Skeet McGrew - Cobb Times Herald
With all the talk around the league of who has the best lineup, the Times Herald is taking a retrospective look at some of the most dominant lineups in the history of Cobb World. In the first of a continuing series, we examine in depth the original murderer's row in Cobb, the season two Huntington Hillbillies, which to this day might still be the most awe inspiring collection of hitters the league has ever seen.
The Season Two Huntington Hillbillies
--The Huntington Hillbillies won the first World Series in Cobb History in season 1, behind some truly impressive bats. But this team really came into their own as an offensive megapower in season 2, when they scored a mind boggling 1,383 runs and had five of their eight position players make the All Star Team. To put that number in perspective, in season 17 the top scoring team was Vancouver, who led Cobb World with 934 runs. So who were the cogs in this incredible offensive machine, of which seven starters knocked in over 100 runs, and had six players with an OPS over 1.000? Only some of the most legendary names in Cobb; Barrios, McConnell, Tavarez, and Newman to name a few. Huntington ultimately lost in the World Series that season, but it wasn't the fault of the offense, that much is for sure. Following is a positional analysis of one of the best teams in Cobb History.
Catcher - Vitas Newman *ALL STAR*
--Newman was one of the greatest offensive catchers in early Cobb history, with humongous power and a tremendous batting eye. In season two he batted .326 with 126 runs, 35 HR's, 128 RBI's, 107 walks, and an OPS of 1.131. Those numbers still stand as some of the best ever put up by a catcher in a single season.
First Base - Francisco Tavarez *ALL STAR*
-- Tavarez might not have been the most talented member of the lineup, that honor surely belonged to Barrios, but he did put up the best season of all of the Hillbillies, and the best season of any player in Cobb history. Tavarez's legendary season saw him hit .411 with 144 runs, 39 doubles, 46 HR's, 165 RBI's, and an OPS of 1.321. He also had a 27 game hitting streak that season. To this day no other hitter for any team in Cobb has surpassed the .400 mark for the season, or posted an OPS as high. Amazingly, Tavarez didn't win the MVP, as that honor went to another player in this lineup.
Second Base - Fred McConnell *ALL STAR*
--In the history of Cobb leadoff men McConnell stands tall, and his numbers in season 2 are no exception. He batted .353 with 173 runs, 48 doubles, 28 triples, 29 HR's, 130 RBI's, 116 walks, 35 SB's, and an OPS of 1.184. It's hard to believe that those numbers weren't the best on his team, given that McConnell's year ranks 5th all time in single season OPS.
Shortstop - Louie Sanchez
--Perhaps the weakest link in the Hillbillies lineup in season two was SS Louie Sanchez. But weakness is relative, as he still hit .285 with 143 runs, 33 HR's, 134 RBI's, 89 walks, and an OPS of .977. On most any other team in any other year those would be the numbers of an all star, but for this Hillbillies lineup was only good enough to bat seventh or eighth in the lineup.
Third Base - Shawn Philips *ALL STAR*
--The hot corner is usually the domain of a slugger, and Philips handled that role well for Huntington in season two. He batted .347 with 121 runs, 42 doubles, 35 HR's, 130 RBI's, and an OPS of 1.033. Not too shabby!
Left Field - Ray Moeller
--Moeller has the dubious distinction of being one of two members of the Hillbillies lineup to post an OPS below .900 in season 2. All Moeller did was bat .287 with 124 runs, 37 doubles, 17 HR's, 94 RBI's, and an OPS of .857.
Center Field - Trent King
--King was the other player in the Hillbillies lineup to be sub .900 in OPS in season 2, but not by much. He hit .308 with 90 runs, 34 doubles, 15 HR's, 105 RBI's, and an OPS of .887. It's safe to say though that most teams would be happy with that production from their CF.
Right Field - Jose Barrios *ALL STAR*
--Now universally recognized as the greatest player in the history of Cobb, Barrios was merely an awesomely talented youngster for the Hillbillies in season 2. He was the anchor of the lineup, and won the MVP that season with another one of the single greatest years in Cobb history, batting .338 with 173 runs, 66 HR's, 174 RBI's, 129 walks, and an OPS of 1.214, the third greatest OPS in Cobb history.
--The Hillbillies bench wasn't a slouch either, with every regular sub posting an OPS of essentially .800 or higher. Notable among them was Randall Sikorski, with an OPS of 1.001 in 218 AB's, P.T. Henderson posting a .912 OPS with 99 runs and 83 RBI's in 435 AB's, and Jim Oliver, who posted a .797 OPS in 259 AB's.
So there you have it, on paper and in practice one of the single greatest lineups in Cobb history. It may not have been the most balanced, but no other lineup since has posted the kind of slugging numbers that Huntington did in season two.