When it comes to first basemen in the National League the first name you might think of is Anthony Rizzo. If your memory is shorter, you may think of the last two months of Matt Adams. But if you can remember past this season, however, the name that likely comes to mind is Joey Votto.
Votto was the league MVP in 2010 with a .600 slugging percentage, .424 on-base percentage, 113 RBIs and 37 HRs. After his MVP season his run production never reached those highs again. In the three years following 2010 Votto averaged just 25 HRs and 87 RBIs over 162 game average. His batting average (.314) and on-base percentage (.438) held steady, but his approach at the plate caused him to be moved from the three hole in the line-up.
So how does all of this relate to Matt Adams? Adams is the newest challenger for top first baseman in the NL Central, and he is doing it in a completely different way. Votto was is choosy at the plate that first-year manager Bryan Price had to move him up in the order and in lieu of RBI guys like Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. But with Adams, he knows what he gets paid to do.
Adams has nine walks in 346 plate appearances, good for the lowest walk rate in the Majors. Instead of walking, Adams prefers to put the ball in play. Adams swings 53.7 percent of the time, the 10th highest swing rate in the league, but he also makes contact 81 percent of the time.
In Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, Adams’ swinging style paid off. In the first inning Adams came up with runners on first and second and two outs. The first three pitches were far from the strike zone, giving Adams a 3-0 advantage. Adams was swinging away at the 3-0 pitch. After fouling off the 3-0 pitch he did the same on the 3-1 and 3-2 pitches. On the second 3-2 pitch, with runners going, Adams smoked a heat-seeker that nearly decapitated his all-star counterpart. The swing plated two runs giving the Cardinals an early lead.
With limited production in the rest of the Cardinal line-up, Adams has become the mainstay in the heart of the order. Everyone, even Matt Holliday, has been moved from their conventional spot in the order, but since coming off the DL Addams has been locked into the clean-up spot. He slugged .707 in the month of June and is in the top ten in the National League in RBIs in the month of July.
With a strong lineage of NL Central first basemen Rizzo, Votto and Adams have a lot to live up to, but they are all doing well in their own way.