(Image: AP/Lenny Ignelzi)
Last Tuesday, new Brewer Juan Francisco made his first career start at first base, and after one week he had 45 innings at the position. Francisco is one of six players to have played first base for the Brewers, five of whom had no experience at the…not-hot corner (I tried to find cool lingo for first base and failed – although I think “who-bag” has a nifty ring to it, with its allusion to the Abbott and Costello bit).
I’m reminded of something Ron Roenicke said during spring training after Mat Gamel’s injury created a vacancy at the (heh) who-bag:
"First base, to me, is way more important than people think," Roenicke said. "They handle the ball more than any player out there besides the pitcher and catcher. You save a lot of runs if you're good there. And you can lose a lot of runs if you don't pick up your infielders."
Maybe first base is more important than people think. Just like peeing in the shower isn’t as gross as people think, but it’s still pretty crude. There are some things that are obviously not easy about playing first base, such as picking tough throws from your fellow infielders, and…trying to make a good throw when the pitcher covers I suppose. OH! You have to catch unexpected pickoff attempts, which might be a chore if catching isn’t your thing.
As of this writing, the Brewer with the most errors at first base is Martin Maldonado, with three. Blake Lalli, who had prior experience at the position, has two errors. There have been seven total errors at first base among six players – the same number that Rickie Weeks and Jeff Bianchi have committed at second base. Meanwhile, nine errors have been committed at third, and eight at shortstop. Jean Segura and Weeks have six errors apiece, and at least one of them is regarded as a plus defender.
It’s fair to say that first base isn’t totally unimportant. But if anyone can play it with no experience and commit relatively few errors, perhaps it’s exactly as important as people think.