For years, many hardcore Rockies fans in Colorado have been saying that the first baseman is washed up. For years he was blamed for taking up a huge portion of the team payroll. People said that he was the most overpaid player in the game. Popular sports writers criticized his declining game.
They were all wrong.
Helton has been nothing short of phenomenal in 2011. After an injury-plagued 2010 campaign, the haters resurfaced, calling for Helton's retirement. Luckily for the Rockies, Helton didn't listen.
Instead, he decided not to baby his surgically repaired back any longer. Sure, he still needs a few days off here and there, but for the most part, he is a consistent force in the Rockies lineup. Not only is he playing consistently, however, he is playing extremely well.
Robbed of the 2000 National League MVP (look up the numbers), Helton was regarded as one of the best in the game from 1999-2004. After battling an intestinal disease in 2005, his power numbers suddenly dropped. He lost strength and the home runs that were flying off of his bat were turning into fly ball outs. While still playing at a high level, the lack of power prompted many baseball experts around the league to consider the slugger done.
If Helton has done one thing in 2011, he has proven that he is nowhere close to done. His power numbers will certainly never return to the level they were in his prime, but his hitting prowess is as good as it ever has been.
His 2011 season thus far is deserving of an All-Star nod.
One of the reasons why many experts around the league suggest that Helton shouldn't be in the All-Star game is because of the depth at first base in the National League. There is no denying that there is an incredible amount of talent at first base. However, comparing numbers side-by-side, Helton should be brought back into the conversation.
The main competition at first base is obviously Albert Pujols, perhaps the best player in the game. Beyond Pujols, the NL boasts Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and reigning NL MVP Joey Votto. Those are four very good players. Yet, Helton should still be considered.
Take a look at the numbers.
Helton is hitting .315 with an on-base percentage of .389. He has nine home runs and 30 RBIs. He has an OPS of .912. The RBI total isn't huge, but it is still very good at this point in the season. Compare his stats to the front-runners, and there is no reason to think Helton shouldn't be considered.
Pujols- .272, 15 home runs, 42 RBIs, .828 OPS
Howard- .250, 14 home runs, 56 RBIs, .829 OPS
Fielder- .302, 19 home runs, 59 RBIs, 1.038 OPS
Votto- .331, 9 home runs, 53 RBIs, .975 OPS
As mentioned, Helton's RBI total is well-below the other four candidates. However, his batting average ranks second in the bunch, and his OPS ranks third.
On top of the comparable offensive numbers is the fact that Helton is a phenomenal defensive first baseman. Those who watch the Rockies on a daily basis know how many errors Helton saves his infield. If he has lost a step, it can't be noticed on defense. His .998 fielding percentage is tough to argue with.
No one is saying that Helton is the best of the bunch, but his numbers do not deserve to be scoffed at. They are right up there with the four first baseman that everyone mentions in All-Star talk.
If National League manager Bruch Bochy decides to take three first baseman, Helton should not be dismissed quickly.