Braves All-Time Team: First Base

I think it’s safe to call our first position:

C Javy Lopez

Javy received 66 percent of the vote.

Our next choice will be at first base. Candidates:

Fred McGriff
Gerald Perry
Chris Chambliss
Joe Adcock
Earl Torgeson
Buck Jordan
Walter Holke
Fred Tenney
Tommy Tucker
John Morrill

The poll is behind the fold. Andres Galarraga and Sid Bream did not meet the 2000 PA standard. Julio is about four years away. I don’t think LaRoche is going to make 2000 PA with the club. Felipe Alou actually played as much 1B with the Braves as anything but I’m going to consider him a centerfielder.


51 thoughts on “Braves All-Time Team: First Base”

  1. I would have voted for Andres provided he was eligible. I always liked having him come to bat in critical instances. Plus his amazing comeback from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma gave him a special spot in my heart and memory.

    Guess I’ll vote for McGriff (since my 2nd is gone too – Bream).

  2. I voted for the Crime Dog, but my heart says “Sid, Sid, Sid, Sid, Sid.”

    Just think about this…

    “Line drive left field, BASE HIT! One run’s in, here comes Bream…The throw to the plate…. He is…..SAFE!!!!!!!!!!!!
    BRAVES WIN BRAVES WIN BRAVES WIN BRAVES WIN!

    I got chills typing that!

  3. That list is just another reminder of how far this franchise has come in the last 15 years. Looks like Tenney wins for longetivity, McGriff for best peak, and Adcock was a little of both. Special shout out to Tommy Tucker, who appears to have been the Craig Biggio of his time (at least in terms of getting hit by pitches).

    McGriff tailed off after his first 1.5 years as a Brave, and my fond memories of him are tainted by the remembrance of how he just seemed to be losing it little by little with each passing month. I’m old enough to remember Chambliss and Perry. Chambliss was certainly famous due to his Yankee exploits, but really he was just a little above average as a ballplayer — basically he was Adam LaRoche. Okay, maybe a little better.

    Perry was miscast as a first baseman, but he was a brutal outfielder, and was one of those bad percentage guys. Wouldn’t take a walk, made lots of errors, and got thrown out on the bases constantly. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I heard he was a major league batting coach.

    My only reservation in picking Adcock over Tenney was that Adcock seemed to miss a lot of games. Don’t know if he was being hurt or platooned, or both. But he was certainly the most fearsome hitter we’ve ever had at the position for more than a couple of years, so I’ll go with him.

  4. The Braves kept platooning Adcock, though he may have been hurt in ’55 or ’57. They also shuttled him to the outfield some. The Yankees did that sort of thing, so everyone else was just imitating Stengel. That they were taking their third-best hitter (behind two Hall of Famers) out of the lineup to give more at-bats to Frank Torre, he of the .273/.349/.372 career line, didn’t enter into it. And you start to realize why a team with Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn won only one World Series and three pennants.

  5. Adcock. I think he still holds the MLB record for most total bases in a game. 4 HRs and a double in a game at the polo grounds. The double was, if I remember correctly, a bomb to dead center over Mays head that came up about 10 feet short. (Remember that centerfield a the polo grounds was like 480) And the lumbering Adcock could only get a double out of it.

  6. I voted for Adcock – though I considered Tenney based on playing time. Chambliss gets my sentimental vote, as do all of the early ’80s Braves.

    I’d love a guy like Adcock on the team. The Braves have had trouble with 1B since McGriff left.

  7. Adcock, easily.

    McGriff’s career was certainly better, but I don’t include years in Toronto or San Diego to decide who was the best Braves 1B anymore than I consider Rogers Hornsby’s amazing years as in St. Louis in determining the best Braves 2B.

  8. I had to look at the linked b-ref pages for help (and wow, Gerald Perry was even worse than I remembered), but I’d say Adcock.

  9. my “me-maw’s” favorite player was chris chambliss, but i would have to go with “firestarter freddy”.

  10. Perry was good for like half a season in ’88, I think. The only thing he ever really accomplished for the team was get traded for Leibrandt, the first great trade Scheurholz made for the Braves. Of course, he was GM of the Royals at the time…

    Note that Sid Bream is Perry’s #2 most-comparable hitter. And that Perry was a really good pinch-hitter for the Cards for two years at the end of his career.

