The Determinator: First Base: #5-1 + Luke Voit
Today I will reveal the #5-#1 First Basemen in the MLB as well as highlighting Luke Voit’s season and why/how he missed the rankings. Tomorrow, I will announce the #10-6 Second Basemen in the MLB. For a background about The Determinator, see my article about my methodology, changes for 2021, and schedule, here.
The Determinator: First Base-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 239 (!) different players who played any amount of time at first base during the past two seasons, I set-up two boundaries to keep it as close to having only starters:
They must’ve had at least 350 PA’s over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
They must’ve had at least 750 innings at first base over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
This limited the number of catchers down to 26.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the first half of the Top-10:
If a first baseman led a statistic, it will be bolded.
Number 5: Pete Alonso, New York Mets
Top-5: Games, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR
Top-10: OBP, Fld, Innings
Top-15: AVG, SB, UZR
Total Score: 47Embed from Getty Images
After destroying the MLB with an insane rookie year, Pete Alonso took an expected but not bad step down in his sophomore year. Sticking at the #5 spot for the second year in a row, however, this is highly boosted due to that 2019 performance, which helped him continue to lead first basemen in Home Runs (69). However, there are still issues lingering on defense (-6.3), which kept his otherwise good bat (118 wRC+ in 2020) in check and ultimately led to Alonso’s season ending with just a slightly positive fWAR (+0.4). While a better 2021 with the bat should be expected due to a decent fall in BABIP (.280 to .241), Alonso is still likely to miss that upper peak of first basemen if he is unable to show he can play a more complete all-around game.
Number 4: Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals
Top-5: Games, OBP, wRC, BsR, Off, WAR, Innings, DRS
Top-10: HR, SB, wRC+, Fld, UZR
Top-15: AVG, SLG
Total Score: 57Embed from Getty Images
A free agent this past offseason, Carlos Santana inked a 2 Year/$17 Million deal to play with the Kansas City Royals as his career starts to enter its final phase. Another candidate held up greatly by his 2019 numbers, after ranking 2nd last year his very poor 2020 has started what looks to likely be a quick fall from the Top-10. After running into amazing BABIP luck in 2019 (.293), quite the opposite happened last year (.212) as Santana ultimately ended with a .199/.349/.350 triple-slash and a wRC+ (96) under 100. However, The Determinator does highly value his all-around game as he only missed ranking on one metric (Def). Likely a stretch, but Santana is a very interesting and a good bet as a bounce-back candidate for 2021.
Number 3: Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Top-5: Games, AVG, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld, Innings, UZR
Top-10: OBP, HR, SB, wRC, wRC+
Top-15: SLG, DRS, Def
Total Score: 58Embed from Getty Images
After just missing out last year, Paul Goldschmidt was the only first baseman to rank Top-15 in every single metric by The Determinator going into this season. A constant force on the field, he lead all first basemen across games played (219) and baserunning (+4.2) on top of his complete profile. After a first good season in 2019 with the Cardinals (2.9 fWAR), it was uncharacteristic for Goldschmidt as it was far below what he had done through most of his Diamondbacks career (5.5 fWAR/year), but he did meet his former level of play in the shortened 2020 season (2.1 fWAR). While he is approaching the expected end of his peak going into his age-33 season, but there are no clear signs of him slowing down soon.
Number 2: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, SB, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: Fld, DRS
Total Score: 60Embed from Getty Images
After taking home the National League MVP, Freddie Freeman actually lost out on his #1 ranking from last year by a comfortable margin, mostly due to his defense ranking negatively (-1.3) from this past season. While he took home being the best first baseman in AVG (.307), OBP (.409), SLG (.573), wRC (190), wRC+ (151), Off (+63.3), WAR (+7.3), and Innings (1843), his defense was a place of concern when we looked at his profile last year. Ultimately, that made his #1 spot hard to hold going through our analysis this year. It will be hard to keep pace with his 2020 season going forward (3.3 fWAR in 60 games), but he still should expect to have a few more great years as he is just 31 for the 2021 season.
Number 1: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SB, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, SLG, HR
Total Score: 69Embed from Getty Images
Tied for #2 last year, Anthony Rizzo had another solid and under-the-radar season in 2020 as his defense took a step in a better direction from his career norms, which helped him place Top-10 in every single The Determinator metric outside of baserunning. Interestingly enough however, Rizzo was not able to lead any of the statistics, even while placing Top-5 in 12 different numbers. Rizzo has been an extremely consistent player during his career and we should expect that he comes back strong from a diminished 2020 given his very low BABIP (.218) which is far off his career norm (.286). If his defense holds and things go back to norm, another #1 ranking could be in store for Rizzo going into his free agency.
Luke Voit and his Ranking 11th:
As we saw this past Friday, Luke Voit narrowly missed out on the Top-10 with an 11th place finish , but there are simple explanations for this mainly seen through availability and defense. With a miss of 7 total points, is there an “easy” way to make that up?
While he did lead the MLB in Home Runs for the 2020 season (22) which did help a lot of his overall numbers, Voit did miss in the following metrics:
Defense: Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Baserunning: SB and BsR
Overall: Games and Innings
Unfortunately, Luke Voit’s 2019 sports hernia injury had kept him from the Top-15 in games played by just 13, but his playing all of 2020 is a good sign. This also hits his miss in innings (by about 35), of which if both of these are solved, just 5 points would be “missing”.
While not an easy change, if Voit was able to put up better defensive numbers to be nearing league-average across each of the 4 metrics that The Determinator uses, then Voit would miss by just 1 point. Obviously, fixing defense is not a simple thing at all, but his numbers in this analysis are brought down a lot from a very poor 2019 season. As we know from watching Voit, he isn’t the next Mark Teixeira, but he should be able to improve slightly.
Add in a small bump to his overall offense which we started to really see last season, and Voit could likely find himself in the Top-10 next year. However, it is important to remember that baseball is more than just hitting home runs.
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.