NL Central First Basemen: Proven Bashers Minus One

When it comes to the first base position in the NL Central, each team must have a basher.  A hitter that hits at least 25 home runs.  A muscle man who when he has 80 RBI it’s considered an off year.  A player so valuable that a VORP rating of 34.9 doesn’t even get you a bronze medal. 

Well, every team in the NL Central has that basher except for the Pirates.   The Pirates project to be the skinny kid who gets sand kicked in their face and pushed around on Venice Beach.

As you know when ranking the divisional first baseman, the Bucs have a glaring question mark.  An unproven player named Jeff Clement.  But as you will see as RumBunter continues with our positional breakdown series this week, the Pirates entire infield ranks poorly.  At every infield position the Pirates are near the bottom.

NL CENTRAL 1B RUMBUNTER RANKINGS

1.  The Cardinals have Albert Pujols, the best player in baseball.  The Fort Osage, Missouri high school student who, on game days, would wear his baseball uniform to school.  He is unstoppable.   He no longer even needs a uniform to be recognized in public.  Especially after nine consecutive years of 30HR and 100RBI. 

Pujols slugged 735 at PNC Park in 2009 with 3HR, two doubles and 25 total bases, while at Busch he slugged 900 and had 11 hits in 20 at-bats including a double, 2HR and 4RBI.  Pirate pitchers didn’t have the answer against King Albert who hit 550 at Busch and 412 at PNC Park.

Pujols struck out just three times in his 54 at-bats while getting walked six.

VORP:  98.3 

BAVG: .327
OBP: .443 (led NL)
SLG: .658 (led NL)
H: 186
HR: 47 (led NL)
RBI: 135
Runs: 124 (led NL)
*All-Star
*Silver Slugger
*NL MVP

2.  The Brewers have Prince Fielder, who grew up taking batting practice at the Skydome in Toronto,  Detroit, and even Yankee Stadium. His 2009 stats made it appear that he was using National League pitchers for batting practice again.  Also, Fielder loved it,  he played in all 162 games.  Against the Bucs at PNC Park,  Fielder had a 361OBP, 2HR, 7RBI, 14TB, 4BB, and 8K. 

At Miller Park he had a 385OBP, 1HR, 6RBI, 11TB, 5BB, and 4K.  Pirate pitchers held Fielder to a 238 average in Miller Park and 261 average at PNC.

VORP: 70.3

BAVG: .299
OBP: .412
SLG: .602
H: 177
HR: 46
RBI: 141 (led NL)
Runs: 103
*All-Star

 3. Derek Lee does it all for the Cubs.  We especially like his glove.  If only he would have said yes to UNC legend Dean Smith’s offer to play hoops, Pirate fans might have been able to relax a little more when Lee walked to the plate against the Bucs.  

Lee had 14 RBI against the Bucs in 39 at-bats.  He slugged 640 SLG at PNC with 3HR, 5RBI; and hit 500 at Wrigley while slugging 640 with 9RBI.

Image: Lee

VORP: 51.0

BAVG: .306
OBP: .393
SLG: .579
H: 163
HR: 35
RBI: 111
Runs: 91

4. Joey Votto  has a huge upside as one of the best young sluggers in baseball.  Votto can’t even get on the medal stand in the slugger filled NL Central though.  Votto played 20 fewer games in 2009, but still improved on his rookie numbers.  The Great American Ballpark doesn’t hurt Vottos’ numbers either, but Votto actually hit better at PNC Park with a 667 SLG thanks to 7 doubles.  He had 8RBI  and a hefty 472 average to go along with a 548 OBP. 

While at Great American, Votto had 4 singles, 3 doubles and his only homer against the Bucs.  Votto was walked 12 times and struck out ten times in 2009 vs Pirate pitchers.

VORP:  51.6

BAVG: .322
OBP: .414
SLG: .567
H: 151
HR: 25
RBI: 84
Runs: 82

5. Lance Berkman might not have another 40HR season, but the numbers still keep coming.  Berkman can be counted on to produce for the Astros this season, but just how much Berkman is able to build on his numbers is a big question mark with a weakened lineup around him. 

Against Pirate pitchers at Minute Maid, he slugged 778 with 5 doubles, 2HR and 6RBI.  At PNC, the Bucs struck out Berkman 9 times in 24 at-bats holding him to a homer, two doubles and 4RBI. 

In the video below he talks about a solo shot that helped down the Bucs 9-1 late in the year. 

VORP: 34.9

BAVG: .274
OBP: .399
SLG: .509
H: 126
HR: 25
RBI: 80
Runs: 73
So does Jeff Clement have a shot at breaking the top five?  Well, no. 
The big question is can he put up respectable power numbers that the Pirates so desperately need in 2010?  The ridiculous production the opposing first basemen in the division provide their ball clubs isn’t going to end anytime soon, so looking at Clement do you think he is the answer? 
 

Clement certainly has the potential to put up numbers, he’s not a skinny kid that will be pushed around, he just hasn’t done it in the bigs.  Ever.    Is it out of the question to think Clement can do it?  Nah, just not likely this season.  The Pirates need to find out what he can do at the major league level, it’s just another example of why the organization needs more talent in case Clement isn’t the answer.

So for this season, we can see 15-17 HR and a VORP of 6.0.  Obviously, not  anywhere near the production the rest of the division will see from their first basemen.   (Nor will that be the production Mr. LaRoche once provided, but the upside for much, much more from Clement is there, he just needs to prove it.) 

Perhaps Clement can cut out that form above and get the Atlas program sent to him before spring training starts?  He’s going to need it.

More importantly, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to need it.

More on Jeff Clement:   Clement’s Trying Journey from Third Overall Pick to Pirate First Baseman

MLB.com and JockBio.com were used extensively in this post.

Tags: Albert Pujols Derek Lee Jeff Clement Lance Berkman Prince Fielder

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