From Votto to Pujols to Chance: The Greatest Decades at First Base

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at Mike Trout‘s dominance and how his first eight years stack up compared to the best 10-year periods in history, both by WAR and by offense alone. We’ve done the same on the pitching side, emphasizing Clayton Kershaw’s great run over the last decade-plus. Now, we’ll take the opportunity to do the same at individual positions, starting at first base. The position is known as a power-hitting position, though the reigning leader over the past 10 years has merely good thump. Joey Votto has hit over 30 homers in a season just twice in his career and his 284 long balls aren’t very high up on the all-time leaderboard. Rather, it’s Votto’s high batting average and ability to get on base with a great walk rate that have separated him from his peers and caused him to put up a 151 wRC+ since he started in Cincinnati back in 2007.

Votto’s 48.1 WAR over the last 10 years is the best in the majors among first baseman, though it isn’t his best 10-year period. Here’s how the top-three in 10-year WAR at first base has looked over the last decade:

10-Year First Base WAR Leaders Since 2010
Yr End 1st WAR 2nd WAR 3rd WAR
2010 Albert Pujols 77 Lance Berkman 49 Todd Helton 39
2011 Albert Pujols 74 Lance Berkman 47 Miguel Cabrera 40
2012 Albert Pujols 72 Miguel Cabrera 47 Mark Teixeira 42
2013 Albert Pujols 63 Miguel Cabrera 55 Mark Teixeira 41
2014 Albert Pujols 58 Miguel Cabrera 58 Mark Teixeira 37
2015 Miguel Cabrera 57 Albert Pujols 52 Joey Votto 40
2016 Miguel Cabrera 56 Joey Votto 46 Albert Pujols 44
2017 Joey Votto 52 Miguel Cabrera 51 Albert Pujols 35
2018 Joey Votto 52 Miguel Cabrera 49 Paul Goldschmidt 36
2019 Joey Votto 48 Miguel Cabrera 43 Paul Goldschmidt 39

I tried to make sure that players wouldn’t be eligible for multiple positions over any one period of time, choosing a player’s dominant position over a decade. For example, while Joe Mauer was in the top-three from 2008 to 2017, he played more catcher than first base and should be in the catcher group rather than with the players above. As for what will happen after this year, Votto has about a two-win lead over Paul Goldschmidt since 2011, so he could retain the crown for another year. Goldschmidt seems likely to overtake Votto after the 2021 season, though Freddie Freeman might top them both.

If we go all the way back to 1900, the player who has ended the most seasons as 10-year WAR leader at first base probably isn’t a surprise. The same is true for the player in second place:

Number of Years Spent as 10-Year First Base WAR Leader
Player Years as 10-Year WAR Leader High
Lou Gehrig 10 92.5
Albert Pujols 8 77.3
Gil Hodges 8 39.4
Johnny Mize 8 45.6
George Sisler 8 48.4
Jeff Bagwell 7 64.1
Harmon Killebrew 7 51.3
Ed Konetchy 7 39.8
Jimmie Foxx 6 77.7
Eddie Murray 5 50.1
Keith Hernandez 5 50.9
Frank Chance 5 44.4
Joey Votto 3 52.2
Miguel Cabrera 3 57.8
Fred McGriff 3 43.2
Rod Carew 3 51.5
Tony Perez 3 48.2
Frank Thomas 2 57.3
Willie Stargell 2 42.1
Dick Allen 2 50.9
Roy Sievers 2 26.9
Todd Helton 1 50.5
Willie McCovey 1 49.8
Ernie Banks 1 43.5
Orlando Cepeda 1 38.6

Lou Gehrig and Albert Pujols top the charts here, though Gil Hodges was the best first baseman in baseball for quite some time despite never posting gaudy WAR numbers. Players like Ernie Banks, Rod Carew, Willie Stargell, Tony Perez, and Dick Allen all could appear on other position lists, but spent the latter portion of their careers at first base.

As for the best decades of all-time at first base, Gehrig and Pujols are featured a lot on that list, as well:

Best 10-Year First Base WAR Since 1900
1st Yr Start Yr End WAR
Lou Gehrig 1927 1936 92.5
Lou Gehrig 1926 1935 89.9
Lou Gehrig 1928 1937 88.5
Lou Gehrig 1925 1934 84.2
Lou Gehrig 1929 1938 83.8
Jimmie Foxx 1929 1938 77.7
Albert Pujols 2001 2010 77.3
Jimmie Foxx 1930 1939 77
Lou Gehrig 1930 1939 76.2
Jimmie Foxx 1931 1940 75.5
Jimmie Foxx 1932 1941 74.9
Jimmie Foxx 1928 1937 74.1
Albert Pujols 2002 2011 74
Lou Gehrig 1924 1933 73.7
Albert Pujols 2003 2012 71.9
Albert Pujols 2000 2009 70.6
Jimmie Foxx 1927 1936 70.5
Lou Gehrig 1923 1932 67
Lou Gehrig 1931 1940 66.6
Jimmie Foxx 1926 1935 64.4
Jeff Bagwell 1993 2002 64.1
Jimmie Foxx 1933 1942 64
Jeff Bagwell 1992 2001 63.8
Albert Pujols 2004 2013 62.9
Jeff Bagwell 1991 2000 62.8
Jeff Bagwell 1994 2003 62.3
Albert Pujols 1999 2008 62.2

