Assembling the Perfect Reds First Baseman

What do you think of the exercise, Scott? - Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Ummm...Joey Votto. No assembly required.

I must preface this diversionary mental exercise with the statement that, in fact, the perfect Reds first baseman may indeed simply be Joey Votto for all intents and purposes. But simply listing his name for every aspect of our frankenplayer would not be all that fun or enlightening, so I will attempt to mix it up as much as possible. Secondly, this is my idealistic creation and I might play a bit by my own rules. Which is to say I will place more emphasis on the players I have actually seen in my lifetime. For some aspects, this is rather out of necessity, since I am not sure how to judge the arm strength of guys who may have played 90+ years ago. In fact, I'm not sure how to judge that for modern players either, except to have seen them play. And that applies to all the aspects of a payer's abilities to a more or lesser degree as we have reliable stats to gauge those abilities. OK, with those disclaimers out of the way, let's see how many pieces of this imaginary Reds first baseman can be made of non-Joey Votto attributes.

Hit tool: Jake Beckley puts up a good fight, hitting for a .325 BA in his Reds career, including four seasons of .330 or better, and one more season just missing that. Sean Casey also had 5 seasons as a Red hitting over .300, with two of them over .320. Casey was a consummate line drive hitter who used the whole field effectively. Then again, Joey Votto has a .360 career BABIP because he hits the ball so frickin' hard (it's not because he's fast...), and also he has like never in his career hit an infield popup. Or maybe once. He hit an infield popup once. I think. How can you argue with that? Votto has 4 seasons of .320 or better (so far!), and one infield popup in his entire life. I can't get over that - it's hit tool at it's finest. Back when Beckley played, the league hit at about a .280 clip, compared to only about .260 in our modern times, so keep that in mind as well. Joey Votto is the winner here. But it was a close fight.

Power: I don't know about you, but when I think of power and Reds first basemen at the same time, Ted Kluszewski springs to mind. And he should. There is a famous photo of him in a sleeveless shirt and all. He is also third all time among Reds 1B in isolated power. I'll give you one guess who is first... However, Votto plays in a MUCH more friendly home park for HRs than Big Klu did, and Klu had 3 seasons over 40 HRs topping out at 49, and was also reliable for 25-35 doubles a year. Kluszewski's power took a while to ramp up in his early career, but it peaked at higher highs than Votto's (so far). This one goes to Kluszewski, who by the way, also has a heck of a claim in the hit tool department as well, thanks to insanely low K rates for someone with that kind of power. Heck, insanely low for anyone.

Plate discipline: Haha, moving on.

OK, but really, no one comes all that close to Votto in this regard. Maybe if Hatteberg had played a bit more for the Reds in his career, some kind of case could be made for him. His walk rates weren't terribly far behind Votto's and his K rates were much lower. Dan Driessen also walked more than he struck out, but again, he played in a time when league K rates were about 13%, whereas now they are about 20%, and all that jazz.

Speed: Hey, I think we are going to find some new blood. Dan Driessen's best season (for steals) saw him nab 31 bases, with another year of 28, and all told eight seasons in double figures. He's also the reds 1B career leader in steals. Dick Hoblitzell played fewer season for the Reds, but with top seasons of 32 and 28 to match Driessen's peak, he added 23, 18, and 17 in his other full seasons, bettering Driessen. Unfortunately, we don't have caught stealing info for Hoblitzell's career, but indications are that he was caught kind of a lot from the pieces we do have, whereas Driessen tended to have solid SB%. So in the end, Driessen looks like the pick here.

Arm: A comparison of 1B arms seems kind of like when a substitute teacher gives you a pointless assignment just so you'll have busywork to do. Actually, I have no idea how to even go about figuring how good various first basemen's arms actually were. Tony Perez spent a solid chunk of his career at 3B, making him a very solid candidate on that merit. I thought Lee May played outfield, but actually it was just some random spare time more or less. Tony Perez it is.

Glove: This is a very interesting question. I can't say that I remember seeing any standout defensive 1B for the Reds. If we believe in defensive metrics, we can only find three 1B in Reds history who added value with their gloves, and Frank McCormick is the most recent of the group, having played in the 40s. OK. The first actually recent player to show up on the leaderboard is Scott Hatteberg, and I can buy that. Again, Tony Perez played 3B, so he probably was more than adequate at 1B. He never won a Gold Glove. In fact, Votto is the only Reds 1B who ever has, with his win in 2011. I actually would have been tempted to give this to Joey Votto as well, but last season's error fest may be an indication that his poor fundamentals are catching up to his declining athleticism (which we may also be able to thank his knee injury for in some part). If we can take the best parts of a defender, I will take Joey Votto who has shown very good (sometimes even too much) range and reliable hands most of the time. If we have to take the good with the bad, which only seems fair, I guess I will take Farmer Vaughn all the way back from the 1890s, as he split time at 1B, catcher, and outfield, with a spattering of appearances at 2B and 3B for good measure. He is by far the most positively rated defensive 1B by the " advanced" numbers, even though he spent good chunks of his playing time elsewhere.

Durability: Tony Perez laps the field here with 9 seasons of 150+ games, and nearly 500 more games at 1B for the Reds than runner up Dan Driessen. Amazingly, Perez never once in his Reds career (or indeed, his entire 23 year baseball career) went on the disabled list. He also leads, of course, in PA as a 1B for the Reds by about 2150 over Dan Driessen again. So Tony Perez it is, with runner up Dan Driessen.

Intangibles: Tony Perez makes a strong showing here as well. Sparky Anderson has insisted that Perez was the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine. HOF voters apparently found something to that case as well. Everything about Joey Votto's greatness is tangible; perhaps why the "intangibles" epithet has not found a need to be attached to his name. Sean Casey was a beloved figure by his teammates and among the city as a whole during his time in Cincinnati, much like Perez. Both carried the nickname of "Mayor" because they were so well-liked. That their influence in the clubhouse and on the psyche of teammates would be dubbed intangible qualities is understandable. I give the nod to Tony Perez, who has been inducted to no fewer than 5 Halls of Fame of various repute.

Tigermetrics: It's just not fair. Joey Votto is not only like the best hitter of his generation, but he's also like model good-looking. I have said no less myself on these virtual pages many times, always to unanimous agreement. I think Dmitri Young had a very friendly face, and definitely some BP-style swag with his hairdos on occasion. I liked Dmitri. Of Jake Beckley, SABR's website says and I quote, "Beckley was a handsome man, though one of his eyes was slightly crossed." Ted Kluszewski has the aforementioned muscle-shirt pic. OK, I am delaying the point: it's Joey.

Recipe for Perfect Reds 1B: 3/9 Joey Votto. 3/9 Tony Perez. 1/9 Ted Kluszewski. 1/9 Dan Driessen. 1/9 Farmer Vaughn.

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