Quiz: "Oh the humanity!" is a famous line uttered by
A. Herbert Morrison while reporting on the Hindenburg disaster
B. Brewers fans while watching the team's first basemen the past two years
It's something talked about a lot, but it's something that bears repeating: The Brewers have had the worst first base production in the MLB since the start of the 2013 season, and it's not even close. Since 2013:
The Brewers have played 11 players at the position in the last two years and have yet to find a solution. Jonathan Lucroy is the best hitter to play at first, but he's not moving from catcher anytime soon. Nor will Martin Maldonado (he wouldn't hit nearly well enough to make it worthwhile, anyway).
The remaining nine players to play at first base in the last two seasons: Mark Reynolds, Sean Halton, Lyle Overbay, Matt Clark, Jason Rogers, Blake Lalli, Alex Gonzalez, Juan Francisco and Yuniesky Betancourt.
Of those nine, Juan by-god Francisco was the best hitter, with a .317 wOBA -- 14 points higher than Halton's .303. Neither of those players were with the Brewers major league squad in 2014.
By fWAR, only one of those nine players actually had a positive fWAR. Mark Reynolds was worth 1.6 wins in 2014, pretty much entirely because of his defense. His .196/.287/.394 batting line sure wasn't giving him a positive value anytime soon. Still, that's eight of nine players with a negative fWAR. It probably shouldn't be hard to notch a zero. To fall in the negatives is a failure at a high level. Still, the Brewers were without options.
Of course, first base wasn't always a disaster. It's not so long ago that Prince Fielder was PRINCE FIELDER and hitting 30-50 home runs a season in a Milwaukee uniform while getting on base over 40% of the time. He left for greener dollars after 2011, though. And, with the benefit of hindsight, it's probably a good thing the Brewers didn't pony up the cash needed to sign him.
Even after Fielder left, Milwaukee had a competent solution in Corey Hart. Moving from right field to first, Hart hit .270/.334/.507 with 30 home runs in 2012. While not coming close to Fielder's production, that was still good enough to help the Brewers post a middle-of-the-pack wOBA at first, even if Hart's defense wasn't great.
Unfortunately, Hart lost both his knees just before the start of 2013. That left the Brewers scrambling for options and forced them to start the season with Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez as their primary first basemen. Even with a lack of options, Gonzalez couldn't hit while enough to last the season in a Brewers uniform. Neither could Yuni, but he stuck around anyway.
Hart then left after not playing in 2013 and the Brewers signed Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay to minor league deals. While not Yuni, neither proved a competent full-season solution.
Since the Brewers began existence as a major league franchise, they have had 9 first basemen post negative fWARs while receiving at least 250 plate appearances. Three of those (Yuniesky Betancourt, Juan Francisco, Lyle Overbay) have come in the last two years.
The Brewers recent history at first base has been an unmitigated disaster. Later today, we'll take a look at what the near-future could hold at the position.