January 21, 2010
We've seen plenty of New York vs. Philadelphia throwdowns over the years and there's another heavyweight bout set to go in 2010: the battle for first-base supremacy. If you find yourself in need of some corner clout in the late-first or early-second round, who you gonna call?
Yahoo! staffers Brad Evans and Scott Pianowski love a good debate and were happy to take up the case in around 250 words or less. Settle in for opening statements, then register your vote and comments at the bottom of the piece. We'll figure this out together.
Big Noise opens: Mark Teixeira(notes) is a true consistency king. He's tallied more consecutive top-flight seasons than the creepy Burger King has trespassing violations. Despite suiting up for four different clubs over the past three years, he's compiled at least a .290 BA, 30 homers and 105 RBI each season. Even after a horrific April (.200 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI) – sans A-Rod – he managed to rack a.292-39-122-103 line in his first year in the Bronx, equal to the 18th-most valuable overall output according to Baseball Monster. With Mr. Vain presumably around full-season, Teixeira, who is a notorious slow starter (.252 career April BA), may rocket out of the gates, possibly leading to a slight increase in homers and RBI.
In terms of power production, Ryan Howard(notes) is the Godzilla of first basemen. But like the fire-breathing film star, he's not completely invincible. Over the past three seasons, his success rate against southpaws has fallen off precipitously (6 HR in 222 at-bats in '09). If that trend continues a decline in homers, though minor, could be ahead. Frankly, the disparity in long-balls between the Philly smasher and Teixeira could be marginal. However, based on Howard's downturn in walks percentage and grotesque contact yields (67.1 CT% in '09), the difference in BA will likely be 30-40 points wide.
Ultimately, what you see is what you get with Teixeira. He's the epitome of reliability in four categories. Because Howard comes with some risk, it's reason enough to choose foldable pepperoni slice over cheesesteak. Play it safe.
Pianow Man counters: Ryan Howard's batting average risk has become a grossly overrated topic. There's a piddly 11 points separating Howard's career batting average from Mark Teixeira's. Sure, Howard doesn't hit lefties very well and yes, he strikes out a ton. But he's still carrying around a .279 career mark, in part because we live in a right-handed world. Let's not pretend this is a greater issue than it is.
Howard has outearned Teixeira at the fantasy table four years running, in part because he dominates in the power categories. Add up the numbers: Howard has 198 homers since 2006 while Teixeira has 135. Howard has 572 runs batted in while Teixeira has 458. Howard has even nipped Teixeira in runs scored (by a slight margin) in each of the past four years, and just for kicks Howard threw in eight steals last year (I won't guarantee you that they'll repeat, but there they are). Why are we looking for reasons to mock Ryan Howard? We should be praising the big guy for the roto dominance.
Even if Howard does slip down to the .250-.260 level, the extra power stats should make up the difference. Teixeira has not come close to Howard's homer and RBI totals since the Philly slugger gave up the paper business and headed into the bashing business. My esteemed colleague wants consistency, and that's fine – go look at Howard's counting stats every year, they're the model of consistency. Grab Howard anywhere around the first turn this spring, then buckle up for six months of souvenirs. You won't be disappointed.