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Measuring the Diamondbacks defense: First-base

Goldschmidt is good. But how good was he?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

With the departure of Gerardo Parra, Paul Goldschmidt is the only current Arizona Diamondback with a Gold Glove for the team sitting on his mantelpiece [or, if I know the self-effacing creature Goldie us, probably stashed at the back of a cupboard behind the clean towels and an almost complete set of Allen keys]. Injuryrobbed him of a chance to repeat his 2013 victory, by wiping out one-third of his season,. but that wasn't the case in 2015. He has already been announced as one of the three finalists for the 2015 Gold Glove at first-base, so let's take a look and see how he looked, and where he stands against the other nominees, SF's Brandon Belt and LA's Adrian Gonzalez.

Basic stats

To say Goldschmidt was a rock at first-base would be putting it mildly. He played 1,381.2 innings at the position for Arizona this year. Nobody else even reached thirty. Indeed, the seven other players to step in over there managed only 85 combined. [Bonus trivia: how many of those seven can you name? Answer at the end] Goldschmidt shouldered 94.2% of all innings for us at first-base this year, though it was actually 64.1 below his personal high from 2013. Still, only Anthony Rizzo had more playing time, and it was 127.1 innings more than Gonzalez, and made Belt's 1,050 innings look positively like a part-timer.

Obviously, this factored into the chances Goldschmidt had, and his 1,506 total there crushed all opposition - only Rizzo reached even 1,400. Goldschmidt made five errors all year, giving him a fielding percentage of .997, which is the same as when he won the Gold Glove two years ago. This does trail Belt fractionally (.99735 vs. .99668), but puts Paul ahead of Gonzalez (.99568). However, if you look at Range Factor (chances per nine innings), Gonzalez just has the edge, ahead of Goldschmidt, but there isn't much to choose, and they form the top three in the league among first-baseman with at least a thousand innings.

There are some other categories perhaps worthy of note. No team in the league turned more 3-6-3 double plays than the Diamondbacks, which is certainly testament to Goldschmidt's range and quickness, leading to an ability to make the play, throw to second for the force, and also get back to cover first. We had seven of those, and it's easy to forget what life was like before Goldschmidt i.e. in 2009 we turned that play once all year. We also started six line-drive double-plays, again most in the league, and thanks to Paul, we were 11-for-11 in converting bunts fielded into outs - the only team in the NL with a 100% record.

Advanced stats

When you look at the more advanced defensive metrics, you get an appreciation of how this is still an area in its infancy, for there is no consistency across the systems. Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA), for some reason, doesn't think much of Goldie at all, ranking him only seventh - below Mark Reynolds! - and well beneath both Gonzalez and Belt. But Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) has him first in the entire major-leagues, and it isn't even close, with Goldschmidt's total of +18 almost twice as much as the next-best at the position. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) splits the difference, ranking him between the other two nominees. So, pay your money and take your pick!

One of the stats used is assigning balls as being in or out of a fielder's zone, and then seeing what percentage of plays in the zone they make (RZR), as well as how many plays they make outside of that area on the field (OOZ). The former is a measure of consistency, the latter of range, and Paul ranks quite well in both categories, being third in the league for RZR and tied for second (one behind Rizzo) in OOZ. Breaking down UZR, Goldschmidt does score positively across the board, in all three categories (double plays, range and avoiding errors), but Belt scores much better for range, leading to most of his overall lead.

One component for which I wasn't able to find any statistics was in the area of "picks" at first, something at which Goldschmidt is renowned. And he needed to be, particularly during that difficult time when we had Yasmany Tomas manning third-base, firing balls across the diamond with more enthusiasm than accuracy! It's something that might not particularly show up in the box-score, because that doesn't distinguish between an out made on a good throw and one which saved another infielder from an error. I know DRS does include a component for "Good plays", and imagine those would cover these.


Below, you'll find a chart summarizing the defensive statistics for the three NL Gold Glove nominees at first-base. As mentioned, it really comes down to which metric you like. In terms of Gold Glove worthiness, there are a couple of other factors that always seem to come into consideration. Gonzalez likely gets some help from being the incumbent - voters seem to think they won't go wrong by voting for last year's winner, which is how Orlando Hudson won a Gold Glove in 2007, when he wasn't in the top three for either DRS or UZR. But offensive production also ends up inevitably being a factor, and that's an area in which Goldschmidt was clearly the best of the trio.

So the question for the poll is not whether Goldschmidt should win the Gold Glove at first-base - given where I am asking this, I can't really expect an unbiased answer! But it's whether he WILL win it?

Brandon Belt 1050.0 .99735 9.92 13 8 8.6 .854 32
Paul Goldschmidt 1381.2 .99668 9.78 4 18 5.1 .841 32
Adrian Gonzalez 1254.1 .99568 9.69 16 10 3.6 .847 18

The other seven players to appear at first for the Diamondbacks this year were: Jake Lamb, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Yasmany Tomas, Danny Dorn, Jordan Pacheco, Mark Trumbo and Jamie Romak.