The Determinator: First Basemen 2022 (#5-1)
For the last two years, I have been ranking every starting player in the MLB by position in a system I’ve dubbed The Determinator. I don’t worry about projection systems, I look only at how well a player did that last year, analyze the data, and showcase who was and will be the best for the upcoming season.
Welcome back to The Determinator.
Today we continue with the #5-1 First Basemen!
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as also is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2022 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
In order to quality for ranking by The Determinator, a player must’ve had at least 250 plate appearances during the 2021 season and at least 500 innings played at the position in question.
Number 5: Freddie Freeman, Free Agent
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, SB, wRC, BsR, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-10: HR, wRC+, DRS
Total Score: 55
Easily the best first baseman who has become a free agent in the past few years (maybe even back to Albert Pujols in 2011), Freddie Freeman is going to make a ton on the open market whenever the offseason can start again. I wrote an article about the pros and cons for a Yankees-Freeman marriage, here.
As a player, Freddie produces to great offensive numbers, even making up for defensive metrics (that don’t rate as highly as I believe they should), making him a near Top-5 first baseman on offense alone. He’s a star.Embed from Getty Images
Number 4: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers
Top-5: HR, wRC, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld, DRS, UZR
Top-10: OBP, SLG, Def
Top-15: Games, SB
Total Score: 56
Max Muncy has had an interesting time in the MLB, being primarily used a utility infielder between his making the MLB with the Oakland Athletics and first 3 years with the Dodgers. However, in 2021 he- for only the 2nd time in his career- put in more than 500 innings at a single position in a season (the other was 2018 while also playing first base). He was still used sparingly at 2B last season (to make some room for Albert Pujols), but it may be best for the Dodgers to keep him full-time in the first base role going forward. His bat plays favorably for the position and he put up great defensive numbers at first. A utility role may do more damage than good for his play.Embed from Getty Images
Number 2 (Tied): Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
Top-5: SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings, DRS
Top-10: Games, AVG, OBP, SB, BsR, Fld, UZR
Total Score: 61
While Freddie Freeman may be the best free agent first baseman, the best available first baseman may just well be Matt Olson…if a team is willing to pay the price. Now, The Determinator cares not about contracts, but Matt Olson is definitely a bargain salary wise given his production across the entire game. He’s a solid defensive first baseman and one of the best bats for the position that can be found. I also wrote about how I feel about Olson and the pros and cons of a Yankees pursuit this offseason, which you can find here.Embed from Getty Images
Number 2 (Tied): Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR
Top-10: SB, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR
Total Score: 61
Tied with Matt Olson is a converted third baseman to first base in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As a hitter, he was entirely in the green not only among first baseman but also across the entire MLB as well. Heck, at 22-years-old he led the American League in On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, and the entire MLB with Salvador Perez in Home Runs this past season. Considering the expectations of him as a prospect, Vladimir Guerrero was playing very well with little praise during his first 2 MLB seasons. However, to say a new expectation hasn’t been set after last season is an understatement. He’s a great player who put everything together for an amazing season and it should hold going forward, just don’t expect a OPS above 1.000 again. (It has only happened 27 times in the last decade across all players in the MLB.)Embed from Getty Images
Number 1: Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Top-5: Games, AVG, SB, wRC, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR
Top-10: OBP, SLG, HR, wRC+
Total Score: 68
The Determinator sets its ways in trying to find the best all-around player by position. So, players like Paul Goldschmidt get a lot of help from their baserunning to help separate themselves from the pack. Now, this isn’t to discredit Goldschmidt, because that is anything but. Of first baseman in the MLB who qualified for this years list, he was the lone player to rank in the Top-15 across all 16 metrics for The Determinator, and on top of that he ranked in the Top-10 in all but one. To put it another way, Paul Goldschmidt ranked in the Top-5 of stats for The Determinator as Pete Alonso ranked in the Top-15.Embed from Getty Images
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.