Baseball BeatJuly 23, 2009
First Basemen and Home Runs
By Rich Lederer

Eight of the top 13 home run hitters this year play first base. The position has been known for its power output since the advent of the "live ball" in the 1920s, but it appears to be producing more four baggers among the league leaders than any other year this decade.

1 Albert Pujols 1B 34
2 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 25
Raul Ibanez LF 25
Mark Reynolds 3B 25
5 Adam Dunn LF 24
Prince Fielder 1B 24
Ryan Howard 1B 24
Justin Morneau 1B 24
Carlos Pena 1B 24
10 Nelson Cruz RF 23
Ian Kinsler 2B 23
Mark Teixeira 1B 23
13 Russell Branyan 1B 22

Interestingly, there are no designated hitters among the league leaders in HR. Now one might argue that some of these hitters shouldn't be playing defense, but the reality is that there is no DH among the top 18 HR sluggers in the majors. It's even a bit of a stretch to include Adam Lind (20) as the No. 1 HR-hitting DH as he has played over 30 games in left field. You have to go all the way down to Jim Thome, who is tied for 36th in HR with 16, to find the first pure DH. Whatever became of the David Ortizes, Travis Hafners, and Frank Thomases?

Is this a one-year aberration or is there something else at work here?


More than a usual number of starting 1B's this year seem to be in their mid to late 20s. On this list, only two of the first basemen are in their 30s (Branyan, 33, Pena, 31) and only one of the guys is under 27 (Fielder, 25). 1B's are usually guys with power, so I think the fact that there's so many 1B's this year who are in their prime years, it would have been 'likely' that they'd be a bit (more than usual) over-represented.

Interesting. As teams realize the importance of outfield defense, I wonder if 1B will become even more of an offensive position, since the no-field guys will no longer be hidden in the outfield.

Sky, good point. I think Dunn is your best example of the value of outfield defense.
The few "highlights" I've seen of him in RF this year have been...well...comical.

Its the changing of the guard at the position coupled with the fact that there are 30 1b and 14 DH. Mark Buehrle's perfect game was awesome this afternoon.

Luke Scott has been pretty much a pure DH this year (16 games in the outfield), and he has 18 HRs in 286 plate appearances. If the Orioles gave him as many plate appearances as Aubrey Huff, and he hit HR at his current rate in them, he'd have 24 HRs, tied with Dunn.

Scott isn't alone. There are only four players in baseball with 50 games at DH and 300 PAs this year. There are 20 first basemen with 300 or more AT BATS. The DHs haven't hit as well as the first basemen, but counting stats are going to overestimate the effect dramatically.

I think it is a bit "flukish" personally. Injuries and suspensions to Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Quentin, and Manny Ramirez have removed them from the leaderboards, while sufficient playing time granted to Russell Branyan has allowed him the opportunity to show off his power.

As it relates to a greater appreciation for outfield defense, I don't think it would be reflected at the MLB level this quickly. And last time I checked, Adam Dunn was still playing LF and RF, not 1B or DH.