Food For Thought: First Baseman


The Yankees’ last four primary first baseman. Interesting to see Tex’s curve compared to Donnie’s. Stupid back problems.

(related graphs)

Categories : Players


  1. bexarama says:

    I love Tino to absolute death but damn was he overrated. :(

    • bexarama says:

      And Giambi’s really underrated. Like, the amount of people who think Tino > Giambi, and who will NEVAR FORGIVE Cashman for replacing Tino with Giambi, is mindboggling.

      • vin says:

        Yeah, people really are stupid.

      • Esteban says:

        And this is including defense.

        To break it down further though:

        Tino was worth 17 WAR from 98-2001 for an average of 2.83 WAR a year

        Giambi was worth 24 WAR from 01-2008 for an average of 3.49 WAR a year.

        • Ed says:

          Tino’s initial 6 year stint with the Yankees, 96-01 = 17 fWAR

          The final 6 years of Giambi’s 7 year stint with the Yankees, 03-08 = 16.9 fWAR

          Giambi had an amazing first year with the Yankees, but tailed off drastically after that. He was the better player overall, but the Yankees didn’t get him until after his peak.

        • MikeD says:

          It “attempts” to include defense. There is no advanced defensive metric scheme that to date has figured out how to properly calculate defense at 1B.

          Many people were surprised that the godfather of advanced baseball analysis, Bill James, selected Mark Teixeira as the best defensive 1B in the league, when the plus/minus system showed quite a few first basemen were better, including the A’s Barton. There are two possible reasons:

          1) It’s James’ way of acknowledging the failure of advanced fielding stats to to properly rate firt base, so he simply went with the popular choice to point out that advanced fielding metrics still don’t work for first, or;

          2) He knows something better. The Red Sox are one of the teams that are known to have developed their own defensive rating metrics, which of course is not availble to the public. Since James is on payroll with the Sox, he not only knows the numbers, he no doubt helped develop whatever system they use, and it probably shows Teixeria as the best defensive first baseman in the league. (If that’s the case, WAR is undervaluing Teixeria.)

          I read that there is no a single MLB team that uses the freely available advanced defensive statistics on which fans base their evaluation of players. They may look at them, but even the teams that are totally emersed in sabermetric analysis have their own internal systems that they blend with scouting to truly determine the defensive value of players. I’m wondering if they’re not using them, why should I?

          • OldYanksFan says:

            Because they probably have over $1m in personel that actual see many, many games and many, many players, so they have lots of first hand testimony.

            If I saw 1Bman(A) play 100 games, and 1Bman(B) 100 games right after (A), I might trust my judgement on the (A/B)s defense more then the stats.

            Also, Bill James says outright that defensive stats do a VERY limited job judging 1Bmen and Catchers.

        • Slugger27 says:

          giambi wasnt on the team in 01

      • I agree that Giambi tends to get a bit underrated and Tino overrated, but I’m not sure by how much.

        Giambi, as Yankee, made $114.8 and change, or $16.4/season, and contributed, per fangraphs, 24.4 WAR, or 3.49 per season. Tino, as a Yankee (the first time around, it’s really not fair to bother with his ’05 season), made $26.4, or $4.4/season, and contributed 17 WAR, or 2.83 per season. Obviously you can account for inflation and the salary difference gets a bit closer, but still… Giambi, for what he was paid, probably didn’t contribute as much as Tino did, considering what he was paid.

        Two things: 1 – I did this quickly and I’m sure there are flaws with the numbers/reasoning, so please point them out; 2 – I’m not saying Tino was as good as Giambi, just saying that it’s not like Tino was massively overrated or Giambi massively underrated.

        Maybe I just run in different circles, but I really don’t know anyone who really overrates Tino. People love the guy, sure – I’m a big fan, too – but it’s not like most people think he’s some HOF level player or anything. He was around during a really good period in Yankee history, he’s a likable guy who did well for the team, so people like him. Giambi, on the other hand, had the misfortune of not winning a title in NY and people hold players who make a ton of money to higher standards, so he maybe gets underrated a bit (especially since the last couple of years weren’t so special and we were all dying to get his salary off the books by the end), but I also don’t think people are under the impression he wasn’t a good player.

        I also just like to note, when it comes to Giambi… Yeah, the overall numbers are good during his time in pinstripes, but you have to take into account that he had some basically lost seasons during his tenure with the Yanks. His ’04 and ’07 seasons were totally lost, and ’06 and ’08 were ok but not great by any stretch of the imagination, considering the money he was making. Obviously nobody could have known the guy would get hurt – but, on the other hand, that’s what you get when you sign a lumbering 31 yr old no-glove first baseman (not to mention the PED stuff, which couldn’t have been a big surprise).

