Those Crazy First-Sackers

For the rest of the week I am going to be taking a position-by-position look at players, discussing the best and worst in certain measures. For those keeping score at home, we are going to begin with first basemen, position number three in your lineup key. According to our leaderboard page, there were 27 players that qualified for inclusion amongst first basemen, ranging from the brilliance of Albert Pujols to the, well, complete opposite of brilliance produced by Daric Barton. Via WPA/LI, Albert Pujols was over one and a half wins better than any other first baseman. He should be the senior circuit’s most valuable player, though that much is yet to be seen. Here are the top five in terms of context-neutral wins:

Albert Pujols, 6.48
Lance Berkman, 4.81
Mark Teixeira, 4.69
Adrian Gonzalez, 3.43
Carlos Delgado, 3.00

And the bottom five:

Daric Barton, -1.09
Kevin Millar, -0.85
Ryan Garko, -0.48
Paul Konerko, 0.02
Casey Kotchman, 0.22

Interesting how the fourth and fifth worst marks in this metric were still above average, which goes to show just how offensive-minded of a position first base can be. Speaking of offense, Ryan Howard led all first basemen with 48 home runs. Lance Berkman led with 18 stolen bases, which I am still having trouble wrapping my head around. Justin Morneau may not have lit the world on fire with longballs, and may not even be the most valuable player on his own team, let alone the league, but he did lead first basemen with 47 doubles.

James Loney and Conor Jackson tied for the lead with 6 triples apiece; somehow, Ryan Howard managed to hit four three-baggers. Straight out of the not-so-shocking department, Albert Pujols led with 104 walks, and struck out just 54 times. Unfortunately for Albert, Casey Kotchman fanned just 39 times, for the lowest total. But, Pujols posted the highest ISO at .296 and highest OPS at 1.114, so something tells me he wouldn’t let finishing second in least strikeouts amongst first basemen bother him too much.

Mike Jacobs, who hit for plenty of power this year but virtually refused to get on base any other way, swung the most, offering at 54% of the pitches thrown his way. Albert once again topped all first basemen, this time in contact made, as he was able to get his bat on 90% of the pitches he swung at. Kevin Youkilis, formerly nicknamed the Greek God of Walks, is still displaying excellent patience, so it is no wonder he led with 53.47% of pitches seen in the strike zone. After all, if he will not swing at a pitch outside the zone, why throw them with great frequency?

In the fielding department, Mark Teixeira led with a +24, followed by Pujols at +20, the surprising Joey Votto at +19, Lance Berkman at +18, and Carlos Pena at +14. Based on the WPA/LI and fielding data, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, and Lance Berkman were the three best first basemen this year, with the order of Tex and Lance virtually being up to he who decides to arrange them in a given order. Plenty of first-sackers may hit for power, but these three displayed brilliance all around. Lastly, Geovany Soto likely has the Rookie of the Year award in the national league locked up, but Joey Votto had a very, very good year, largely under the radar, displaying both power and solid fielding skills. Hopefully for Reds fans he can build upon this year and not experience any type of slump next season.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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There’s that old saying about being able to turn doubles into triples. Maybe Howard has the ability to turn inside-the-parkers into triples.