The best first baseman of each decade for the Astros
In our continuing series of examining the best offensive seasons by Houston Astros players through the decades, we complete the infield by examining the first base position. We began this series looking at shortstop, then third base, then to second base, and now to the position in the infield counted on for offensive production more than any of the others, first base.
While the middle infield positions used to value statistics such as sacrifice hits and stolen bases more than they do now, first base has traditionally been a power position. Nothing has changed in that regard.
What complicates the statistical data for the Houston Astros in the power categories is the Astros played their home games at the Astrodome for 35 years. That alone makes some of the seasons that much more impressive. Let’s take a look at the findings of my study and I’ll give a few observations and look forward to reading yours.
There were a couple of close calls in this. In the 1970’s, Lee May had an outstanding offensive season in 1972 with 29 HR, 98 RBI and a .284 batting average. Those were close to Watson’s 1977, and Watson had consistently strong offensive seasons each year he was the starter at first base for the Astros.
The 80’s and 90’s were decades where there was no real competition for Davis and Bagwell. Davis’ tenure was short but powerful. One item that was noteworthy was Bagwell’s statistics were compiled in a strike-shortened and injury-shortened season. As it was, he had the most impressive offensive season of any Astros infielder in 1994, while playing half of his games in the Astrodome. With a season shortened by about 50 games, there is no question that Bagwell had a shot at 50 HR and 140 RBI.
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The 2000’s was a decade where there was another very close call, perhaps the closest call of any decade or position to date. Berkman had a monster year in 2006, but Bagwell had another monster season in 2000, the first season in the new ballpark. Bagwell had 47 HR and 132 RBI, to go along with a .310 batting average and a 1.039 OPS. These are ridiculous numbers, but Berkman had the slight edge in four out of six categories.
Since Berkman was traded in 2010, the Astros have continued to look for that powerful first baseman. They tried several seasons of Carter before becoming apparently frustrated with the lack of contact. A.J. Reed is speculated by many to have the potential to reach some of these numbers we’ve seen in the past with Astros’ first baseman over time.
With the history we see laid out before us here, it’s no wonder that Astros’ fans have high offensive expectations for the first base position.
***Stats by Baseball-Reference***