Who Is No Longer on First Base

Who Is No Longer on First.  Guest post by Joe Luchok

As the Pittsburgh Pirates off season plods along it brings to mind the old skit made famous by Abbott and Costello commonly known as Who’s On First. With the Pirates it appears that I Don’t Know is on first, rather than Who.

 

All we know at this point is Gaby Sanchez will probably be on first when the team faces a lefty. When they face a righty there are candidates falling from trees. In house are Andrew Lambo and the recently signed Travis Ishikawa. Outside the team we have heard Mitch Moreland, Ike Davis, Justin Smoak, and others. Perhaps a bigger question than who is how much does it matter?

It has been a long time since the Pirates had an above average offense first baseman. They have received close to average production at first a few times over the past 20 years, including the past two seasons.

Gaby Sanchez was tweeted by the Pirates with his new hat

Gaby Sanchez was tweeted by the Pirates with his new hat

Let’s take a trip back and look at first base the past 20 years.

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1993 Kevin Young .236 with 6 HR 47 RBI

NL average .287 21 RBI 92 RBI

1994 Brian Hunter .227 11 HR 47 RBI

NL average .292 19 HR 73 RBI

1995 Mark Johnson .208 13 HR 28 RBI

NL average .277 22 HR 89 RBI

1996 Mark Johnson .274 13 HR 47 RBI

NL average .284 23 HR 100 RBI

1997 Kevin Young .300 18 HR 74 RBI

NL average .282 26 HR 103 RBI

1998 Kevin Young .270 27 HR 108 RBI

NL average .282 26 HR 106 RBI

1999 Kevin Young .298 26 HR 106 RBI

NL average .288 27 HR 104 RBI

2000 Kevin Young .258 20 HR 88 RBI

NL average .283 31 HR 110 RBI

2001 Kevin Young .232 14 HR 65 RBI

NL average .266 27 HR 101 RBI

2002 Kevin Young .246 16 HR 51 RBI

NL average .269 25 HR 90 RBI

2003 Randall Simon .274 10 HR 51 RBI

NL average .278 28 HR 99 RBI

2004 Daryle Ward .249 15 HR 57 RBI

NL average .280 27 HR 97 RBI

2005 Daryle Ward .260 12 HR 63 RBI

NL average .280 28 HR 96 RBI

2006 Sean Casey and Ryan Doumit –Casey was .296 3HR 29 RBI Doumit was .208 6 HR 17 RBI

NL average .290 30 HR 105 RBI

2007 Adam LaRoche .272 21 HR 88 RBI

NL average .284 27 HR 98 RBI

2008 Adam LaRoche .270 25 HR 85 RBI

NL average .276 28 HR 103 RBI

2009 a combination of players hit .248 21 HR 68 RBI Adam LaRoche played 86 games and Steve Pearce 41 combining for 16 HR and 55 RBI

NL average .282 27 HR 102 RBI

2010 7 players had games at first combining for .227 17 HR and 68 RBI Garrett Jones played the most with 110 games at first, hitting .234 11 HR 53 RBI

NL average .268 26 HR 94 RBI

2011 Lyle Overbay .227 8 HR 37 RBI Derrek Lee joined the team late in 28 games hit .337 with 7 HR 18 RBI

NL average .270 24HR 92 RBI

2012 Casey McGehee played 71 games at first .269 7 HR 27 RBI Garrett Jones played 69 games .263 13 HR 40 RBI

NL average .266 22 HR 89 RBI

2013 Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez, and Justin Morneau combined for.264 17 HR 71 RBI

NL average .264 21 HR 85 RBI.

Garrett Freakin' Jones delivered the walk off for the second night in a row. Pirates drop Reds 5-4

Garrett Freakin’ Jones delivered the walk off for the second night in a row. Pirates drop Reds 5-4

Pirates first basemen have been above the league average in batting average twice, both Kevin Young, and very close to league average in 2012 and 2013. Kevin Young, in 1998, was only the Pirate first baseman above league average in home runs. Kevin Young was also above league average in RBI in both 1998 and 1999.

The Pirates have not a full above average season from a first baseman since Jason Thompson in 1982 when he batted .284 with 31 HR and 101 RBI and the NL average was .277 18 HR and 89 RBI.

Another question is how important is a good hitting first baseman? The division teams of the early 1990s did not get much offense from first. In 1990 Sid Bream hit .270 with 15 HR and 67 RBI. In 1991 Orlando Merced hit .275 with 10 HR and 50 RBI. In 1992 Merced hit .247 with 6 HR and 60 RBI.

Of course I did not look at defense but last season they went 35-25 in games Gaby Sanchez started, 67-44 in games Garrett Jones started (82 of his starts were at first), and 13-12 in games Justin Morneau started. Morneau was the best defender but that did not translate to a better team record.

It would be nice to have a first baseman who hits .290 with 30 HR and 100 RBI, but such first basemen are not common. Last season Paul Goldschmidt hit 36 HR but the next highest was 24 HR by Joey Votto. Only three first basemen drove in 100 or more runs. The Pirates went as deep or deeper into the playoffs as any of the teams with those first basemen.

That brings us back to the beginning. Who knows who will on first when the Pirates face a righty but it is likely whoever it is will, in combination with Sanchez, will produce stats close to the league average

Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

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