MLB 2011: An Inside Look at the Powerless Third Basemen

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MLB 2011: An Inside Look at the Powerless Third Basemen
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Typically, in the game of baseball, there are positions that are expected to generate a lot of offense, and some that are more defensive-oriented with little power threat.

In general, the latter positions are usually second base, shortstop, center field and catcher. But the corner infield and outfield positions have historically produced higher offensive numbers. But, so far in 2011, one position has neglected that precedent—third base.

Some examples for this power outage are injury-related, some are due to aging athletes playing past their prime, and some are just anomalies. But whatever the reason, many teams around baseball have had poor power numbers from their hot corner patrols.

Case in point: Last season, Major League third basemen combined to hit .263 with 567 home runs, to go along with a .418 slugging percentage. In 2009, they totaled 588 home runs, and slugged at a .421 mark.

But so far in 2011, third baseman have hit just 146 home runs (just five more than ML second basemen), with a .245 batting average and a .368 slugging percentage.

We can take a look at some individual performances to truly get to the bottom of this head scratcher. For instance, two of the game's brightest third baseman over the past five or six seasons have been sidelined much of the year with injuries.

Who has been the biggest disappointment at third base so far in 2011 (stats current as of 6/11/11 9:30am EST)

Submit Vote vote to see results

The Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman has appeared in just eight games in 2011, and none since injuring himself on April 9. Zimmerman has been on the 15-day disabled list ever since, suffering from a torn abdominal muscle. He is currently on a rehab assignment, but no definitive timetable has been established for his return to the lineup.

Mets' third baseman, and good friend of Zimmerman's, David Wright is also sidelined on the disabled list. Wright suffered a stress fracture in his back while making a defensive play against the Astros on April 19. A month later, he was placed on the disabled list, and is now expected to be sidelined until some point in July.

The Rays' Evan Longoria played the first two games of the season, and then missed a month due to an oblique injury. Since his return on May 3, Longoria has just four home runs and a .244 batting average. He endured a span of 56 at-bats without a long ball earlier this year, and just hasn't been able to find a groove at the plate so far.

There are some third baseman that are overall healthy, but just haven't produced to their precedent standards.

For instance, Cubs' third baseman Aramis Ramirez has averaged 28 home runs per season from 2001-2010. So far in 2011, he has three—and he hit his second and third each with the last 10 days. He does have a respectable .288 batting average on the season, but so far his offensive stats resemble more of a middle infielder than a third baseman.

Scott Rolen has just two home runs so far in 2011 and a .245 batting average. He missed about 19 games for the Reds earlier this year with a neck injury, but at 36 years of age, Rolen's days as an offensive threat could be close to over.

4/19/11: David Wright suffers a stress fracture in his back after placing a lunging tag on a sliding Carlos Lee at third base (photo courteous of ESPN.com)

Similarly, Chipper Jones could be nearing the end as well. He has just six home runs on the year, and his slugging percentage is 100 points lower than his career mark.

After a 23-home run campaign in 2010, the Brewers' Casey McGehee has struggled much of 2011. He has just four home runs on the year to go along with a paltry .227 batting average.

There are also some teams that don't currently have a legitimate, typical third baseman. The Florida Marlins, for instance, have used a combination of Emilio Bonifacio, Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs to man the hot corner. And though they are all professional hitters, none of them have the proven ability to smash 20-plus home runs on a consistent basis.

The same holds true for the Angels (Alberto Callaspo), Indians (Jack Hannahan), Diamondbacks (Ryan Roberts) and the Royals (Wilson Betemit).

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team worth highlighting. They have the game's best home run hitter over the last season and a half playing right field, when he has spent much time at third base in his career.

Jose Bautista hit an MLB-best 54 home runs a year ago, and is once again leading the world in big flies with 20. And though he's played over 350 games at third base, the Jays are content in letting Jayson Nix and Edwin Encarnacion (who have combined to hit six home runs all year) waste away at third base.

Of course, not every Major League third baseman is having a poor season. Adrian Beltre is certainly proving his worth to the Texas Rangers, who signed him to a blockbuster five-year, $80 million contract this past winter. Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis and Placido Polanco all have quality seasons so far in 2011.

There may be a shift coming in Major League Baseball. Several perennial third base All-Stars are now past their primes and have shown serious decline in offensive production. A new generation of hot corner patrol is on it's way (witness Mike Moustakas' debut for the Kansas City Royals Friday night).

Bottom line, if the All-Star game was today, who would you choose to be play third base for either league? The choices this year seem to be awfully thin...perhaps the thinnest the game has seen in the last decade.

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