The Red Sox twice led in TZ and cumulatively they were first over that period. In Bill James “Historical Baseball Abstract” he had this group as the best defensive outfield for three years – 1912, 1914, and 1915. To James, they were the best of the era. James also has them at the top in 1910. Good enough for me.