Black Hole at First
I almost vomited today. I dont claim to have a long streak without having thrown up. Certainly not as long as Seinfeld claimed in an episode. Im not sick. I didnt eat anything disagreeable. I looked at the recent performance of Bucco first baseman and I felt ill.
I was reading Buster Olneys blog at ESPN.com. He commented on the Adam LaRoche/Mike Gonzalez swap and specifically said (Im paraphrasing) that getting a power bat at first base is among a GMs easiest jobs. So, he figured the Braves would be just fine. Ive commented on this site before about the Reds long drought at first after dealing Tony Perez to Montreal after the 1976 season. They had some good players man first, but nobody with a big stick. So, I went back to 1991 with the Pirates and found out that they too have lacked.
The following table has the league average OPS for NL first baseman for each year followed by what Pirate first baseman as a group did (thank you Retrosheet). The third column lists which Pirate was the primary first sacker that season, based on ABs while playing first, and then lists his OPS+ (for all ABs, not just the ones for when he was playing first). The first two sets of numbers are not adjusted. So park effects (Coors) arent adjusted out. OPS+ numbers came from Baseball-Reference.com.
|Year||Average NL 1B||Pirates 1B||Primary 1B||OPS+|
That, officially, is sad. One season with an OPS+ of 125 or better and just two seasons in the past six where the OPS+ of the primary first baseman was even over 100. So, I decided to go back and see what a typical Willie Stargell year was like. I was stopped in my tracks by Stargells 1980 season. He was 40. He had bad legs. And his OPS+ was 130, granted in only 202 ABs. But that was a bad year for him, OPS+-wise. I certainly dont expect any team to put a top flight, multiple year All-Star at first every year. But, I should expect that at least sometime in the past 16 years that one year the Pirates first basemen (collectively) out perform a gimpy 40 year whose skills were eroding quickly. Didnt happen. Heres hoping that in 2007 LaRoche can best a 40 year old Pops.