A reader disagreed with me in the comment section of my blog ranking the “5 Best 1B in Baseball.”. And I am starting to see why. I am pretty objective I feel, but I generally do rely on larger sample sizes, and I definitely believe in the numbers. But it was probably inaccurate of me to rank Youkilis ahead of Morneau, and of course forgetting Lance Berkman was an oversight on my part. Now I firmly believe after watching Youkilis all season, and after researching his numbers that he is a better hitter, and will be a better hitter the next few seasons then he was before this past season. His OPS+ from 2007 was 117, and while that is solid enough, it is unspectacular for a 1B. The 143 OPS+ that he posted in 2008 probably is somewhat of an aberration and may be a career year. But again, I do believe he is better now than that of his 2007 self. And I definitely know that he is better than Conor Jackson and Lyle Overbay. But since I use roughly three year samples or more for most of my rankings/analysis, I feel that I should come clean and rank what turned out to be an inconsistency. I tried to defend myself and cannot realistically agree with my original rankings. But aside from that, Youkilis does display the versatility that I was referring to, and I am pretty sure he is better than what he did prior to 2008. And I still believe that throughout his contract, Youkilis is a Bargain, as I stated in the blog after that. And yes I would prefer having Youk for less than half the price of Teixiera, taking nothing away from Tex though as he is a great player.
On today’s market, where a similiar, but maybe slightly better player in Mark Teixeira receives $22.5 million a year for eight seasons, the Red Sox have a bargain. Teixeira may be the better player but it isn’t by much, and Youkilis will cost less than half annually of what Tex will receive, but will also not be under contract through his decline. Youkilis is one of the better players in the game of baseball, and although I could see him declining from his great 2008, while a player like Tex might stay great, Youkilis should still be good even if he isn’t AS good. One reason he is such a bargain is because if Lars Anderson comes up, Youkilis could shift over and play third, ultimately moving up the defensive spectrum. First baseman do not move up the spectrum much, few players can, and do. Tougher infield positions generally shift to first when the player no longer has the range to field whichever position they currently occupy. Youkilis is flexible, he reaches base frequently and displays a great eye, something that should age nicely. And his power should be above average throughout the contract, but I strongly suspect that his power numbers will not be as great as his .569 slugging percentage indicate. I could very well see him as a .290/.380/.490 type of player over the duration of the contract. But the slugging may be a little lower, although his OBP could actually exceed that some of the time. But I think that is a fair line over the next four seasons. Playing third will only increase his value if he continues to do it well.
In the beginning of this entry, I referred to Youkilis being a bargain on this market. That is mostly in comparison to what a player like Teixeira was going to receive, even if he had gone somewhere besides New York, he still would have earned way more than what Youkilis did. Some of the corner outfielders that are not getting big money, are atrocious defenders. There is a large difference between the lumbering, offense first outfielders that are still searching for a contract, and Youkilis. The two positions help his case, and the fact that he can play one of them very well, and the other well enough. The market itself is terrible, but the market for a similiar player seemed to be pretty good.
There has even been talk that Youkilis could play a corner outfield spot for an extended period of time. If that is not versatility then I don’t know the meaning of the word. Odds are, Youkilis will not need to move to the outfield, but it is nice as an organization, and a fan, to know that he could do so if absolutely needed.
A bargain, period.
First of all, let me begin by stating a fact: The Rickey Henderson blog you see below, it was written as a joke, as satire, a baseball related fable (Without the animals), etc, etc, etc. Rickey Henderson is very deserving of enshrinement, and the 28 or so people that did not vote for him, well, don’t have much credibility, whoever they may be.
Second, I am going to finally get to my second installment of the “Five best players at each position.” Something I begin, and never seem to finish. But when in doubt, when there isn’t much that interests me on the blogging front, I can turn to it and pursue my desired conclusion which is: actually finishing it one day.
Remember these rankings are based on who is the best NOW, not who will be the best in 3 years, or four years, or necessarily even 2009. They are a prime indicator of who I believe deserves to be ranked, and where, right now.
And the five best first baseman are…
- Albert Pujols: I don’t know how much I even want to get into this. Pujols is probably the best player in baseball, and clearly the best at his position. His glove work is among the best, and his bat IS the best, in the entire game that we refer to as baseball. When it is all said and done, and this is no creation of mine, Pujols will be one of the absolute greatest players to ever play the game. Eight seasons in the big leagues, no less than an OPS+ of 151, and no fewer than 143 games played in any season. And this season, 2008, Pujols opted out of surgery so that he could play, and posted his best OPS+ yet; 190.
- Mark Teixiera: Is he worth the contract? Maybe not when it is looked at in its entirety, but right now he is among the best hitters in the game. A great defensive first baseman, who is a switch hitting, middle of the order bat. And I would much rather have any of these other first baseman for the money that they are paid, but this doesn’t take that into account. Tex has posted back-to-back years of OPS+’s greater than 150.
- Miguel Cabrera: Whatever position he does end up playing, this is where he belongs (or DH). Cabrera is a truly great hitter, who adjusting to a new, more difficult league, still had success. Cabrera posted three consecutive seasons of 150 or greater, and his 130 last year was quite good also. I will cut him some slack for being in a new city, a new league.
- Adrian Gonzalez: If he played on a neutral field, the perception that we would have of him would be much greater. Last season, Gonzalez had an OPS of .788 at home, on the road it was .946. That is what Petco does to a hitter, it kills their numbers. Just to show that 2008 wasn’t an aberration, in 2007, Gonzalez posted a .760 home OPS, and .928 on the road. He is a good fielder, and still hasn’t hit the height of his career yet.
- Kevin Youkilis: Youkilis has exceeded my expectations of him. He can field two positions, one very well, the other, good enough. Youk has a keen eye: great recognition of the strike zone, and good pitch recognition as well. At first I thought that Youkilis would be a great on base guy, but somewhat limited as a hitter, but he has proven me wrong in that area too. He can hit for power, average, get on base, play defense. I guess Billy Beane had his eye on him for a reason.
Since this was probably the hardest position to rank, I would like to apologize to Justin Morneau. Morneau deserves to be in here as well, and should probably be tied with someone if nothing else. Ryan Howard was a pretty close call as well, but I think that these other six 1B are better than he is. Not that Howard isn’t good, but he can’t play defense, cannot run, and is useless against lefties, all while playing in a hitter friendly park.
And some may question my including Miguel Cabrera because he may not have the greatest work ethic, and didn’t blow anyone away last season. Cabrera is a great hitter, don’t let 2008 fool you. I have a strong feeling that he will be an MVP in many people’s eyes this season, unless the Tigers win under 75 games or something.
EDIT: I totally forgot to mention Lance Berkman in this too. I give up, for the 1st base position is too difficult to rank. I think that I would need to do more research, but even then would still be undecided as to who goes where. Except for number one of course, that is Pujols.