  11. That’s not an especially high number for a third baseman. Vinny made 19 errors in his last year with the Braves and they were talking him up for a Gold Glove. TP made about 20 errors a season. Yes, Marte has fewer games played, but AAA infields aren’t up to major league caliber. That’s nothing to worry about.

  12. McGriff was a great pickup for the team and played well while here, but this is a no-brainer. Adcock should be the first baseman. He had several very solid years for some very good Brave’s teams. I don’t think he was used properly, and suspect he must have had injury problems, because why wouldn’t you want to leave a guy capable of hitting 30-35 homers a year and driving in 100 runs in the lineup? A 3-4-5 of Aaron, Mathews and Adcock had to be very scary for a lot of opposing pitchers.

  13. Clearly Adcock, any other votes are sentimental instead of based on the facts. Sad that sentimentality is going to win.

  14. I suppose if you take a really short period of time for “peak” — as in, that year and a half between the Fire and the Strike — and count a lot against Adcock for being platooned for no good reason, you could make an argument for McGriff. I don’t think so. I can’t say I’m particularly surprised, but Adcock was a heck of a player, one who would be in the Hall if not for the platoon.

  15. By the way, what did Fred do while the lights were out? Sleep 18 hours a day? Take up building model ships, ruining his eyesight? He went from an MVP candidate to average in eight months.

  16. Gotta be the crime dog. Grst I don’t think it’s sentimentality, but more the era that’s favoring McGriff. There are plenty of young people, like myself, who only saw McGriff play. Also, the Braves have been more successful and popular in North American since TBS and the 13 consectutive divisions crowns. McGriff is clearly the greatest 1B during this era. For reasons of fan age, club success, and the fact that Adock’s #s don’t blow away McGriff, McGriff is predictably the choice.

  17. Here’s Neyer’s take:

    All-Time:

    ATL only — 1. McGriff 2. Chambliss
    Franchise — Adcock (“Fred Tenney would be No. 1 if we considered 19th century.”

    Single Season:

    ATL — Aaron, 1971 (played 71 games at 1B that year)
    Franchise — Torgeson, 1950

    Rookie Season (ATL) — Justice, 1990 (69 games at 1B, and never played the position again — wow, I totally forgot about that)

    All-Bust (Franchise) — Nick Esasky. Can’t argue with that one.

    Gold Glove (ATL) — Sid Bream

    Iron Glove (ATL) — Mike Lum

  18. Torgeson was awfully good in 1950. And in 1947 he was the second-best rookie in the NL (bad timing, there) and I’d rate him ahead of Justice. But McGriff was on his way to the MVP in 1994 when the lights went out. (More bad timing! Remember, Bagwell won it but hurt his shoulder for the first time right before the strike and would have been out for weeks.) Adcock was a monster in ’56. The only reason for giving the nod to Torgeson is playing time.

  19. Raoul, Maybe Mac can clarify, but I thought this was supposed to be BEST Braves team, not best while I was a fan nor players who were my favorites growing up. Based on your logic, by the time we get to the OF Hank Aaron shouldn’t be getting any support from the very young crowd around here; heck I’m one of the oldest regulars around here and he was playing for the Brewers before I was 10. Greatness is greatness whether you saw it or not; its a very slanted view of the world to think that if you (a generic you, not specific) weren’t around, the results don’t matter.

  20. Torgeson was awfully good in 1950. And in 1947 he was the second-best rookie in the NL (bad timing, there)

    In 1947, Torgeson didn’t get a single vote for RoY. Behind Jackie R., Larry Jansen won 21 games with a 3.16 ERA for 2nd. Torgeson probably was #3 in the league, but Frank Baumholtz (a Cincy OF) was the only other NLer to have any votes. Baumholtz tops Torgeson only by weighting defense very heavily.

  21. But McGriff was on his way to the MVP in 1994 when the lights went out.

    Nah, Matt Williams was on pace to be the guy to break Roger Maris’ record and finished 2nd behind Bagwell. Bonds was a very good 3rd. McGriff was 8th when they pulled the curtain on the season.

