Tampa Bay Rays: All-Time Starting Lineup to Win One Game – First Base

We look back at some of the great players who have worn a Tampa Bay Rays uniform and attempt to assemble the best starting lineup to win one game.

The Tampa Bay Rays have had a lot of home-grown stars that went on to make big money elsewhere, likewise, they have also brought in their fair share of veterans and legends toward the end of their careers.

Today, we begin selecting a team using any player to ever wear a Rays uniform. All they have to do is win one game. These choices are my own and they are opinions. Feel free to post your lineups in the comments below, our Facebook page, or on Twitter @Rayscologlasses. Today we make a decision on which player would start at first base.

First Base

There are two guys I’d consider for this spot.

  1. Carlos Pena
  2. Fred McGriff

I want to say this is an easy call here with Carlos Pena. Afterall, Pena led the team in fWAR in 2007 and on the 2008 American League Championship team. He holds four of the top five greatest home run seasons by a first baseman in franchise history. Additionally, he excelled in clutch situations throughout his career. In fact, he owns the best high-leverage statistical season in Rays history.

However, this call is about more than just what the player did for the Rays. Which player are you taking in order to win one game?

Fred McGriff (19 years): .284/.377/.509

  • Led the league in homers twice.
  • 5x All-Star
  • 6x Top 10 in MVP Voting
  • Best OPS+: 165 (1989)
  • 12 seasons of 90 or more runs batted in.

Carlos Pena (14 years): .232/.346/.462

  • 2x Top 10 MVP Voting
  • 1x Gold Glove
  • 1x All-Star
  • Led league in homers once
  • Best OPS+ 172 (2007)

Offensively, they were both very good major-league hitters. Both on the Hall of Fame ballot, which is a high honor.

McGriff had the longevity and consistency with stretches of elite-power hitting. He struck out in 18.5% of his career plate appearances whereas Pena went down on strikes in 26.8% of his PAs. The overall career numbers go to McGriff, hands down.

In 2,125 high-leverage plate appearances, Fred McGriff stayed calm and posted a .290 average, .385 on-base percentage, and a .500 slugging percentage.

As good as McGriff’s numbers were in the clutch, Pena’s were even better. Despite hitting .252 he posted .913 OPS and hit a homer every 14 at-bats, whereas McGriff hit one every 19 at-bats. In clutch situations, McGriff came up with an extra-base hit once every 10 at-bats. Pena posted an extra-base hit every 7.2 at-bats.

His career numbers may come up short of the Crime Dog’s but at his best, Pena slugged .627 in 2007. The easy call would be to take the guy who did it longer. But, I’m not going to do that.

Both players were very solid clutch players and prodigious power hitters. Pena struck out more but he offset that in his best years by taking walks and hitting for a ridiculous amount of power. If I have one game to win, I’m taking the higher-probability of a clutch extra-base hit. If you have just one game to win, the whole game is a high leverage situation. Pena’s one XBH/7 ABs is three better than McGriff’s and in one game, that could be the difference.

My Pick: Carlos Pena

Next: Top 5 Clutch Seasons

McGriff clearly had the better career. Am I out of line by picking Pena? Can you make a case for Carlos Pena over Fred McGriff in a one-game scenario? Would you go with someone else? Let us know in the comments below or find us on social media.






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