What is a First Baseman in Baseball?
The first baseman is the defensive player primarily responsible for first base. The first baseman’s main duty is to receive throws from other infielders when the ball is hit in the infield (e.g., groundballs).
The first baseman is also responsible for fielding any balls hit in the vicinity of first base. Just how much a first baseman must range to the right will depend on the placement of the second baseman.
How Difficult is Playing First Base?
While third base is known as the hot corner, first base receives it fair share of scorching baseballs down the first base line. First basemen must also learn to pick balls out of the dirt (due to short throws) and ideally learn flexibility (in order to field errant throws).
Despite that, first base is generally considered the easiest position to field based on the defensive spectrum. Originally introduced by Bill James, the defensive spectrum ranks defensive positions based on difficulty. Given that first base is the easiest to field (technically, designated hitter is ranked lower), this means that players at other positions should reasonably be able to play first base if required. In other words, aging players who can still hit effectively generally end up at first base eventually (e.g., Jonathan Schoop in 2021 began playing much more 1B than 2B where he had traditionally played in his career).
The primary reason why first base is better for more defensively challenged players is that it’s the one position that throws less often than all others on the field.
Do First Baseman Wear Special Gloves?
Yes, first baseman typically use a special glove, more similar to a mitt (and happen to be the only position other than catcher allowed to do so). It features a curved edge that makes scooping up short throws out of the dirt much easier.
First base glove are also wider, the widest of all player gloves. Again, this makes it much easier for a first baseman to field throws. Not only that, the glove is quite deep helping ensure the ball stays in the web when caught.
Is It Better to be Left-Handed as a First Baseman?
Whereas right-handed fielders at all other infield positions have an advantage, left-handed first baseman have an advantage over their right-handed counterparts.
How Much Does a First Baseman Make in the MLB?
For this, I looked at the salaries of each team’s 2021 opening day first baseman. Not entirely perfect since some teams employed a platoon, but it gives us a good enough sample to determine an average first baseman salary.
On average, MLB first baseman made $9,242,774 in 2021. MLB salaries typically fall into three tiers: pre-arbitration, arbitration, and post-arbitration. Looking at salaries within each tier:
- Pre-Arbitration: $601,025
- Arbitration: $4,340,000
- Post-Arbitration: $13,965,336
The highest paid first baseman in 2021 are: Miguel Cabrera ($30M), Albert Pujols ($30M), and Joey Votto ($25M).
|TOR||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||$605,400|
Who are the Best First Baseman
Below you will find the best all-time first basemen, best recent first basemen, best in 2020, and the best all-time by team (based on WAR) in the modern era. WAR is based on Fangraphs, as is position designation (e.g., Ernie Banks may be more known as a SS actually had more in-game appearances at 1B).
|Rank||All-Time War||2016-2020 WAR||ESPN Expert Poll|
|1.||Stan Musial||Freddie Freeman||Lou Gehrig|
|2.||Lou Gehrig||Paul Goldschmidt||Stan Musial|
|3.||Jimmie Foxx||Anthony Rizzo||Albert Pujols|
|4.||Cap Anson||Cody Bellinger||Jimmie Foxx|
|5.||Albert Pujols||Joey Votto||Miguel Cabrera|
|6.||Roger Connor||Carlos Santana||Hank Greenberg|
|7.||Jeff Bagwell||Matt Carpenter||Willie McCovey|
|8.||Pete Rose||Jose Abreu||Harmon Killebrew|
|9.||Dan Brouthers||Brandon Belt||Frank Thomas|
|10.||Rod Carew||Max Muncy||David Ortiz|
|11.||Frank Thomas||Matt Olson|
|12.||Eddie Murray||Daniel Murphy|
|13.||Miguel Cabrera||Edwin Encarnacion|
|14.||Rafael Palmeiro||Wil Myers|
|15.||Jim Thome||Rhys Hoskins|
|16.||Johnny Mize||Marwin Gonzalez|
|17.||Willie McCovey||David Freese|
|18.||Mark McGwire||Neil Walker|
|19.||Harmon Killebrew||Yuli Gurriel|
|20.||Ernie Banks||Luke Voit|
Featured Image: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0