  22. Williams wouldn’t have Done It, in my opinion. (I’ve seen the projections.) I think McGriff would have won the MVP. He was on his way to about 50 HR himself, and the Braves were probably going to make postseason while the Giants were below .500.

    Nobody paid much attention to OBP back in ’47, of course. Me, I didn’t look at pitchers…

  23. I can only assume that a lot of the people voting aren’t even bothering to look at Joe Adcock’s stats, or that they are ignoring/excluding anyone pre-Atlanta (or pre-TBS, or pre-90’s).

    Adcock was a really solid hitter who spent his 10 prime years (ages 25-34) with the Braves. McGriff was awesome for 1.5 seasons with the Braves, but Adcock’s 8th best OPS+ as a Brave is better than McGriff’s 3rd best OPS+ (and Adcock in 1956 wasn’t that much behind McGriff in 1994).

    Adcock and McGriff are clearly the 2 most deserving contenders, but I honestly don’t see much of a case for the Crime Dog as the best all-time franchise first baseman. It’s basically saying that 63 outstanding games in 1993 are worth more than 7 well above average years in the fifties and sixties.

  24. bamadan please refrain from making assumptions about what went into my pick. I didn’t just pick McGriff because of historical proximity, not that it would be any of your business anyway. I was responding to the claim that McGriff was a senitmental pick, suggesting trends like proximity are more influential than sentiment.

    Just like voting among baseball writers, each vote goes through different criteria. I didn’t vote for McGriff purely based on who I saw play, but that’s not someting you can control anyway. Thank you, though, for the advice, I appreciate your ideas.

  25. That’s putting it much to simply Joel.

    Voting for McGriff takes into account more games played in his seasons, more production, he equals the one WS title of Adock, his team contended for the title each year he was there, and he went against better pitching. He averaged over 20 games more games played in his four seasons with Atlanta, one being strike shortened. The fielding pct. are both stellar. Voting for Adock to me seems to come from a perceived higher level of franchise loyalty in voting for a man who played 10 seasons compared to four. McGriff is a better 1B who played on better Braves teams. McGriff basically played the best, most consistent four years at 1B in franchise history.

    You can justify voting for Adock, but you can’t justify a reduction of voting for McGriff to TBS and 90s Braves baseball. He definitely earned it.

  26. Raoul, I love Fred McGriff. But he wasn’t that good in his last two years in a Braves uniform. I mean, he was a lot better than LaRoche is, but .280/.361/.489 and .295/.365/.494 simply aren’t elite numbers for a first baseman in the modern game.

    In Adcock, you have a guy who played many more years for the club and played them at a consistently higher level. Adcock’s 1956 isn’t quite the equal of McGriff’s 1994, but it’s in the ballpark, and Adcock actually played more games that year. As for games played, Fred only played one full season with the team.

    McGriff was certainly a greater player than Joe Adcock. However, in terms of what he did with the Braves, Adcock’s longevity has to count for a lot considering that their levels of production were similar.

  27. That’s much easier to swallow than McGriff wins because of TBS. You value his longevity in a debate about All-Time Braves, that’s valid.

    I just happen to think McGriff was the All-Time greatest 1B to put on the Braves uniform. Adcock played 121 or less, 5 times (half of his 10 seasons), McGriff only once and it was 1994. McGriff played the best first base for four seasons in Atlanta, missing a high 18 games in 3 non-strike shortened seasons. If Adcock didn’t miss 40+ in half of his Brave seasons, I think he’s a lock. But he sat out a lot games and played outfield enough to bring his almost-as-good- as McGriff numbers down a bit. The importance of Adcock’s longevity is at least somewhat diminished by the fact that sat out a significant number of games (compared to what McGriff played in 4 seasons with better numbers).

  28. From the vote totals, it seems people are being increasingly convinced by the arguments for Adcock, but it’s probably too little too late. Hey, that’s cool, whatever people want to base their vote on is okay with me. But I would encourage anyone who isn’t familiar with the old-time players to follow the BBRef links Mac has provided and take a look around. Lots of great stuff there if you choose to take the time. Only with baseball can you construct a narrative from a bunch of old numbers.