In the last 120 years, only Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Albert Pujols, and Jeff Bagwell have averaged six wins per year over the course of a decade at first base. To provide some more contemporary names, here’s what the list looks like since 1961:

Best 10-Year First Base WAR Since 1961
Player ▾ Yr Start Yr End WAR
Albert Pujols 2001 2010 77.3
Albert Pujols 2002 2011 74
Albert Pujols 2003 2012 71.9
Albert Pujols 2000 2009 70.6
Albert Pujols 2004 2013 62.9
Albert Pujols 1999 2008 62.2
Albert Pujols 2005 2014 57.8
Albert Pujols 1998 2007 53.5
Albert Pujols 2006 2015 51.7
Dick Allen 1965 1974 50.9
Eddie Murray 1978 1987 50.1
Frank Thomas 1991 2000 57.3
Frank Thomas 1990 1999 53.8
Frank Thomas 1989 1998 51.7
Frank Thomas 1992 2001 50
Harmon Killebrew 1961 1970 51.3
Jeff Bagwell 1993 2002 64.1
Jeff Bagwell 1992 2001 63.8
Jeff Bagwell 1991 2000 62.8
Jeff Bagwell 1994 2003 62.3
Jeff Bagwell 1995 2004 58.1
Jeff Bagwell 1990 1999 56.9
Jeff Bagwell 1996 2005 53.6
Jim Thome 1995 2004 51.7
Joey Votto 2008 2017 52.2
Joey Votto 2009 2018 52.1
Keith Hernandez 1977 1986 50.9
Keith Hernandez 1978 1987 50.8
Keith Hernandez 1979 1988 50.4
Miguel Cabrera 2005 2014 57.8
Miguel Cabrera 2006 2015 57.3
Miguel Cabrera 2007 2016 55.8
Miguel Cabrera 2004 2013 55
Miguel Cabrera 2008 2017 50.6
Rafael Palmeiro 1990 1999 50.2
Rod Carew 1973 1982 51.5
Rod Carew 1972 1981 51.5
Todd Helton 1998 2007 50.5

The only players in the last 50 years with a 10-year WAR at first base higher than Votto’s are either in the Hall of Fame or are no-doubters like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. A little lower on the list we see more borderline cases like Todd Helton, Keith Hernandez, Dick Allen, Todd Helton, and Rafael Palmeiro. Votto’s 2019 season certainly didn’t bode well for his future or his case for the Hall, but he’s got an MVP award and a couple more solid seasons might solidify his case.

If you wanted to go all the way back to 1900 and see the top-three players at first base for 10-year WAR, the table below is for you:

