A Recent History of Pittsburgh Pirates First Base Difficulties

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Pittsburgh Pirates Garrett Jones
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Garrett Jones Years

Garrett Jones is as close as the Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten to a long-time first basemen in recent years. He earned this distinction despite only starting over half of the team’s games at the position once in his five seasons with the team (2009-2013). This came in 2010 when he started 106 games at first base.

After ceding the position to Lyle Overbay for one season, he returned as “primary starter” for two more seasons. A more accurate representation of his role during these years, however, would be co-starter with Casey McGehee and Gaby Sanchez. McGehee and Sanchez were both right-handed batters, making them natural platoon partners with Jones’ left-handed bat. The logic in this usage of Jones is backed by his career .194/.237/.333 slash line against left-handed pitching compared with .265/.330/.473 against right-handed pitching.

Who Remembers Lyle Overbay?

Because of his lackluster numbers against southpaws, Garrett Jones could not be an everyday first baseman in 2011. Jones was sent to right field and the Pirates brought in Lyle Overbay to be their everyday first baseman.

Though he was a lifetime .274 hitter at the time, Overbay was 34. He had also hit a disappointing .243 the previous year with Toronto. Despite these lackluster numbers, he had hit 20 home runs that season. Additionally, the Pirates likely hoped he would be a good leader in what was then a young clubhouse.

The Pirates ended up having a decent year, unexpectedly contending into the month of August in Clint Hurdle’s first season. However the same could not be said for Overbay. In 103 appearances for the Pirates, the veteran slashed .227/.300/.349. He would also fail to hit 10 home runs for the first time since 2003. He wasn’t much better in the field either. He finished with-4 defensive runs saved and a -8.4 UZR/150. Overall, it was Overbay’s worst season across the board to that point in his career. He was a below replacement level player during his brief time with the Pirates (-0.5 bWAR and -1.0 fWAR).

The Pittsburgh Pirates cut their losses with Overbay when he was designated for assignment after the acquisition of Derrek Lee at the trade deadline. He would end up being released and eventually sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the remainder of the season. After bouncing around for a few more seasons, Overbay finally retired following the 2014 season. Meanwhile, the Pirates would begin their theme of platooning at first base the next season.