The Pirates Are Fine With Jones at First

Prince Fielder, Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, Lyle Overbay. None of them will be playing first base for the Bucs this season, but that’s fine because we’ve got Garrett Jones.

The kids call him GFJ. The F stands for F-cking. But if he hasn’t hit a home run in the past 24 hours, he’s underrated in the Pirates community. Which means they’re down that he is seemingly on his way back to first base this season.

Here’s why they shouldn’t be.

Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Jose Tabata ranked near the top of the Pirates offensive stats during 2011. If you cloned any of those guys and stuck them at first base, most people wouldn’t complain.

Let’s throw Jones into the mix and take a 162-game average season for the quartet. Generally people are looking at batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging average (it’s an average, not a percentage). Jones is close to Cutch for top slugging (.450 to .458) but is last in the other two.

BUT Jones is best of the quartet in ISO and home runs and second in EOBP, OPS, OPS+ and walks.

Admittedly, he’s not exactly killing it, but these are the top hitters on the team. He’s not huge in hitting for average, but the power is there which is what anyone should expect. Compare those figures to Oh-for-the-day’s (that’s Overbay) time with Pittsburgh last year and Jones tops him in everything.

Garrett Jones

Jones’s fielding percentage at first base over the past two seasons is .991, which is what you get from Fielder or Cabrera… ok, so that’s about 20th in the league. However, this brings me to my biggest point that the Pirates don’t seem to get: Put him at first and leave him alone.

When Jones’s time at first base dropped from 2010 to 2011, he went from 106 to 29 starts and saw a decrease in fielding percentage and range factor. The Pirates need to make the statement that Garrett Jones is their first basemen and he’s going to play there and not in right field every fourth day. Keeping him there will only improve his defense.

And don’t make that statement by default, like they’re doing. Of course I would love to see Lee, Pena, or even Fielder over there, but the Pirates’ pocketbook has spoken and none of them are listening. So if they are going to settle, like usual, at least put some faith in the guy for once… it’s a lot cheaper.

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