10-Year First Base WAR Leaders From 1909 to 2019
Yr End ▾ 1st WAR 2nd WAR 3rd WAR
1909 Frank Chance 43 Harry Davis 35 Fred Tenney 31
1910 Frank Chance 44 Harry Davis 37 Fred Tenney 29
1911 Frank Chance 44 Harry Davis 33 Fred Tenney 28
1912 Frank Chance 41 Harry Davis 30 Ed Konetchy 24
1913 Frank Chance 35 Ed Konetchy 28 Harry Davis 27
1914 Ed Konetchy 30 Frank Chance 29 Harry Davis 23
1915 Ed Konetchy 36 Frank Chance 23 Jake Daubert 22
1916 Ed Konetchy 40 Jake Daubert 26 Dots Miller 20
1917 Ed Konetchy 41 Jake Daubert 27 Dots Miller 22
1918 Ed Konetchy 37 Jake Daubert 30 Stuffy McInnis 24
1919 Ed Konetchy 35 Jake Daubert 32 Fred Merkle 26
1920 Ed Konetchy 33 Jake Daubert 33 George Sisler 33
1921 George Sisler 38 Jake Daubert 30 Ed Konetchy 29
1922 George Sisler 47 Jake Daubert 31 Ed Konetchy 25
1923 George Sisler 47 Jake Daubert 28 Jack Fournier 27
1924 George Sisler 47 Jack Fournier 30 Wally Pipp 29
1925 George Sisler 48 Jack Fournier 29 Joe Judge 29
1926 George Sisler 45 Joe Judge 30 Jack Fournier 29
1927 George Sisler 40 Jack Fournier 30 Joe Judge 29
1928 George Sisler 36 Lou Gehrig 33 Joe Judge 30
1929 Lou Gehrig 40 Jim Bottomley 31 George Kelly 30
1930 Lou Gehrig 50 Jim Bottomley 32 Joe Judge 30
1931 Lou Gehrig 59 Jim Bottomley 35 Bill Terry 34
1932 Lou Gehrig 67 Bill Terry 41 Jimmie Foxx 37
1933 Lou Gehrig 74 Jimmie Foxx 47 Bill Terry 45
1934 Lou Gehrig 84 Jimmie Foxx 56 Bill Terry 51
1935 Lou Gehrig 90 Jimmie Foxx 64 Bill Terry 53
1936 Lou Gehrig 93 Jimmie Foxx 71 Bill Terry 53
1937 Lou Gehrig 89 Jimmie Foxx 74 Bill Terry 47
1938 Lou Gehrig 84 Jimmie Foxx 78 Bill Terry 43
1939 Jimmie Foxx 77 Lou Gehrig 76 Hank Greenberg 39
1940 Jimmie Foxx 76 Lou Gehrig 67 Hank Greenberg 47
1941 Jimmie Foxx 75 Lou Gehrig 58 Hank Greenberg 48
1942 Jimmie Foxx 64 Lou Gehrig 49 Hank Greenberg 48
1943 Jimmie Foxx 54 Hank Greenberg 44 Dolph Camilli 44
1944 Jimmie Foxx 45 Johnny Mize 44 Dolph Camilli 43
1945 Johnny Mize 44 Dolph Camilli 44 Jimmie Foxx 37
1946 Johnny Mize 45 Hank Greenberg 40 Rudy York 39
1947 Johnny Mize 46 Rudy York 36 Hank Greenberg 35
1948 Johnny Mize 45 Rudy York 30 Frank McCormick 30
1949 Johnny Mize 40 Phil Cavarretta 29 Rudy York 28
1950 Johnny Mize 34 Phil Cavarretta 29 Rudy York 22
1951 Johnny Mize 30 Phil Cavarretta 28 Tommy Henrich 22
1952 Phil Cavarretta 26 Johnny Mize 25 Ferris Fain 22
1953 Johnny Mize 25 Ferris Fain 24 Phil Cavarretta 23
1954 Gil Hodges 27 Ferris Fain 26 Johnny Mize 25
1955 Gil Hodges 31 Ferris Fain 28 Mickey Vernon 26
1956 Gil Hodges 34 Ferris Fain 28 Ted Kluszewski 26
1957 Gil Hodges 38 Ted Kluszewski 26 Mickey Vernon 24
1958 Gil Hodges 39 Mickey Vernon 26 Ted Kluszewski 25
1959 Gil Hodges 39 Ted Kluszewski 25 Earl Torgeson 22
1960 Gil Hodges 36 Ted Kluszewski 24 Joe Adcock 22
1961 Gil Hodges 31 Joe Adcock 26 Ted Kluszewski 24
1962 Roy Sievers 27 Joe Adcock 26 Gil Hodges 26
1963 Roy Sievers 27 Joe Adcock 25 Orlando Cepeda 24
1964 Orlando Cepeda 29 Norm Cash 25 Roy Sievers 25
1965 Harmon Killebrew 30 Norm Cash 30 Orlando Cepeda 29
1966 Ernie Banks 44 Harmon Killebrew 37 Norm Cash 34
1967 Harmon Killebrew 44 Ernie Banks 40 Orlando Cepeda 39
1968 Harmon Killebrew 46 Norm Cash 42 Willie McCovey 39
1969 Harmon Killebrew 49 Norm Cash 45 Willie McCovey 44
1970 Harmon Killebrew 51 Willie McCovey 49 Norm Cash 44
1971 Willie McCovey 50 Harmon Killebrew 49 Norm Cash 37
1972 Harmon Killebrew 49 Willie McCovey 48 Boog Powell 36
1973 Harmon Killebrew 45 Willie McCovey 45 Boog Powell 36
1974 Dick Allen 51 Willie McCovey 48 Harmon Killebrew 42
1975 Dick Allen 45 Willie McCovey 45 Harmon Killebrew 36
1976 Tony Perez 48 Dick Allen 39 Willie McCovey 39
1977 Tony Perez 48 Willie McCovey 36 Dick Allen 33
1978 Tony Perez 45 George Scott 31 Dick Allen 29
1979 Willie Stargell 42 Tony Perez 40 Steve Garvey 30
1980 Willie Stargell 40 Steve Garvey 33 Tony Perez 33
1981 Rod Carew 52 Steve Garvey 33 Willie Stargell 32
1982 Rod Carew 52 Steve Garvey 33 Keith Hernandez 33
1983 Rod Carew 47 Keith Hernandez 38 Eddie Murray 33
1984 Keith Hernandez 44 Rod Carew 42 Eddie Murray 40
1985 Keith Hernandez 48 Eddie Murray 45 Rod Carew 35
1986 Keith Hernandez 51 Eddie Murray 49 Cecil Cooper 30
1987 Keith Hernandez 51 Eddie Murray 50 Jack Clark 34
1988 Keith Hernandez 50 Eddie Murray 49 Jack Clark 31
1989 Eddie Murray 48 Keith Hernandez 43 Jack Clark 34
1990 Eddie Murray 49 Keith Hernandez 36 Pedro Guerrero 35
1991 Eddie Murray 47 Kent Hrbek 34 Jack Clark 34
1992 Eddie Murray 44 Don Mattingly 36 Kent Hrbek 32
1993 Eddie Murray 39 Don Mattingly 39 Will Clark 34
1994 Fred McGriff 38 Will Clark 37 Don Mattingly 35
1995 Fred McGriff 40 Will Clark 39 Frank Thomas 35
1996 Fred McGriff 43 Mark McGwire 42 Frank Thomas 42
1997 Frank Thomas 49 Fred McGriff 43 Rafael Palmeiro 43
1998 Frank Thomas 52 Jeff Bagwell 49 Rafael Palmeiro 47
1999 Jeff Bagwell 57 Frank Thomas 54 Rafael Palmeiro 50
2000 Jeff Bagwell 63 Frank Thomas 57 Rafael Palmeiro 49
2001 Jeff Bagwell 64 Frank Thomas 50 Rafael Palmeiro 47
2002 Jeff Bagwell 64 Rafael Palmeiro 48 John Olerud 47
2003 Jeff Bagwell 62 Jim Thome 49 Rafael Palmeiro 45
2004 Jeff Bagwell 58 Jim Thome 52 Rafael Palmeiro 40
2005 Jeff Bagwell 54 Jim Thome 46 Todd Helton 44
2006 Todd Helton 46 Jeff Bagwell 46 Albert Pujols 46
2007 Albert Pujols 54 Todd Helton 51 Jason Giambi 44
2008 Albert Pujols 62 Todd Helton 48 Lance Berkman 47
2009 Albert Pujols 71 Lance Berkman 49 Todd Helton 48
2010 Albert Pujols 77 Lance Berkman 49 Todd Helton 39
2011 Albert Pujols 74 Lance Berkman 47 Miguel Cabrera 40
2012 Albert Pujols 72 Miguel Cabrera 47 Mark Teixeira 42
2013 Albert Pujols 63 Miguel Cabrera 55 Mark Teixeira 41
2014 Albert Pujols 58 Miguel Cabrera 58 Mark Teixeira 37
2015 Miguel Cabrera 57 Albert Pujols 52 Joey Votto 40
2016 Miguel Cabrera 56 Joey Votto 46 Albert Pujols 44
2017 Joey Votto 52 Miguel Cabrera 51 Albert Pujols 35
2018 Joey Votto 52 Miguel Cabrera 49 Paul Goldschmidt 36
2019 Joey Votto 48 Miguel Cabrera 43 Paul Goldschmidt 39