        Again… Maybe I just don’t know the people who will NEVAR FORGIVE Cashman for replacing Tino with Giambi.

        • I think people underrate Giambi to an extent, especially considering how insane his numbers were with the A’s. His time with the Yankees wasn’t that great of course, but in 2003, 2005 and 2006 was a very, very good player.

          I agree with you on Tino. He was likeable and played with the Yankees at the right time, but outside of 1997 he was an average to below average first baseman offensively.

          • Ed says:

            You hinted on the issue…

            If you’re evaluating Giambi the Yankee, he had one monster year, then some good ones and some bad ones. He was good but not great.

            If you include his time in Oakland, he looks like a much better player.

            If you talk to your average Yankee fan, yeah, they’ll probably undervalue him. If you talk to someone that appreciates baseball as a whole, not just the Yankees, then you’ll probably get a better opinion of him.

        • Esteban says:

          I agree with your overall point, and ha, looked at the some of the same numbers you did in my above post. However, I’m not crazy about looking at value as WAR per dollar for a team like the Yankees. Getting maximum value out of contracts is obviously very important to every team, regardless of payroll, but given the Yankees financial resources, I don’t think they view it as simple as that, whereas as team with a smaller payroll almost has to that to be successful.

          (I’m not sure if what I just said makes sense)

          • No it does, I see what you’re getting at and I agree, dollars matter in different ways to different teams (especially the Yanks). And I totally think that if the WAR/$ comparison were reasonably close, you could pretty much say the advantage/disadvantage for either player was negligible, but in this case the difference seems relatively stark.

            And again, all the caveats apply – Not saying Tino was as good as Giambi, not saying Giambi sucked, yadda yadda.

        • OldYanksFan says:

          Giambi’s OPS/OPS+ as a Yankee: .925 / 143
          Tino’s OPS/OPS+ as a Yankee: .831 / 113

          Of course, you have to factor in defense.

  2. Mike HC says:

    Mike, you obviously have a fascination with how the rest of Tex’s career is going to play out. I would be curious to hear your prediction at some point.

  3. Beamish says:

    Translation: Until his back drove him off a cliff in 1990 Donnie Baseball really was on his way to a Hall of Fame Career.

  4. Beamish says:

    Oh…and we can all see the year Giambi found HGH and steroids…

  5. vin says:

    Man, did Giambi have some monster years in the middle of his career. I’d love to see how his 5 years stretch from 99-03 stacks up against his peers. He’s going to have an interesting HOF case… probably much like Larry Walker.

  6. LOL, I compared the same four guys just yesterday.

    Mike, do you know why you can’t compare pitchers like that on fangraphs?

  7. delv says:

    I said this under the other 1B WAR projection post, but WAR for 1Bmen is a joke.

  8. In light of how often it seems we have to argue against people who want Mattingly in the HOF, it’s nice, once in a while, to acknowledge how freaking awesome he was in his 20s, before the injuries derailed his career. The man was a wrecking-machine from age 23 (!) through age 28. Such a shame he didn’t get to continue performing at that level through his peak ages (he did it all, basically, before his peak or just when he hit the beginning of what should have been his peak years), his numbers would have been awesome.

  9. Teh Comp Pick says:

    Gotta like the way Tex stacks up in this comp. More encouraging than the last one of these I remember seeing him in (McGriff and someone else I think).

  10. Liner says:

    I would be more interested in comparisons with Adrian Gonzalez and Pujols. And… Youklis… etc. Basically with current competition rather than historical figures.

  11. Claudell says:

    I have to laugh at this statement below the graph: “Stupid back problems.” I muttered almost the exact same thing to myself before I noticed that comment.

    Love Donnie Baseball. A coworker just gave me a Mattingly jersey for Christmas, actually. Hard to believe it’s already been 15 years since he stopped playing.

  12. Marc says:

    Another good one (maybe for tomorrow) would be Bernie vs. Damon vs. Grandy vs. ___________ (I through in O’Neill for nostalgic reasons).

    A few things that stand out
    - Granderson is pretty much right on track with Damon
    - Bernie was really good
    - The end of Paulie’s career was quite impressive comparitively

  13. James says:

    Somewhat off-topic, but Andy Pettitte stacks up pretty favorably with Whitey Ford with those graphs (at least using bWAR). I was surprised to see that.

    • James says:

      Actually, “surprised” may be a strong word. A little disappointed, if Whitey is at Andy’s level. Andy is barely borderline for the Hall, but Whitey is revered. Was Whitey overrated? Eh, I guess a gallery of rings and a league-leading offense almost every year can do that for anyone.

  14. peteypabs says:

    WAR is stupid

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