  29. I just realized the statment about bringing the numbers down is poorly written. I meant to say something closer to the fact that his numbers are slightly less great than McGriff’s, he can’t be propelled over him by logevity because he missed so many games in half his seasons. I was on the border of saying that his numbers are further less great than McGriff because he sat out a lot games, which I didn’t mean.

  30. “That’s putting it much to simply Joel.”

    No, I think that’s stating it with just about the right amount of simplicity.

    “McGriff basically played the best, most consistent four years at 1B in franchise history.”

    No, he didn’t.

    McGriff was superb for 1.4 seasons, mediocre for 2 seasons, and lousy for 1 year. Consistency was not his strong point for the Braves.

    Look, you can justify your vote anyway you want and I won’t criticize you personally for it, but to me the bottom line is this:

    Joe Adcock as a Brave:
    1207 Games
    4696 Plate Appearances
    131 OPS+

    Fred McGriff as a Brave:
    636 Games
    2705 Plate Appearances
    128 OPS+

    Adcock played nearly twice as much as a Brave, AND overall Adcock hit better than McGriff as a Brave. McGriff was fabulous in 1994 (157 OPS+ in 113 games), but Adcock was nearly as good in more games in 1956 (152 OPS+ in 137 games).

    The case for McGriff still comes down to valuing 68 outstanding games in 1993 as being worth more than 7 above average years in the fifties and sixties.

  31. Again, too simplistic for me. Your decision is based on an OPS comparison, which is fine, but doesn’t come without weakness.

    Also, the more I think about it, Adcock’s BA and OPS have to be questioned when weighed against the fact that he played an inconsistent amount of games season-to-season. Not being around and/or aware of the Braves in the mid-50s keeps most of us from determining whether more play would have hurt or helped his numbers, but I have a hard time giving someone the benefit of the doubt when they consistently played a fewer amount of games.

    To call any of Fred McGriff’s Atlanta seasons lousy is totally absurd, he never hit .248 or even .264 in an Atlanta uniform. And I wouldn’t call Adcock’s play lousy. Calling it average isn’t really accurate either.

  32. “McGriff is a better 1B who played on better Braves teams.”

    In McGriff’s 5 years as a Brave, the Braves won 1 World Series, lost 1 World Series, and won 2 division titles where they lost in the NLCS. They were 2nd when the strike hit, but like all Braves fans I believe they would have surged past the Expos given the chance.

    In Adcock’s 10 years as a Brave, the Braves won 1 World Series, lost 1 World Series, and finished 2nd in the NL 5 times. They only finished lower than 2nd in an 8-team league once in an 8-year span. The ’50s Braves were a lot better than you are giving them credit for.

  33. “Raoul, I love Fred McGriff. But he wasn’t that good in his last two years in a Braves uniform. I mean, he was a lot better than LaRoche is, but .280/.361/.489 and .295/.365/.494 simply aren’t elite numbers for a first baseman in the modern game.”

    Those were his 2nd and 3rd full seasons with the Braves. McGriff’s last season for the Braves was .277/.356/.441 in 1997. That’s NOT better than LaRoche (even before we adjust for Adam having a better glove).

  34. Saying the 90s Braves are better doesn’t preclude me from thinking and agreeing that the 50s Braves we’re good, they we’re.

    If Fred McGriff’s 280/.361/.489 and .295/.365/.494 aren’t elite than neither are Adcock’s slightly better .298/.354/.500 or .285/.354./.507, the only consectutive two-season span in which Adcock hit for over 90 RBIs (and allows him to be compared to McGriff). Adcock did have two 100 RBI seasons, but only got over 90 three times which McGriff bested in his four straight seasons with Atlanta. On top of that comes Adcock’s .248 and .264 years. This is a great debate, Adcock was great, but his Braves career was too much of a roller coaster for my vote as All-Time Best.

  35. “The Braves kept platooning Adcock, though he may have been hurt in ’55 or ’57.”

    For most of his career with the Braves, Joe Adcock was not in a platoon. He was right-handed, so if he had been used in a platoon role his playing time would have suffered immensely. He was, however, injury prone.

