There has been a lot of criticism this season surrounding the gaping hole at the third base position for the Colorado Rockies. Ian Stewart fell off the map, Jose Lopez is heating up, but still underperforming, and Ty Wigginton has been mediocre at best.
Well, on the bright side, is the other side of the diamond, and that is first base. This is a position for the Rockies where there is no gaping hole. Instead, there is Todd Helton, a sure fire hall-of-famer, and arguably the greatest Colorado Rockie of all time. He has been a rock in the Rox line-up for the last 14 seasons, which is an unprecedented tenure. Oh, and on Helton’s days off, or when his back is acting up, his replacement is Jason Giambi, a more than viable back-up.
Let’s take a closer look at these two grizzled old veterans, because from a statistical standpoint, it might be the one of the most prolific tandems in the history of baseball.
These are Todd Helton’s career stats, going into Sunday’s game:
1,967 games played, 7,028 at-bats, 1,287 runs, 2,276 hits, 537 doubles, 35 triples, 339 home runs, 1,259 runs batted in, 1,207 walks, 987 strikeouts, and 36 stolen bases.
Batting average – .324, on-base percentage – .375, and slugging percentage .548.
These are Jason Giambi’s career stats, going into Sunday’s game:
2,056 games played, 6,837 at-bats, 1,182 runs, 1,922 hits, 385 doubles, 9 triples, 420 home runs, 1,377 runs batted in, 1,301 walks, 1,446 strikeouts, and 20 stolen bases.
Batting average – .281, on-base percentage – .404, and slugging percentage .524.
If you combine the above statistics, the cumulative total for both players is as follows:
4,023 games played, 13,865 at-bats, 2,469 runs, 4,198 hits, 922 doubles, 44 triples, 759 home runs, 2,636 runs batted in, 2,508 walks, 2,433 strikeouts, and 56 stolen bases.
Batting average – .303, on-base percentage – .390, and slugging percentage .536.
My first impression from these cumulative totals? That is a lot of production from the first base position, and both these guys are definitely not fast. (44 triples out of almost 4,200 hits does not reflect the fleet of foot.)
Also, these massive numbers suggest both these veterans have been around the block. In fact, they have lapped the block multiple times. A combined 4,000 major league games played is a foolish amount. They are both dinosaurs in the major league from an age standpoint.. Helton is 37, Giambi is 40. That’s a combined 77 years. When Giambisaurus Rex first broke into the league, Bryce Harper, last year’s #1 overall pick, was still in diapers.
Giambi and Helton are both considered prolific power hitters, and both put up lots of numbers during the Steroid Era of baseball. Their reputations, however, from a steroid standpoint, are completely contrasted. Giambi, with his gargantuan pythons, otherwise known as arms, has admitted to using steroids. Helton, who is a little bit more old fashioned, has never been implicated, and has vehemently denied ever juicing. Give credit to Giambi for coming clean, and give even more credit to Helton for staying clean.
Both Giambi and Helton can flash leather. Giambi is not known for his D, having been a designated hitter most of his career, but he plays a good first base. During his prime, Helton was elite defensively (3 gold gloves), and even in his latter years, is an above average defender.
Helton has played for one team his entire career, and in all likelihood, will be the first person inducted in baseball’s hall of fame wearing the CR from the Rockies hat. I remember when people were worried about this young kid who faced the daunting task of filling Andres Gallaraga’s shoes. Can you imagine how hard it is going to be to fill Helton’s shoes? Unlike Helton, Giambi has played for three teams. He busted on the scene with the Athletics, made his money with the Yankees, had one last ditch effort with the A’s, and has made his swan song with the Rockies. Whether it was one steady path, or diverged on three meandering roads, both sluggers’ careers have been an entertaining ride.
Both Giambi and Helton have been classified as fan favorites. How could you not like Helton? He hits for average, hunts wild game, and hasn’t ever said a cuss word in his life. He has more doubles than Lou Gehrig and the 46th best batting average of all time. Giambi got caught cheating, owned his bad decisions, and continued his career. Some guy named Manny Ramirez never owned his mistakes, and he has essentially been banished from baseball.
Most importantly for the Rockies, both Helton and Giambi continue to produce. Helton is the Rockies most steady hitter, leading Colorado with a .313 average. Giambi single-handedly won a game for the Rockies against the Phillies, and it was the only victory in a depressing 1 – 4 road trip. He hit three no-doubters and drove in all 7 Rockies runs. He became one of a select few players year to hit three bombs in one game over the age of 40, joining the likes of Babe Ruth.
So to actually answer Abbot and Costello and their legendary question, Who’s on First? Well, for the Rockies, two very legit veterans.
Contact the writer Zach Cohn at email@example.com.