Stats Corner: Production from Pirates' 1st basemen has bottomed out
First base is hallowed ground in Pirates history. It's the position from which Willie Stargell clubbed 180 of his franchise record 475 home runs, and it's also the spot where barrel-chested sluggers like Dick Stuart and Bob Robertson instilled fear into pitchers. Lately, however, first base has been a black hole for the Bucs — and it might not get much better in 2014.
Over the past decade, no National League team has received less production from its first basemen than the Pirates. They rank 27th in the majors since 2004 in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which measures a player's offensive, defensive and baserunning value compared to a waiver wire-type talent. At the spot where Pops once towered, the Bucs have racked up just a third of the average WAR produced by MLB teams.
Lowest 1B WAR in MLB
Team 1B WAR, 2004-13
Team Avg. from 2004-13 22.4
The highlight of the barren decade was Adam LaRoche's 1.9 WAR campaign in 2007. Lyle Overbay (-1.0 WAR in 2011) and Brad Eldred (-0.8 WAR in 2005), meanwhile, inflicted more damage on the Bucs' chances of winning than opposing pitchers. The last regular Pirates first baseman to enjoy a truly outstanding season was Kevin Young, who had 5.3 WAR in 1999.
While the Pirates were connected to every first baseman thought to be available this winter — Mike Carp, Ike Davis, Kendrys Morales and Mitch Moreland among them — they figure to rely upon a low-key platoon of Gaby Sanchez and Travis Ishikawa to end the team's dry spell. Sanchez thumps lefties (career .895 on-base-plus slugging percentage). Ishikawa's work against righties is less promising, though. The 30-year-old minor league free-agent signee posted an .872 OPS versus right-handers in Triple-A last year, but holds a mere .737 career mark in the majors.
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.
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