    Adcock was the starting first baseman for the Milwaukee Braves almost the entire time from 1953-1957. Unfortunately, he lost a fair amount of time to injuries. Adcock injured his hand when he was hit by Don Newcombe in September, 1954 (ending his season). Adcock had his arm broken by a pitch in July, 1955 (ending his season). Adcock broke his leg and tore some knee ligaments sliding into second base in June, 1957 (he returned in September).

    In 1958, the Braves had a young left-handed first baseman named Frank Torre, and he did play his way into a platoon with the injury prone Adcock (though I think that resting Adcock was part of the goal, and he may have been hurt some these years also – I’m not sure). Torre filled in adequately for Adcock in 1957, and he hit quite well when given playing time in 1958 (127 OPS+). However, Torre played quite poorly in 1959, and the starting job was eventually returned to Adcock.

    Adcock was the full-time starter at 1b for Milwaukee from 1960-1962 (this can be checked easily with retrosheet), though minor injuries cost him some playing time (particularly in 1960 and 1962).

  36. “Calling McGriff’s performance average that is.”

    In McGriff’s last year in Atlanta, in a high offense period, he posted an OPS of .797. League and park adjusted, that comes out to an OPS+ of 106 or an EQA of .277. That’s not great for a first baseman (it’s essentially Sid Bream with a bad glove). I don’t see how he could be described as above-average that season. “Lousy” is too harsh (unless in comparison to a good McGriff or Galarraga year), but “mediocre” or “average” seems quite fair.

    McGriff-1997 was much better than Brogna-2001, and at least a little better than Bream-1993 or Fick-2003. But most of those guys were (in effect) fired mid-season and replaced with someone better (in Bream’s case, Fred McGriff). The only 2 stellar first basemen the Braves have had in this period were McGriff and Galaragga, but most other years they’ve managed to cobble together a platoon that was at least comparable to McGriff-1997. There is a reason the Braves let him go…

    By the way, don’t take me the wrong way. I think that overall McGriff has been a great player.

  37. “Your decision is based on an OPS comparison, which is fine, but doesn’t come without weakness.”

    Okay, let’s look at this with some tools that are more comprehensive than OPS+…

    Baseball Prospectus uses Equivalent Average (EQA) as a measure of hitting quality (a more sophisticated measure than OPS+, but still a measure of quality, not value).

    Adcock’s career EQA as a Brave was .299, and he was above .290 8 times as a Brave. His individual season EQAs were 0.320, 0.314, 0.311, 0.309, 0.302, 0.301, 0.292, 0.291, 0.285, 0.274.

    McGriff’s career EQA as a Brave was .294, and he was above .290 2 times as a Brave. His individual season EQAs were 0.328, 0.323, 0.287, 0.282, 0.277.

    BPro has Adcock as a slightly above average fielder and has McGriff as a below average fielder. I’m pretty certain they are right that McGriff wasn’t too good, but I have no idea how Adcock really was defensively.

    BPro uses WARP (Wins Above Replacement) as a measure of total value that takes into account playing time, offense, and defense. These numbers heavily favor Adcock (with him having 3 seasons in Milwaukee better than Fred’s best in Atlanta), but I won’t bother quoting them in more detail since I have no real faith in the precision of BPro’s numerical defensive analysis.

    So, by BPro’s measurements, Adcock was (on average) a better offensive player for the Braves, a better defensive player for the Braves, and he played twice as much for the Braves.

  38. In summary, at this point I see the main arguments for McGriff as being:

    1) McGriff was more durable and played a higher percentage of his team’s games (you are right that this certainly has value).

    2) 1993, and his superb 68 game performance in one of the greatest pennant races of all time.

    I see the main arguments for Adcock as being:

    1) Adcock played many more years for the Braves, and even though he took more games off he still played in many more games for the Braves.

    2) Offensively, his best years are at least comparable to McGriff’s best years with the Braves.

    3) In addition to his best years, Adcock had a lot of well above average years for the Braves.

    4) Adcock was probably better defensively than McGriff (at the very least, his defensive stats appear to be pretty good).

    I think that Adcock has a clear longevity advantage, while McGriff does not have that clear a peak advantage. McGriff does have a durability advantage.

