A Recent History of Pittsburgh Pirates First Base Difficulties

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Pittsburgh Pirates Jaso
Pittsburgh Pirates Jaso /

For a long time now the Pittsburgh Pirates have had a difficult time finding a permanent everyday first basemen. In this article we review some of the Pirates’ recent attempts to find a solution and look into the future of the position.

A Lack of Stability

While there could still be changes in store between now and Opening Day, the likely “primary starter” for the non-pitching fielding positions is generally known for the 2017 Pirates. However, like in many past seasons, this cannot be said for first base. In fact, each season since 2009 has seen a different player starting the most games at the position. This “primary starter” by season has also tended to start a smaller share of the overall games versus other teams. In fact, the much maligned Pedro Alvarez actually has the most starts at first base in a season during this time period with 119 in 2015.

This low number may not seem shocking at first given the relative de-emphasis on fielding at first base, which encourages platooning. However, the Astros are the only other team that‘s failed to have a “primary starter” at first base for 120 games or more in a season since 2009. What I’m trying to get at here is that no position has seen as much instability for the Pittsburgh Pirates in recent years as first base.

The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had the same player as “primary starter” for at least two consecutive seasons was 2007-2009. During those years, Adam LaRoche started 362 games total at first base and was the “primary starter” in 2009 despite being traded at midseason. Though the Pirates have seen their fortunes change since then, they have been unable to find a long-term solution at first base.

Garrett Jones was the “primary starter” in 2010, and played the most games at the position for the next several years. However, he usually shared or even ceded duties to players such as Lyle Overbay, Casey McGehee, or Gaby Sanchez. Meanwhile, a who’s who of players including Ike Davis, the aforementioned Alvarez, and John Jaso have at various times been “the guy” at First Base. Between this and other players seeing significant action, the Pirates have had quite a few notable first basemen in recent years.