12.21.2006

Solving First Base

Albert Pujols
Mark Teixeira
Kevin Youkilis
Shea Hillenbrand
Jason Giambi
Jeff Conine
Todd Walker
Scott Konerko

What do all these guys have in common? Well they all had enough at bats at first base last year to qualify for the batting title, and secondly they all played third base at some point in their minor or major league career. That represents 33% of the eligibly first baseman, not an insignificant percentage by any measure. There are also some outstanding fielders there, in Pujols and Tex, as well as some horrendous ones, Giambi and Hillenbrand. Now what does this have to do with the Yankees? Well this is preparation for who I would like to see as our opening day first baseman...Morgan Ensberg. Today at Baseball Prospectus Nate Silver did an article analyzing the Yankees first base options. He basically stated that if Doug Mientkiewicz or Mark Loretta are your options then you might as well play Phelps or Phillips as both are projected to put up better numbers next year. Phelps is projected at a .271 Eqa, while Phillips is at .265, both of those are better than the .257 and .255 that Mark and Doug are projected at.

My contention is why settle for league average when you could do much better. Ensberg posted an EQA of .296 last season and has averaged a .290 over his career. He is a righty power bat with very good patience. Also more importantly he could be had relatively cheap. The Astros have seemed to sour on him due to the low batting average. Personally I dont care about batting average at all and if the Astros would rather have Huff at third than Ensberg than it should be our job to take advantage of that. That brings us to what it might take to get Morgan. Personally I think an offer of Jeff Karstens, Brett Gardner, and Steven White should be proficient. Karstens could slot in now as their number 5, Gardner gives them a center field option going forward. He will probably never hit for much power but neither did Willy Taveras and at least Gardner takes an occasional pitch. White also gives them a solid pitcher who could, if it works out, mature into a pretty nice #3 in the NL. He is a power righty, although not in the same class as Hughes or Sanchez.

Now the Astros will probably come back and ask for Melky, as most teams seem to do, if they do this I would go out and ask for some pitching in return either the 21 year old lefty Troy Patton or the 30 year old Brad Lidge. That is my newest solution for the first base issue although I reserve the right to change my mind if anything better comes along.

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