All Time Top Ten: First Basemen (updated 7/21/13)

Continuing my posts on the ten greatest of all time at each position –

1. Lou Gehrig  1923-1939   2164G, 493HR, 1995 RBI, .340 BA, 178OPS+

No surprise here, although Pujols may have the best chance since Jimmie Foxx to knock Gehrig out of this spot.

2.  Albert Pujols 2001-Present  1958G, 492HR, 1498RBI, .321 BA, 165OPS+

Even though he’s still active, I have no reservations about putting Pujols this high.  We are watching a legend in action.  (Update 7/21/13)  I now have some reservations..  Pujols had mediocre (for him) seasons in 2011 and 2012, and he’s had an even worse 2013..  the end result is he’s dropped ten points on his lifetime batting average and 7 points on his OPS..  a bad 2014 and he’ll slip behind Jimmie Foxx most likely into 3rd.

3. Jimmie Foxx 1925-1945  2317G, 534HR, 1922 RBI, .325BA, 163OPS+

Foxx was essentially done as a player at 32. I can’t imagine what he might have done had his career lasted longer.

4. Hank Greenberg 1930-1947 1394G, 331HR, 1276 RBI, .313BA, 158 OPS+

Greenberg was an absolute monster hitter.  He played in relatively few games due to a few factors.  He missed most of the 1936 season due to a wrist injury, and spent more service time in WWII than any other major leaguer.  he was actually discharged honorably due to age before the war even started, but reenlisted after the bombing of pearl harbor.  In 1945 at age 34 he returned to the majors hitting .311 with 13 home runs in 78 games.  In 1946 he led the American league in home runs and RBIs but hit a career low .277  He finished 8th in MVP voting although he was the second best hitter in the league to Ted Williams.  In 1947 he was traded to the Pirates and hit 25 home runs in just 402 At Bats and lead the National league in walks. His average was just .249 however and he retired at age 36.

5.  Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005  2150G, 449HR, 1529 RBI, .297 BA,  149OPS+

Maybe a surprising choice.  With first basemen, unless you’re a really bad fielder – it’s all about how good a hitter you are.. and Bagwell was among the best..I see no reason not to rate Bagwell 4th.

6.  Willie McCovey 1959-1980 2588G, 521HR, 1555RBI, .270BA, 147OPS+

The second best Willie in Giants history.

7.  Frank Thomas 1990-2008 2322G, 521 HR, 1704HR, .301 BA, 156 OPS+

Oh, what could have been.. for the first 8 years of his career Thomas was as good as any first baseman, or even hitter in history.. then the Big Hurt became, well, hurt.  injuries sapped him of his talent and relegated him to a full time DH.  He was never a good fielder anyway

8.  Harmon Killebrew 1954-1975 2435G, 573HR, 1584HR, .256BA, 143 OPS+

Where to put a guy like Harmon Killebrew? He only played 969 games at first, but that was almost 200 more than anywhere else.  He basically did two things:  Hit towering home runs and draw walks.  But he did both these things better than anyone else in the 60’s.

9.  Cap Anson 1871-1897 2524G, 97HR, 2075RBI, .334BA, 142 OPS+

The guy who this blog is named after.  He, more than anyone else epitomizes 19th century baseball. He played every year except two in that century.

10. Mark McGwire 1986-2001 1874G, 583HR, 1414RBI, .263BA, 162 OPS+

I debated leaving McGwire off altogether.  In the end I just decided to guesstimate where he’s be if steroids never existed.. I think around here.  statistically he’s the greatest power hitter of all time… but I think minus the juiced era he rates below both Foxx and Killebrew among power hitting first basemen.

Honorable Mention:

Fred McGriff 1986-2004  2460G, 493HR, 1550 RBI, .284 BA, 134 OPS+

I have a soft spot in my heart for Crime Dog.  He’s the guy who did everything right, kept his nose clean while those around him didn’t, and kept plugging away with productive season after productive season.  I think he should get in the Hall of Fame someday.

Will Clark 1986-2000 1976G, 284HR, 1205RBI, .303 BA, 137OPS+

I mention Clark, because if you care to drop McGwire off the list this is who I’d push up on it at number 10.  Clark hit .319 with 21 home runs at age 36 and then retired. I really don’t know why.  His stats look artificially mediocre but he was much better than people realize.  Like McGriff he really should be a hall of famer someday.

Eddie Murray would be about 13th if you’re wondering.. his peak value was just never high enough.