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Best First Basemen of All Time in MLB

Best First Basemen of All Time in MLB - Knup Sports

Take a look as Tom dives into the Best First Basemen of All Time in the MLB. Thoughts?

It can likely be said for all lists but the best first basemen of all time are very hard to categorize into a Top ten list. But here goes the KnupSports list by Time — and argue away. 

10) Jim Thome

A prolific power hitter, Thome hit 612 home runs during his career—the eighth-most all time—along with 2,328 hits, 1,699 runs batted in (RBIs), and a .276 batting average. He was a member of five All-Star teams and won a Silver Slugger Award in 1996. His strength was power hitting.

In 12 different seasons, he hit at least 30 home runs, topping 40 home runs in six of those seasons. He hit a career-high 52 homers in 2002, and in 2003 he led the National League in home runs with 47. Due in part to his ability to draw walks, with 12 seasons of at least 90 bases on balls, he finished his career with a .402 on-base percentage.

Thome’s career on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .956 ranks 19th all-time. In 2011, he became only the eighth MLB player to hit 600 home runs. Thome is the career leader in walk-off home runs with 13. His career WAR was 66.9. 

9) Miguel Cabrera

Debuting in 2003, he was a two-time American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) award winner, a four-time AL batting champion, and a 12-time MLB All-Star. He played at first and third base for most of his major league career, but primarily played left and right field before 2006.

He claimed the 17th MLB Triple Crown in 2012,  the first to do so in 45 seasons. Cabrera is one of three players in MLB history to have a career batting average above .300, 500 home runs, and 3,000 hits, joining Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. He  is regarded as one of the greatest hitters of all time.

He won four AL batting titles, including three in consecutive years (2011–2013), and batted over .300 in 11 different seasons. He hit 30 or more home runs in ten separate seasons and drove in over 100 runs in 12 separate seasons (including 11 consecutive seasons, 2004–2014).

Cabrera is the all-time leader in career home runs and hits by a Venezuelan player, surpassing Andrés Galarraga and Omar Vizquel respectively. He joined the 500 home run club in 2021 and the 3,000 hit club in 2022; he was the seventh player in MLB history to reach both milestones.

Cabrera has been worth 67.8 Wins Above Replacement and 29.5 Wins Above Average. He certainly belongs on the top 1st basemen of all-time list.

8) Willie McCovey

He made his debut on July 30,1959 when he faced future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. Willie hammered out four hits in four at bats with two singles and two triples. He went on to capture the 1959 Rookie of the Year in the National League.

McCovey was called “the scariest hitter in baseball” by pitcher Bob Gibson, seconded by similarly feared slugger Reggie Jackson. McCovey hit 521 home runs, 231 of them in Candlestick Park, the most in that park by any player. A home run he hit on September 16, 1966, was described as the longest ever hit in that stadium.

After he retired, he was named as a first ballot Hall Of Fame player in 1986. In his playing career, he was a 6× All-Star (1963, 1966, 1968–1971), NL MVP (1969), 3× NL home run leader (1963, 1968, 1969), 2× NL RBI leader (1968, 1969) and had his number 44 retired by the San Francisco Giants.

His best year statistically was 1969, when he hit 45 home runs, had 126 RBI and batted .320 to become the National League MVP. He was also named the Most Valuable Player of the 1969 All-Star Game after hitting two home runs to lead the National League team to a 9–3 victory over the American League.

Over the course of his career, Willie McCovey made 9,692 plate appearances. McCovey was worth 64.5 Wins Above Replacement and 30.3 Wins Above Average. 

7) Hank Greenberg

Greenberg comes in number 7 on our best first basemen of all time list. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB), primarily for the Detroit Tigers as a top first baseman in the 1930s and 1940s. A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award winner, he was one of the premier power hitters of his generation and is widely considered one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history.

Greenberg played the first twelve of his 13 major league seasons for Detroit; with the Tigers, he was an All-Star for four seasons and was named the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player in 1935 and 1940. He had a batting average over .300 in eight seasons, and won two World Series championships with the Tigers (1935 and 1945).

He was the AL home run leader four times and his 58 home runs for the Tigers in 1938 equaled Jimmie Foxx’s 1932 mark for the most in one season by anyone other than Babe Ruth, and tied Foxx for the most home runs between Ruth’s record 60 in 1927 and Roger Maris’ record 61 in 1961. Greenberg was the first major league player to hit 25 or more home runs in a season in each league, and remains the AL record-holder for most runs batted in in a single season by a right-handed batter. He finished with a 60.6 WAR.

6) Johnny Mize

He played for 15 seasons between 1936 and 1953, losing three seasons to military service during World War II. Mize was a ten-time All-Star who played for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, and the New York Yankees. During his tenure with the Yankees, the team won five consecutive World Series.

