Major League Baseball All-Star Game voting ended at Midnight on Friday night with the starting players and rosters to be revealed on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
One of the closest races during the last voting update was at first base in the National League. The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman held a slim lead over the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo. The position is stacked and should be close, but not necessarily between those two players.
There are five sluggers in baseball with an OPS over 1.000, with four in the National League and three patrolling the bag at first. Zimmerman is one of those players. Rizzo, on the other hand, is well down the list. In fact, he’s seventh in OPS at .897. He’s a great player and he’s having another solid season.
Nevertheless, based solely on the numbers, he shouldn’t be in the conversation given the seasons Zimmerman, Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt are putting together. Further, Mark Reynolds, Justin Bour and Eric Thames all rank ahead of him in OPS as well. Given the depth at this position, though, we’ll leave them out of the conversation.
Votto is actually the leader in OPS in the NL, though at 1.040 he is just percentage points better than Goldschmidt (1.035) and Zimmerman (1.008)
Zimmerman has the edge in extra base hits with 22 doubles and 19 jacks—just one more than Votto, who leads the trio in home runs at 23. The Red would appear to have the lead, but his 57 RBIs put him last out of this bunch. One can argue runs-batted-in is a faulty stat to judge a single player because it depends on the team that surrounds the player. If nobody is on base, it’s hard to drive them in. That logic would seem to apply to Votto.
The Reds are one of the worst teams in the NL despite their solid start. However, the struggles are on the pitching side, not at the plate. The team is about average in runs scored. They have plenty of pop and their .326 team OBP isn’t too shabby. Granted, some of the team’s speedsters like Jose Peraza and Billy Hamilton have issues getting on base consistently, but the environment to drive in runs is there.
As for Zimmerman, he’s surrounded by a dominant middle of the order for the Nationals. That could both help ease the pressure on the veteran first baseman while also taking away RBI opportunities because of other solid hitters in the lineup. Along with Zimmerman, the Nationals have top-10 players in OPS including Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon. They rank fifth, eighth and ninth respectively. With such a stacked lineup—even with the injuries—it’s no wonder they’re consistently a solid pick in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests, even with the bullpen woes.
Meanwhile, Goldschmidt has Jake Lamb to protect him in the order, but he still has a lot of weight on his shoulder without A.J. Pollock. The perpetually underrated first baseman has just two fewer extra base hits than Zimmerman and leads the trio with his 66 RBIs. He also has the highest OBP of the group at .439 and has 13 stolen bases, adding a speed element to go along with the power and .323 average.
As we delve into the stats between these three first basemen, it’s really hard to determine who should be the starter. They’re all neck-and-neck in most major stats. Speed is the only real separator, with Goldschmidt getting the edge.
Looking at total bases, Votto has a 172 to 170 lead over the others while average exit velocity and percentage of balls hit in the air favors Goldschmidt. The Arizona first baseman has an exit velocity of 93.4 miles per hour.
Overall, it should be no wonder that Zimmerman is getting most of the support. The Nats’ slugger is a great story. Most expected him and Adam Lind to split time at the position given Zimmerman’s decline in recent years. He hit .218 last year and just .249 the year before. He’s already hit more homers than he has since 2013 and is the front runner for Comeback Player of the Year. Votto and Goldschmidt, meanwhile, also play in smaller markets off the East coast.
Zimmerman has come out of nowhere to dominate while the other two just keep on keeping on. Both have been amongst the best players in the game for a very long time.
We’ll find out on Sunday which player gets the honor to start the Midsummer’s Classic.