Reds Vs. National League First Basemen: Joey Votto Takes On Adrian Gonzalez, et al


Oct 10, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) scores a run in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants in game four of the 2012 NLDS at Great American Ball Park. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

Most Cincinnati Reds fans would agree that the Reds have a pretty awesome lineup, right? The best in the division, best in the National League? Let’s talk about that for a while.

This is the second installment in a series I am writing comparing the Reds’ players with the best that the National League has to offer.

I began with the catchers, pitting Ryan Hanigan against SF Giants MVP, Buster Posey. I will now move on to first base and examine who the best in the league at 1B is. Ok, I know we don’t need to look for that one because Joey Votto is the best in the league. But who is next best?

With no more than a cursory look at each of the NL rosters I narrowed the opposition’s list down to six players. They are, in no particular order, Freddie Freeman (Atl), Ryan Howard (Phl), Adam LaRoche (Was), Corey Hart (Mil), Todd Helton (Col) and Adrian Gonzalez(LA).

Freeman is a newcomer, Hart is just now making a transition from the outfield and Helton is getting long in the tooth.

He has hall of fame numbers so I will keep him. I will throw out Freeman and Hart and examine the numbers of Howard, LaRoche, Helton and Gonzalez.

Below is a table which displays each of the five players’ statistics based on 162 game averages.

Career Stats Based on 162 Game Averages
Statistics are from

June 30, 2012; Denver, CO USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton looks into stands while playing the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Carpenean-USA TODAY Sports

What stands out the most to you? That half of the best numbers go to Helton? Of course one of those involves tenure so it is not that important, since everything is based on seasonal averages. If you were to just arbitrarily look at this you would say that Helton is the best of all the rest.  He has put up fantastic numbers and it is all spectacular. Good on ya Todd.

Good power, great plate discipline, best OBP of them all and even the best in the only defensive category used. I am sure there are many who are shaking their heads that I have only used ‘errors’ as the defensive gage. All of these men are excellent players, especially offensively. They are all Gold Glove first basemen, save Howard.

Let us look at what Votto has done.  His XBH% which takes in all hits except singles, is the best of the group.  He is ahead of the class when it comes to stolen bases, albeit the number is so low it is insignificant. Look at the slugging percent. He has a better number than Howard,  Gonzales and Helton. It is not a surprise that he has a higher number there than LaRoche.

But look at the most telling number of them all, OPS+. Votto, like the proverbial cheese, stands alone. He is a full 19 points higher than Gonzalez and 20 better than both Howard and Helton. That number brings it in to a park-related, league-related focus.

Most people would say that Helton’s stats need to be seasoned because of the fact half of his games have been played in Denver. Coors Field was the literal launching pad. Helton will hear all of this after he retires and becomes eligible for Hall of Fame consideration.

If there were only three or four points different I would give the nod to Helton. However when someone has essentially held their own in most of the categories, and is the tallest tree, by far, in the OPS+ forest, he deserves to be called the best.

Votto by a close shave. Reds 1 –  National League 1.

Second basemen up next.

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