Yesterday, I spent a few minutes looking at WAR and how it pertains to the Cubs and the rest of the National League when it comes to catchers. Today, we are going to focus on first base. Again, all numbers can be found at fangraphs.com.
The Cubs are going through a transition this year at first base. For six years, Derrek Lee, for the most part, had 1B locked down. There was that one year where he broke his wrist, but he was a fairly reliable source of offense during his time with the Cubs. That was until last season, where his production slipped and was finally traded to the Atlanta Braves for their postseason run.
Lee's WAR slipped to 2.0 last season, down from 5.2 in 2009. Here is a look at the WAR numbers from the NL last season:
|Derrek Lee||- - -||2|
As you can see, the NL Central is quite heavy in quality 1B with Votto, Pujols and Fielder taking up 3 of the Top 5 spots. In comparison, the only player more valuable at the plate last year was Josh Hamilton, who had a 8.4 WAR. This is one place where the Cubs could use an improvement and not resigning an aging 1B with bad wrists and thumbs was a step in the right direction.
This offseason, the Cubs added Carlos Pena. Pena, who only hit .196, finished with a 1.0 WAR. That means Pena was slightly better than Micah Hoffpauir. At 32, Pena could still have a little life to give the Cubs a one-year bump. Fangraphs projects Pena's value at 2.6, which would be an improvement over Lee, but not a huge jump to catch the two of the best players in the NL. There was a lot of talk about Pena's defense when he was signed, but his UZR/150 was -2.7 a year ago. He hasn't been a plus-defender since 2008.
What does this mean? The Cubs need Pena to explode past expectations to help a team that will probably struggle on offense. Pena does a good job of drawing walks, so if he is able to raise his average it will lead to more runs. Pena might be considered a little unlucky last year with a .222 BABIP. The average is usually around 30%, so Pena is due a little bit of a bump this year if his BABIP normals out a little. As always, please leave your thoughts and comments below.