And for further reference, here are the first base WAR leaders for players who played enough first base for it to be their dominant position for a decade:

First Base WAR Leaders Since 1900
Name WAR
Lou Gehrig 116.3
Jimmie Foxx 101.8
Albert Pujols 87.7
Jeff Bagwell 80.2
Rod Carew 72.3
Frank Thomas 72.1
Eddie Murray 72
Miguel Cabrera 70.6
Rafael Palmeiro 70
Jim Thome 69.1
Johnny Mize 68.6
Willie McCovey 67.4
Mark McGwire 66.3
Harmon Killebrew 66.1
Ernie Banks 63.3
Willie Stargell 62.9
Dick Allen 61.3
Hank Greenberg 61.1
Keith Hernandez 59.4
Tony Perez 58.9
John Olerud 57.3
Bill Terry 57
Fred McGriff 56.9
Joey Votto 56.2
Lance Berkman 55.9
Todd Helton 54.9
Orange= Accrued Significant WAR at other positions.

We hoped you liked reading From Votto to Pujols to Chance: The Greatest Decades at First Base by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

newest oldest most voted
emh1969
Member
emh1969

Jimmie Foxx was the 10-year leader 6 times, despite going head-to-head with Gehrig for basically his whole career. That’s pretty darn good…

MikeD
Member
Member
MikeD

Frank Robinson and Jimmie Foxx are the two names I always come back to when I think of the best-known, yet-somehow-still underrated HOF players. They’re recognized as great, yet still seem underappreciated by many fans.