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NL Central Positional Throwdown: First Base Edition

The Central is home to some of the best first sackers in the game..and Adam LaRoche. I kid, I kid. He's above average. But then again, all of them are round these parts. Starting with a guy that Astros fans probably are familiar with..

St. Louis Cardinals First Baseman: Albert Pujols

Heading into the 2008, there was a great deal of concern about the health of Pujols' balky right elbow. After a season that saw him put together perhaps his greatest performance, Pujols has solidified himself as the greatest hitter in the game. An offseason surgery to relieve nerve irration in that elbow should only serve to improve his prognosis heading into 2009. The bulk of the his team's offensive load falls on Pujols' capable shoulders, moreso than any other player on this list. In terms of VORP, he outpaces his next closest teammate, Ryan Ludwick by a margin of 57.4. To Pujols' VORP value into perspective using guys from this list, the difference between the second best 1B Lance Berkman's VORP (50.5) and the 6th best 1B Adam LaRoche (24.9) is still not close to the difference between Berkman and Pujols. Did I mention he's the best defensive first baseman too? Points Awarded:6

Houston Astros First Baseman: Lance Berkman

Comparing athletes to non-humans is a popular thing to do. Runs like a cheetah! That center is a beast down in the paint! That QB threw a pea between the two defenders to complete that pass. Lance Berkman is a piece of chocolate cake. He's satisfying, sturdy and does the job every time. Take a look at his career average season. He was a much maligned outfielder, but since moving to first base he has become the second best defensive first baseman in the NL...behind the guy above him. Lance Berkman is a great baseball player, a switch hitter and a good teammate. I think he somehow goes under the radar because he plays in the same division as Albert Pujols. Points Awarded: 5


Lance Berkman is made of chocolate cake

Milwaukee Brewers First Basman: Prince Fielder

Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to compare Princey to  piece of food? Nope. Too easy. Again though, Prince is a top tier first baseman but again, that won't get you in the top two in this division. After a ridiculous 2007 season, Prince regressed quite a bit in 2008. His power numbers dropped precipitously, as seen by a drop in his ISO% (which is slugging percentage that takes into account only extra base hits). His offensive decline was coupled with his being the worst fielding first baseman in the NL, in terms of RZR. After signing a 2 year extension to remain a Brewer, Prince needs to be more the guy he was in 2007 than 2008, especially after the exits of CC Sabathia and most likely Ben Sheets. Points Awarded: 4

Cincinnati Reds First Baseman: Joey Votto

One of the debates going around in fantasy baseball circles this season is: who is more valuable, Joey Votto or Derrek Lee. I chose Votto over Lee based upon the idea that Lee doesn't do anything that Votto can't. What tipped the scales in my mind was the issue of speed. Surely, I thought, the athletic Lee would be poised to swipe more bases than Votto. In actuality, they both project to around 10 SB this season. Votto is a rare player who combines a high OBP with a great deal of power as well. If one could take the plate discipline of Sean Casey, and the power of Adam Dunn, Joey Votto would be the result.  Points Awarded: 3

Chicago Cubs First Baseman: Derrek Lee

It took three comparisons, but the Cubs are no longer the best in the category. What's more, they're in the bottom two. Not that Derrek Lee isn't a good baseball player, nor does he seem to be losing any skill he had earlier in his career, other than his ability to steal twenty bases. What is the case with Lee is that his consistency doesn't make up for his lack of superb-ness in any one category. His SLG% dropped from .513 in 2007 to .462 in 2008. PECOTA doesn't project it to drop any further this season, but at 33, Lee's best years are almost certainly behind him. Points Awarded: 2

Pittsburgh Pirates First Baseman: Adam LaRoche

The Pirates round out The Throwdown for the third consecutive position/category. Adam LaRoche doesn't help the Pirates on the base-paths, and not just in terms of the stolen base. Moving up on ground balls, fly balls, and scoring runs on the basepaths is not LaRoche's forte. It isn't Prince Fielder's either, but he has the sort of power numbers that can make up for it. LaRoche is in the prime of his career, which isn't a bad prime at all. More than anything though, he looks like Bert from Seasame Street, which for most every person in their mid to early 20's, should bring back awesome memories. Points Awarded: 1


Pictured (right to left): Adam LaRoche, and an unidentified friend