A new generation of star first baseman has taken over

Friday June 21st, 2013

Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt is third in the NL with 17 home runs and first with 62 RBIs.
Mark J. Terrill/AP

Over the previous five seasons, Paul Konerko, Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Carlos Peña, Kevin Youkilis and Lance Berkman all made All-Star teams as first basemen. Don't look for any of them this year at the All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York.

While you blinked, the first base position, as far as the premier players are concerned, was taken over by a new generation of players. Chris Davis, 27, Paul Goldschmidt, 25, Freddie Freeman, 23, Allen Craig, 28, and Adam Lind, 29, have zero combined All-Star appearances, but most of them could be looking at their first.

JAFFE: The case for Yasiel Puig as an NL All-Star

Entering Friday, of the top 12 first basemen as ranked by OPS, all of them are no older than 31. You won't find Konerko, 37, Berkman, 37, Peña, 35, Youkilis, 34, Pujols, 33, Howard, 33, Teixeira, 33, and Morneau, 32. Combined All-Star appearances for the Old Guard: 35.

It's not just first basemen. Of the top 28 qualified hitters as ranked by OPS, only three of them are older than their age-31 season: David Ortiz, 37, Michael Cuddyer, 34, and Carlos Beltran, 36. It's just more proof of what has been obvious over the past five to 10 years: The actuarial tables for player performance have returned to normal. With a few exceptions, committing big money to players as they age through their mid-30s is a major risk of overpayment for decline years.

2. Giambi looking like a manager already

Cleveland manager Terry Francona has a piece of paper tacked to his office bulletin board. It has the hand-written cell phone numbers of all of his players. Why is it there? Francona mentioned in spring training that he would like to gather the players' numbers in case he needed to reach them away from the ballpark. He said "not 10 minutes later" designated hitter Jason Giambi handed him the list. Giambi had done the legwork himself that quickly. In short time Giambi has become as important to Francona as a go-to team leader as Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz were in Boston.

"I'll tell you, I've never been around anybody quite like him," Francona said. "After being around him, I know this: Walt Weiss must have had a hell of an interview in Colorado. Because they talked to Jason [for the managing job], and for Weiss to get that job tells you how good he must be. Because Jason is that impressive."

REITER: The redemption of Jason Giambi

Last week when the Indians brought first-round pick Clint Frazier, a high school outfielder, to Progressive Field, it was Giambi who sat down with Frazier in the dugout for 20 minutes to give him advice and his own cell number. "Call me any time if you need anything," he told the kid. After listening to Francona rave about Giambi's influence and baseball knowledge, it's hard to imagine that Giambi will not be managing somewhere soon.

3. Where have you gone, Bronx Bombers?

Give Yankees manager Joe Girardi credit. For New York to be six games over .500 and just 3 ½ games out of first place with this offense and so many injuries reflects well on the job Girardi has done to squeeze the most out of this team.

Just how bad is the Yankees' offense? It's Horace Clarke bad. It's Alvaro Espinoza bad. The 2013 Yankees are bad enough to be keeping the statistical company of some of the infamously bad New York teams and their not-so-memorable middle infielders.

New York is hitting .238. That's the worst batting average for a Yankees team in the DH era; you have to go back to Clarke's 1969 team to find a worse hitting Yankees squad.

As far as runs per game (3.88) and getting on base (.301), only the 1990 Yankees of Espinoza, guided by Bucky Dent and Stump Merrill, have been worse since the addition of the DH in 1973.

That quaint early-season narrative about scrap-heap veterans keeping the Yankees afloat has long since expired. In June the Yankees are hitting .212, slugging .306 and have scored 57 runs -- all the worst such marks in the league. Injuries or not, it's strange to see New York fielding such a poor hitting team in that hitter-friendly ballpark.

Take a look at where the 2013 Yankees rank among the team's worst offenses in the DH era and you'll get an idea of the job done by Girardi:

Batting Average

2013: .238

1990: .241

Runs Per Game

1990: 3.72

2013: 3.88

On Base Percentage

1990: .300

2013: .301

Slugging Percentage

1990: .366

1974: .368

1973: .378

2013: .379

Strikeouts Per Game

2013: 7.38

2002: 7.27

Hits Per Game

2013: 7.97

1990: 8.16

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