So, as we continue in this series, we’re gonna just go around the field based on the position’s defensive number (a la the defensive number assigned to each position for the purposes of scoring a game). So, we’re starting at first base. This is a position that is primarily a power position. You don’t expect much in the way of speed, and defense is kind of like icing on the cake. So, let’s start with MLB Network’s top 10:
1. Albert Pujols (.299, 37 HR, 99 RBI, .906 OPS)
2. Joey Votto (.309, 29 HR, 103 RBI, .947 OPS)
3. Adrian Gonzalez (.338, 27 HR, 113 RBI, .957 OPS)
4. Prince Fielder (.299, 38 HR, 120 RBI, .981 OPS)
5. Lance Berkman (.301, 31 HR, 94 RBI, .959 OPS)
6. Paul Konerko (.300, 31 HR, 105 RBI, .906 OPS)
7. Mark Teixeira (.248, 39 HR, 111 RBI, .835 OPS)
8. Ryan Howard (.253, 33 HR, 116 RBI, .835 OPS)
9. Justin Morneau (.274, 30 HR, 100 RBI, .878 OPS – 2009 stats, his last full season)
10. Todd Helton (.302, 14 HR, 69 RBI, .850 OPS)
Now, for my top 10. Mine isn’t likely to have many new names, but will definitely be in a different order. And, to give you an idea of what stats I’m using, here they are: Offense – Avg., HR, RBI, OPS, wRC+ (weighted runs created plus – compares a player’s runs created to the rest of the league), ISO (isolated power – measures a player’s ability to get extra-base hits), and WAR; Defense – DRS (defensive runs saved), and RZR (revised zone rating – measures a player’s range at their position). So, here we go:
1. Joey Votto – highest overall WAR the last two years, and ranks in the top 3 in 5 offensive categories, top 10 in the other two, and is an average defender. He gets just the slightest edge at #1 also because he doesn’t turn 29 until September.
2. Adrian Gonzalez – ranks in the top 10 in every category (offense & defense). The only reason he isn’t #1 is because he only ranks in the top 3 in one category (batting average), and he’ll be 30 in May.
3. Albert Pujols – ranks in the top 5 in every offensive category and is an average defender. However, he’s already 32, and just finished a season in which he saw career lows in RBI, Avg., OBP, Slg., OPS, and a career high in GIDP. No one should have given him a 10-year contract, considering the gradual decline his numbers have seen the last 3 seasons. He’s still a top-5 first baseman – but, for how long?
4. Prince Fielder – new team, new division, probably the same or better results. The AL Central isn’t exactly stacked with star pitchers (especially since he doesn’t have to face the ones on his own team), so Fielder should have a great year in this lineup. His defense is well below average, but he ranks in the top 10 in every offensive category the last two years. And, he’s just turning 28 in May.
5. Paul Konerko – outside Chicago, does anyone really know how good this guy is? Over the last two seasons, his numbers are actually better than Fielder’s! But, Fielder is coming into his prime, while Konerko just turned 36.
6. Mark Teixeira – ranks in the top 10 in 6 of 7 offensive categories (including two top-3 appearances). His fielding isn’t great though, which makes you wonder if he’ll end up DH-ing eventually. He’ll also be 32 in April, and may be showing some signs of aging. But, he’s still very good.
7. Justin Morneau – this is, of course, assuming he can stay healthy. Actually, if he stays healthy, he could be in the top 5. How quickly we forget that he won an MVP in ’06, and finished 2nd in ’08. But, he’ll be 31 in May, and hasn’t played an injury-free season since ’08.
8. Lance Berkman – appears in the top 10 in 5 offensive categories, and is an average (at best) defender. Berkman is now 36, and doesn’t have Pujols in the same lineup anymore. And, Carlos Beltran isn’t exactly going to make up for it. I expect a noticeable decline in Berkman’s performance this year.
9. Ryan Howard – already showing signs of decline, and he’s just 32. He still has 4 top-10 appearances in offense. His defense is putrid, but, again, that’s not what most people care much about at this position.
10. Aubrey Huff – and, my lone new name for the list is here at the bottom. He’s only a notch behind Howard, even though he’s 35. But, he also only has 3 top-10’s, and two of those are defensive. He’s an excellent defensive first baseman, but has mostly slightly above-average offensive numbers.
I have to say that I have NO idea what MLB Network was doing putting Todd Helton in the top 10. He’ll be 39 in August, hasn’t played a full season since ’09, and while he’s an above-average fielder, his numbers are below average in 4 of the remaining 7 categories, and right around middle-of-the-pack in the other 3. Even Carlos Pena, who certainly hasn’t excelled the last two years, would deserve to be ahead of Helton. That’s a big swing-and-miss by MLBN in my opinion. What do you think?