Top first basemen

Who is a better first baseman, Freddie Freeman or Paul Goldschmidt?

It’s a tough call. Freeman won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2020, and Goldschmidt did the same in 2022. Freemen led the league in on-base percentage last year, while Goldschmidt ranked first in slugging percentage. Freeman has a Gold Glove in his collection; Goldschmidt has four.

So who is it?

My 10-part formula gives a slight edge to Freeman, who played 12 years with the Atlanta Braves before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency last season. Goldschmidt spent eight years with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019.

My rankings are based on the past three seasons (2020 through 2022). They’re limited to the 27 players who made at least 750 plate appearances and spent at least 50 percent of that time playing first base during that span. (Each player’s entire record was factored into the formula, even those stats accumulated while playing other positions.)

I’m going position-by-position each Thursday. Contemporary catchers were the focus last week. Second baseman are on the docket next Thursday.

My formula ranks each category’s players from best to worst, then assigns scores of 1,000 points to the leader and 0 points to the tailender. Everybody else’s score is determined by their relative placements between top and bottom. (Click here for a detailed explanation of the formula.)

The margin at first base was only 13 points — Freeman at 1,000, Goldschmidt at 987. Rounding out the top five are Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Abreu of the Houston Astros, and Matt Olson of the Atlanta Braves.

Look below for a rundown of the 15 first basemen who are currently ranked as the best in baseball. Three-year statistical breakdowns are provided for the top five.

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1. Freddie Freeman (2020-2022)

  • Score: 1,000 points

  • WAR: 13.9 total, 4.2 per 500 PA, -1.8 defensive

  • Averages: .317 BA, .527 SLG, 1.002 BPO

  • Scoring: 459 R generated, 138 per 500 PA

  • Totals: 378 G, 452 H

  • Notes: Freeman has finished among the top 10 votegetters for the National League’s MVP Award seven times since 2013. He led the NL in runs scored in each of the past three years. Last year’s .325 with Los Angeles was his highest batting average in any full season.

2. Paul Goldschmidt (2020-2022)

  • Score: 987 points

  • WAR: 16.0 total, 5.1 per 500 PA, -0.8 defensive

  • Averages: .305 BA, .534 SLG, .969 BPO

  • Scoring: 402 R generated, 129 per 500 PA

  • Totals: 367 G, 413 H

  • Notes: Goldschmidt has come close to being the winner of multiple MVP trophies. His 2022 victory was preceded by second-place finishes in 2013 and 2015 and a third-place landing in 2017. He hit more than 30 homers in seven seasons.

3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (2020-2022)

  • Score: 782 points

  • WAR: 11.3 total, 3.4 per 500 PA, -2.2 defensive

  • Averages: .288 BA, .527 SLG, .877 BPO

  • Scoring: 399 R generated, 121 per 500 PA

  • Totals: 381 G, 421 H

  • Notes: It’s easy to forget that Guerrero is just 24 years old, given that he’s already in his fifth season with the Blue Jays. His best year was 2021, when he led the American League with 48 homers, a .401 on-base percentage, and a .601 slugging average.

4. Jose Abreu (2020-2022)

  • Score: 747 points

  • WAR: 10.2 total, 3.2 per 500 PA, -1.6 defensive

  • Averages: .289 BA, .489 SLG, .823 BPO

  • Scoring: 402 R generated, 126 per 500 PA

  • Totals: 369 G, 407 H

  • Notes: Abreu now plays for the Astros, whom he joined as a free agent over the winter. But he accumulated his stats as a nine-year veteran of the Chicago White Sox. He capped that stay with the American League’s MVP Award for the Covid-truncated season of 2020.

5. Matt Olson (2020-2022)

  • Score: 711 points

  • WAR: 10.3 total, 3.2 per 500 PA, -0.3 defensive

  • Averages: .246 BA, .495 SLG, .838 BPO

  • Scoring: 384 R generated, 119 per 500 PA

  • Totals: 378 G, 342 H

  • Notes: Olson won a pair of Gold Gloves during his six-year stint with the Oakland Athletics. The A’s traded him to Atlanta a year ago, and he settled in nicely, hitting 34 homers and driving home 103 runs in his first season with the Braves.

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