Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are two young vets who have risen to the top of the National League’s first base rankings, with multiple All-Star Game appearances. Freeman is widely considered to be the superior player, but who’s really the king of the first base bag? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Age and Debut Date
MLB Debut: September 1, 2010 (20)
2020 will be Freeman’s age-30 season.
MLB Debut: June 9, 2011 (21)
2020 will also be Rizzo’s age-30 season.
Awards and Accolades
Freeman: 2nd Place – Rookie of the Year (2011); 4x All-Star (2013, 2014, 2018, 2019); 1x Gold Glove (2018); 1x Silver Slugger (2019)
Rizzo: 3x All-Star (2014, 2015, 2016); 3x Gold Glove (2016, 2018, 2019); 1x Platinum Glove (2016); 1x Silver Slugger (2016); World Series champion (2016)
Rizzo is the more decorated player thanks to multiple Gold Gloves and the 2016 Platinum Glove, which is awarded to the best overall defender in each league.
Freeman has recorded somewhat better overall offensive production. He led he National League in hits and doubles in 2018 and has four consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs.
Rizzo rates better in terms of the three true outcomes (strikeout, home run and walk rates). He has also been a model of consistency thanks to six straight seasons with at least 150 hits. Rizzo also has four 100+ RBI seasons (2015-18) to Freeman’s two (2013, 2019).
The table below considers time played at first base only.
The advanced statistics and Gold Glove totals show that Rizzo is the superior defender. Freeman has recorded more Outs Above Average (OAA), but Rizzo has a higher UZR/150 and six times as many Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).
Freeman: 34.6 (10 seasons)
Rizzo: 29.2 (9 seasons)
Freeman is rated as a more valuable contributor, but there is not a wide gap given that he has only played one more season than Rizzo.
Freeman has been better at the plate and is also a highly durable player, appearing in every regular season game over two seasons (2014, 2018). He also comes out on top in total fWAR, which weighs offensive and defensive contributions.
Rizzo is a better defender, with the hardware to prove it.
There are some concerns about whether Rizzo will be able to maintain his signature offensive consistency given that he has missed time with back issues and has also led MLB in HBP (hit by pitch) in three different seasons (2015, 2017, 2019). The extension of the 2020 offseason due to public health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic may allow Rizzo to turn back the clock with extra rest before returning to the grind of everyday competition.