    I’d still choose Adcock as having been the best overall Braves first baseman, but if I were putting together a team for one season I’d certainly take the Crime Dog at his peak over the more oft injured Adcock.

    FWIW, I think that Galarraga in 1998 probably had a better single season as a Brave than either of them (but that’s because I persist in thinking that he had a good glove, despite his poor BPro ratings).

  39. IMHO, there’s no justifiable vote for McGriff outside of one that says, “I was born in the 1980s and never saw anyone on this list play except for him.” Hey, I was born in the 1980s, but that doesn’t preclude me from clicking the BRef links and reading up.

    It’s bad enough when sportscasters dismiss OPS and Win Shares and VORP in lieu of anecdotal experience when comparing two MVP candidates. It’s even worse to see someone do that when judging two players, one of whom retired before they were born. How can you say that McGriff’s clutch leadership (or whatever intangible you prefer) was so valuable, if you never even saw Adcock play?

    Baffling.

  40. “Adcock did have two 100 RBI seasons, but only got over 90 three times which McGriff bested in his four straight seasons with Atlanta.”

    Adcock played in a notorious pitcher’s park during a lower scoring era. County Stadium’s typical park factor was in the 92 to 93 range.

    County Stadium particularly suppressed home runs, and Adcock had 50% more homers on the road than at home during the years he played for the Braves (he would probably have finished with 400 career home runs had he played in a neutral home park).

    McGriff played in higher scoring era in parks that slightly favored offense.

    I not sure that comparing raw RBI totals is all that helpful. At most, it’s just another way of noting that McGriff played in a higher percentage of his team’s games.

  41. FWIW, Adcock had the best game ever for a Braves’s batter. 4 home runs and 1 double.

  42. Wow. Good job Joel. You obviously know you’re stuff. I really appeciate your effort, debates can turn personal quite often by this point.

    I would add Adcock’s offensive inconsistency to the list of points for McGriff, though. Adcock’s .248 and .264 years as well as his 5 under-90 RBI seasons (which you’ve helped to somewhat diminish). He also hit under 55 RBI three times. Although McGriff was only around for four years, but his dropoffs we’re that bad. If McGriff would have only hit more than 30 HR each year here, the boost to his stats would make it no contest. He didn’t, though, and that’s why we’re here.

  43. However, McGriff’s RBI speak to a lot more than play in more games. Adcock played 115 games in 1959 and had 76 RBI and in 1994 McGriff played 113 and had 94 RBI. Adcock was 31 that season and McGriff was 30. Not to mention that McGriff’s prime season was shortened by a strike, not injury or platoon.

    The RBIs mean more than just an indicator of games played, and in this comparison, they’re quite useful.

  44. Sorry for the triple post, but I want to commend the person who voted for Fred Tenney. He was the best contact hitter on this list and had a long Braves career. There’s a small argument for him and an even bigger one if he fielded as well as McGriff or Adcock.

    Speaking of which, how does having a career .994 make you above average and a career .992 make you below average fielder. I can’t say the gap between McGriff and Adcock is that big. (I didn’t want to average their numbers while in a Braves shirt).

    Kyle, there’s a lot more to the debate than seeing McGriff play. Even Joel’s established that and he’s an advocate for Adcock.

  45. [H]ow does having a career .994 make you above average and a career .992 make you below average fielder. I can’t say the gap between McGriff and Adcock is that big.

    1. There’s more to fielding than fielding percentage. A lot more. I looked up their fielding ratings in Win Shares last night, and Adcock was, I believe, a B+, McGriff a C+. Don’t hold me to that, though, I don’t have my copy with me.

    2. Fielding percentages have steadily risen throughout baseball history as new techniques and equipment, and better fields, came into play. The league fielding percentage at first base in Adcock’s career was .990, so a .994 was above average. The league fielding percentage during McGriff’s career was .992, so .992 was average. He was probably slightly above-average with the Braves, but by no more than a point and probably not that much.

  46. Thanks Mac.

    But what’s more to fielding than fielding pecentage? The obvious answer is the ability to create plays on what’s considered a hit or unplayable for fielders who can’t make them, but how could anyone here really have a grasp of Adcock’s fielding? I have trouble just trusting an abitrary grade.

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