Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friday Five: Top 5 Cardinals First Basemen

Honorable Mention 

Joe Torre 

Torre played 6 years in St. Louis with the Cardinals with a .308/.382/.458 line with 98 home runs.  While many argue that his best years were in the early sixties with the Braves, Torre's year's in St. Louis actually produced a higher OPS (133 in StL vs 130 in ATL) and the 1971 Batting Title and MVP Awards.  Torre was also named to four All-Star games as a Cardinal.  He even returned to the team in the early 1990s as the Cardinals manager.  His teams were filled with young players and the owner, August Busch III, was a cheapskate who did nothing to help the team win.  

Bill White 

White played 8 years for the Cardinals starting in the late 1950s through the mid 60s.  Along the way the first baseman was an important part of the 1964 World Championship team when he hit .303/.354/.474 with 21 home runs and 102 RBIs.  White made 5 All-Star teams, and won 5 Gold Gloves.  At the end of the 1965 season the Cardinals traded White to the Phillies with Dick Groat and Bob Uecker.  White was actually traded back to the Cardinals before the 1969 season, but he only appeared in 49 games that year with only 57 at-bats. 

Keith Hernandez

Hernandez is kind of villan in Cardinals circles, but he still was a really good player while he was wearing the birds on the bat.  During his 10 years in St. Louis Hernandez posted a .299/.385/.448 line with 81 home runs, almost 600 RBIs, 5 Gold Gloves, and the 1979 National MVP Award and Batting Crown.  Hernandez also captured a World Series ring with the team during the 1982 season, which is definitely a factor in landing on a rankings of great Cardinals players.   He had some drug problems in St. Louis and ultimately ended up on the Mets and Seinfeld.  

5.  Ripper Collins 

Collins played 6 years as a Cardinal and hit .307/.370/.517 with 106 home runs, 165 doubles, and 50 triples.  He lead the National League in home runs, slugging, and OPS during the 1934 season en route to helping the Gashouse Gang Cardinals team win the World Series. In fact, he put up some really cool numbers that season.  In addition to the 35 home runs and 128 RBIs, Collins also had 40 doubles, 13 triples, 200 hits, and scored 116 runs.  How many times has someone posted a season line like that?   While Collins had a shorter Cardinals career than any of the players in my honorable mention section, he won a World Series ring on an important team to the franchise, which Torre did not, and was a much better offensive player than Hernandez or White. 

4.  Johnny Mize

Mize started his career with the Cardinals in 1936.  "The Big Cat" won two home run titles, an RBI crown, a batting title, lead the league in slugging percentage three times, OPS three times, and OPS+ twice.  His six season is St. Louis yielded a WAR of 39.3 including four seasons with a mark above 7.  In 1939 he posted a WAR of 8.1 with won the home run title and batting title and finished third in RBIs behind his teammate Joe Medwick and Reds slugger Frank McCormick.  His career OPS+ as a Cardinal is 171, which is the highest of any first baseman on this list.  

3.  Jim Bottomley

Sunny Jim played for the Cardinals from the early 1920s into the mid 1930s.   The St. Louis native helped the team win their first World Series and was won of the first stars of the team.  Bottomley played a total of 11 seasons in St. Louis with a .325/.387.537 line with 181 home runs, 1105 RBIs, and 344 doubles.  In 1926, in helping the Cardinals to that first World Series win against Babe Ruth and the Yankees, Bottomley hit 40 doubles, 14 triples, and 19 home runs.  In 1928 he went 42 doubles, 20 triples, 31 home runs (leading the NL), 136 RBIs, and a .325/.402/.628 line.  He closed out his career on the Browns after a stint with the Reds.  

2.  Stan Musial

Stan played most of his games in the outfield, but still spent more than 1000 games at first base during his Cardinals career.  He first appeared at first in 1946 when he played 114 games there.  Musial also spent time there in 1947 before shifting back to the outfield for a couple of seasons and returning to first base again in the early 1950s when he'd split the seasons between different spots in the outfield and first.  Again, not a full time first baseman, but let's just look at his first season as a first baseman in 1946.  First, he won a World Series against the Red Sox.  Second, he took home his second MVP award.  That season he lead the NL in games, plate appearances, hits, runs, doubles, triples, average, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.  While some of the Bottomley and Collins season lines were cool with extra base hits, Stan's 46 season included 16 home runs, 20 triples, and 50 doubles.  That season alone is worthy of consideration on this list.  His 1947 season, also as a full time first baseman, was actually one of his worst early seasons when he only hit .312/.398/.504 with 62 extra base hits, a .902 OPS, an OPS+ of 134, and a WAR of only 4.9.  Don't worry I will put Stan number one when we get into outfielders. 

1.  Albert Pujols

Albert spent most of his career as a Cardinal at first base.  He did spend a little time at third and in the outfield, but most of his offensive production came as a first baseman.   Stan Musial is a better overall player, but split his time between two positions with less time at first.  The Machine his .328/.420/.617 in 11 years as a Cardinal with 445 home runs, 1329 RBIs, and more than 2000 hits.  Albert won two World Series rings, 2006 and 2011, and also picked up 3 MVP awards, and the 2001 Rookie of the Year.  Pujols is the greatest right-handed hitter to ever wear the birds on the bat. 

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