Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So Who's Better: Gonzalez or Teixeira?

Now that Adrian Gonzalez has joined the Red Sox, the debate will begin: who is the best first baseman in the American League East, Gonzalez or Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira?  First, we'll look at Teixeira.  During his career, which has spanned from 2003-2010, Tex has compiled a .286 career average, 275 homers, 906 RBI and an on-base percentage of .377.  He has averaged 34 home runs, 113 RBI, 38 doubles, and 165 hits a season over his career.  He is a great defender at first base, having won four Gold Gloves, and a switch hitter as well (which makes it harder to game plan for him).

Gonzalez, during the five full seasons that he has played in the majors, has a .288 batting average, 161 homers, 500 RBI, and an on-base percentage of .374.  He is averaging 32 home runs, 100 RBI, 35 doubles, and 171 hits a season.  He is a great defender like Teixeira, having won two Gold Gloves, and while he isn't a switch hitter, he's still a lefty.

So who do you pick as a better option?  Both Tex and Gonzo have basically the same per year averages, are both great defensively, and are both offensive weapons that can sit in the middle of the batting order.  The answer is Adrian Gonzalez.  He is two years younger than Teixeira (28 to Tex's 30) and was not (until now with the Sox) helped by a stacked lineup like Teixeira has been.  Also, we can't forget that Gonzalez has been putting up numbers on par with Teixeira while playing in San Diego's PETCO Park, one of the worst hitters parks in the majors.  At home last season, Gonzo hit only .279 with 11 homers, a .383 OBP, and a .438 slugging percentage.  On the road he was much better, hitting .315 with 20 homers, a .402 OBP, and a .578 slugging percentage.  Teixeira was the exact opposite, hitting much better in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium that anywhere else.  He hit .288 in New York compared to only .227 on the road.  He also benefited from the short porches at Yankee Stadium, hitting 19 homers at home, compared to only 14 homers on the road.  Tex has benefitted from always playing in hitters parks, first in Texas (Rangers) then in Atlanta (Braves), LA (Angels) and now New York.  Gonzalez has never had that edge, but he will get it this season with Fenway Park.

Using Baseball-Reference.com, Gonzalez's stats over the past three years can be adjusted for a certain environment.  The following chart shows Gonzalez's actual slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) and how it is adjusted based on neutral National League production, and if he had played in Boston.

Granted, this is completely hypothetical, but I wouldn't expect Gonzo's 2011 stats to differ much from hypothetical Boston slash line in 2010.  Gonzalez crushes pitches to every field, having hit 36.3% of his career homers to left, 23.2% to center and 40.5% to right.  With the Green Monster (big wall, but short left field) and a shortened right field (the bullpens at Fenway are being widened, moving the fence in roughly 9 feet), Fenway offers a perfect spot for Gonzalez to thrive, and prove that he is a better first baseman than Teixeira.

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