In Rockies land the rumor of late is that Garrett Atkins could be part of a trade.
Poor Garrett probably feels like he should packing his house up and adding that extra bed room all at the same time. If he’s not going to be traded, people like to point out that he is going from third to first base where he played a considerable amount last year with the injury to Todd Helton. With all the talk of Garrett, it’s upsetting to realize the lack of talk of one Mr. Todd Helton who could end up being the greatest Rockies player in the team’s history and he already occupies first base! Here are my arguments:
So I am a boss and I run a young company who has a great deal of turnover. We put out a product that lots and lots of people are buying. It’s not always the greatest quality, but boy are people buying it up.
Along comes this great perspective employee who has started at the bottom of our organization. He’s young and very hardworking. Matter of fact he fights to not take a day off. He’s ordered by the boss to relax. That’s how dedicated he is. From the ground up he has worked his tail off to become the company team leader. He continues to push management to put out the best product possible, and he has always kept to his word on every contract we have ever given him. His name is Todd Helton.
Here I am just up from Colorado Springs and I want to make it in the show. My locker happens to be next to this veteran who doesn’t really say much to me. I’ve heard all about him. He probably doesn’t want to talk to me because in 12 years of playing in the show he has seen more players come and go in losing efforts then I can imagine and isn’t quick to form close relationships. He’s quick to give me tips on the field though. He’s tough and always fighting with the skip to not take a day off. Almost every at bat is quality and I can see opposing pitchers getting frustrated as he fouls off the 10th pitch and ends up getting walked. No matter who is in the infield, seemingly, every ball thrown his way gets snagged. He’s number 17 and his name is Todd Helton.
Baseball is a game of numbers and failure. Hitting the ball three out of 10 times is considered good, four out of ten great. Comparisons to other player’s numbers of a similar position are the means for justification of greatness. I hear and read all the time Todd Helton is overpaid and signed too long of a contract. He’s no longer productive.
With that argument in mind I have analyzed numbers from two other hall of fame first basemen, Lou Gehrig and Eddie Murray, and the first 12 years of their careers versus Helton’s. Is Helton not worth his 16 million a year he is making at first base?
The first stat I wanted to analyze was defense. Anyone who has ever seen Helton play can tell you he is a master with the glove. In his first 12 years with the Rockies Helton has committed a total of 61 errors at his position. That number is nowhere close to the more than double, 140 by Gehrig, and nearly double 108, by Murray during the same span in their careers. What does that mean?
That stat alone does not prove his worth but it can help to quantify another key argument why I believe Helton is the greatest Rockies player ever- he makes other players better. How much better was Troy Tulowitzski’s rookie season because of the fielding ability of Helton? Or how much better was Garret Atkins at third or Kaz Matsui at second during the Rockies record setting defensive year in 2007? Helton turned a total of 1,537 double plays so far in his career compared to only 1,076 by Gehrig and similar 1,463 by Murray at the same point in their careers.
Helton also at this point leads the other two in fielding percentage. For those who may not know, fielding percentage is a widely used baseball statistic which is calculated by dividing a player’s total chances accepted (ie assists plus putouts) by his total chances (ie assists plus putouts plus errors). It is widely accepted too that this number can be debatable looking at other numbers and the players overall skill level.
Helton to this point in his career has a near perfect .996 fielding percentage, followed closely by Gehrig’s .990 and Murray‘s .915. It is not fair to compare Gehrig in the Gold Glove comparison because the award had not been invented while he played, however Helton and Murray are tied at three each.
Outside of defensive prowess up to this point in his career, how does Helton compare to two hall of famers in their respective offensive stats?
Helton has a career batting average of .328 compared to 12 years in Gehrig at .362 and Murray at .295. I think it is fair to point out Helton has achieved this in 5,962 at bats in comparison to 6,845 Gehrig and 5,714 by Murray.
Helton has driven in the fewest runs with 1,116 followed by Murray at 1,190 and 1,450 by Gehrig. He also has the lowest on base percentage of the three at .428 versus Murray at .458 and Gehrig at .451. The numbers are similar enough to make a good argument though.
Twelve seasons with the Rockies and the numbers show what most fans hopefully already see whenever they root for number 17. Defensively he is as good if not better than two Hall of Fame first basemen at the same points in their careers. He is very close to them offensively as well.
Sadly, the only major discrepancy between the three great ball players is the World Series. By this point Gehrig had played in four and won three. Murray had played in two winning one. As we all know Helton has only had the opportunity to play in one which he lost. This point brings up the great debate that baseball is a team sport and no one player can win it all.
So is Todd Helton worth the long contract and big money he is getting to play at Coors? In my heart I say yes. I am happy to buy a ticket that goes into that mans paycheck because I know to this point he has been as good as a hall of famer. I can only wish him success and greater years as a player and hopes he brings his wisdom back to the team as a coach when he retires.
One thing I don’t think anyone would debate is men like Lou Gehrig, Eddie Murray and Todd Helton all have the greatest qualities you could ever want in a ball player- integrity, class and of course love for the game.