Who is the greatest first baseman of all-time?
I had no idea what to expect when I plugged in the numbers for first basemen. I couldn’t even guess at a top five list, except to say that Lou Gehrig would likely be near the top. When all the statistics were plugged into the spreadsheet, Gehrig (294.01) was near the top, but not at the #1 position. That spot was claimed by Jimmie Foxx (294.89), who beat out the Iron Horse by .88 points. This was easily the closest contest at any position.
However, it is likely that the #1 position will be claimed by another player in the very near future. Albert Pujols (285.0), with only twelve years in the majors, is at #3 on the list, behind both Foxx and Gehrig by less than 10 points. Just one monster season with an MVP award could push Pujols to the top.
Pete Rose (253.18) falls in at the #4 spot. Now, before you start yammering on about how Rose spent most of his time in the outfield, let me point out that he split that time between the three outfield spots. Rose played more games at first base than he did in left field, right field, or center field. Thus, he is included here for the sake of putting him somewhere. That is the same reason Joe Torre was included among the catchers yesterday. Had Torre been thrown in among first baseman, his 206.33 score would put him at #15 all-time, just below Willie McCovey and ahead of Hall of Famers Roger Connor and Orlando Cepeda.
The number five guy threw me off. I knew Eddie Murray (248.5) was great, but the fifth best first baseman ever? Who else saw that coming? For a long time he was an American Leaguer overshadowed by his teammate at shortstop and then bounced around quite a bit during the second half of his career, so it’s not difficult to overlook him in that regard. But you would think that a member of the 500 home run club would be a little more celebrated by baseball fans. Thankfully, the writers were paying attention and allowed him first-ballot entry into Cooperstown in 2003.
Besides Rose and Pujols, there are three other non-Hall of Famers in the top ten: the should-be-inducted-next-year Frank Thomas (#6, 241.48), the unfairly-treated-because-of-unfounded-suspicions Jeff Bagwell (#8, 234.71), and the still-employed-though-mostly-just-a-designated-hitter Jim Thome (#9, 225.5). The other two spots in the top ten go to Cap Anson (#7, 238.74) and Harmon Killebrew (#10, 220.02).
Take away the awards, and again the order gets mixed up and #10 drops off the list. Without awards and All-Star seasons, the top ten reads Gehrig, Foxx, Anson, Pujols, Murray, Thome, Rose, Bagwell, Thomas, and Hall of Famer Roger Connor. On both lists, Tony Perez comes in at #11.