Johnny Mize retired in 1953 with 359 career home runs and a .312 batting average along with 1,118 runs, 2,011 hits, 367 doubles, 83 triples, 1,337 RBI and 856 bases on balls. Defensively, he recorded a .992 fielding percentage as a first baseman.  He was selected for induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1981. In 2014, he was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum. He concluded his career with a 68.1 WAR

5) Frank Thomas

A five-time All-Star, he is the only player in major league history to have seven consecutive seasons (1991–1997) with at least a .300 batting average, 100 runs batted in (RBI), 100 runs scored, 100 walks, and 20 home runs. Thomas also won the AL batting title in 1997 with a .347 mark. Thomas is a two-time AL MVP and won a World Series in 2005 although he was injured during the regular season and World Series.

By the end of his career, Thomas was tied for eighth in AL history for home runs (521), ninth for RBI (1,704), and sixth for walks (1,667). Among players with at least 7,000 at bats in the AL, he ranked eighth in slugging average (.555) and ninth in on-base percentage (.419). With a .301 lifetime batting average, he became the seventh player in history to retire with at least a .300 average and 500 home runs. 

He holds White Sox franchise records for career home runs (448), RBI (1,465), runs (1,327), doubles (447), extra base hits, walks (1,466), slugging average, (.568) and on-base percentage (.427). The White Sox retired Thomas’s uniform number 35 in 2010 and unveiled a statue of him at U.S. Cellular Field in 2011. Thomas was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014 in his first year of eligibility—the first White Sox star to achieve that distinction. His career WAR is 72.0 and is our 5th best first basemen of all-time.

4) Jimmie Foxx

4th on the best first basemen of all time in the MLB is Jimmie Fox. He became the ninth player to win a Triple Crown and set a then-record for most MVP awards with three. His 58 home runs hit in 1932 were third-most all-time in a season at the time, his 438 total bases collected that same season are fifth most all time, and he is one of only seven batters to accumulate over 400 total bases in a season more than once.

Foxx won two American League (AL) batting titles, led all of baseball in home runs four times, and batted over .300 in eleven full seasons. On September 24, 1940, Foxx became the second member of the 500 Home Run Club when he hit a sixth-inning home run off George Caster. For nearly 67 years, he held the record for the youngest major leaguer to reach 500 home runs.

His 534 home runs are currently 19th all time, and his 1,922 RBI are tenth all time. With a career batting average of .325 and slugging percentage of .609, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951. Accolades include  :9× All-Star (1933–1941) (3× AL RBI leader 1932, 1933, 1938), 2× World Series champion (1929, 1930), 3× AL MVP (1932, 1933, 1938) Triple Crown (1933), 2× AL batting champion (1933, 1938), 4× AL home run leader (1932, 1933, 1935, 1939), Foxx finished his 20-year career with 534 home runs, 1,922 runs batted in, 1,751 runs scored, 2,646 hits, 458 doubles, 125 triples, 1,452 walks and a .325 batting average. His lifetime WAR was 101.4.

3)Albert Pujols

Pujols is a highly regarded hitter who has long shown a “combination of contact hitting ability, patience and raw power.” He was the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2005, 2008, and 2009 and is an 11-time All-Star (2001, 2003–2010, 2015, 2022). He is a six-time Silver Slugger who has twice led the NL in home runs, and he has also led the NL once each in batting average, doubles, and runs batted in (RBIs).

In 2018, Pujols collected his 3,000th career hit, becoming the 32nd MLB player to reach that milestone. During the 2022 season, Pujols moved into second place all-time for career RBIs and total bases and became the fourth player with 700 career home runs.

At the end of the season, he was also the major league career leader in double plays grounded into (426), 3rd in sacrifice flies (123), 5th in games played (3,080) and doubles (686), and 6th in at bats (11,421). He won two Gold Glove awards at first base. His career WAR is 101.6.

2) Stan Musial

Widely considered to be one of the greatest and most consistent hitters in baseball history, Musial spent 22 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, from 1941 to 1944 and from 1946 to 1963, before becoming a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

He batted .331 over the course of his career and set National League (NL) records for career hits (3,630), runs batted in (1,951), games played (3,026), at bats (10,972), runs scored (1,949) and doubles (725). His 475 career home runs then ranked second in NL history behind Mel Ott’s total of 511. A seven-time batting champion, he was named the National League’s (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and was a member of three World Series championship teams.

He also shares the major league record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. His lifetime WAR is 126.4. (Musial also played some games in the outfield but was primarily at first base).

1) Lou Gehrig

He played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees (1923–1939). Gehrig was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, which earned him his nickname “the Iron Horse”. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

He was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once,[3] an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice, and a member of six World Series champion teams. He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average. He hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in (RBI).

He still has the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted in per 100 plate appearances (35.08) and per 100 games (156.7) among Hall of Fame players. In 1939, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first MLB player to have his uniform number  retired by a team. Gehrig had played 2,130 consecutive games, shattering the previous record of 1,307 along the way.

On the outside of our best first basemen of all time in the MLB list: Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Eddie Murray

Don’t miss our other articles in this series, as we dive into the Top Catchers of All-Time along with other positions.

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