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Gold Glove D-backs Finalists: 1B, Christian Walker

If Christian doesn’t win, we riot...

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The candidates:

  • Christian Walker, ARI
  • Paul Goldschmidt, STL
  • Matt Olson, ATL

Ah, we have a narrative, with Walker facing off against the player he replaced at first for Arizona, in Mr. Goldschmidt. We have been here before, however, with the same match-up happening in 2019. On that occasion though, neither man prevailed, with the award going to the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo on that occasion. Goldschmidt will have the advantage of being the incumbent, having taken home his fourth award in 2021. However, he has never managed to retain the title on his previous three occasions, losing out to Adrian Gonzalez, Rizzo and Freddie Freeman. This year may be different, coming on the back of an MVP-caliber campaign. It was his best season since 2015 - when Goldy also won the Gold Glove.

Not that Walker exactly had a lackluster year himself, with career highs in home-runs and RBI, as well as leading the team in bWAR, putting up a five-win season. It was especially remarkable, considering there were questions last winter as to whether the team should even tender Christian a contract, given the alternatives apparently available. Where is your god Seth Beer now? Meanwhile, outside of the current/former D-backs 1B axis, Olson has a pair of Gold Gloves to his name, having won in 2018 and 2019. He was also an All-Star last year, when he finished eighth in the MVP voting, so has some pedigree as well.

The Stats

Olson and teammate (and also a former D-back) Dansby Swanson were the only NL players to appear in all 162 games this season. No-one in the league had more innings in the field than Olson’s 1,441, missing just seven all year. That gives him an edge of almost 150 IP over Walker, with Goldschmidt almost 190 innings further back. Here are the basic numbers for this trio:

  • Walker: 150 G, 146 GS, 143 CG, 1292.0 IP, 1192 Ch, 1109 Outs, 78 As, 5 E, .996 F%
  • Goldschmidt: 128 G, 127 GS, 113 CG, 1103.2 IP, 1163 Ch, 1071 Outs, 91 As, 1 E, .999 F%
  • Olson: 162 G, 161 GS, 161 CG, 1441.0 IP, 1318 Ch, 1209 Outs, 101 As, 8 E, .994 F%

There’s a steadiness to Goldy’s performance which may appeal to old-school voters: that .999 fielding percentage He’s the first NL player since J.T. Snow of the 1999 Giants, to make just a single error, while converting more than a thousand outs. He was also involved in more double-plays than the others, a league-leading 118: his abilities there are something fans here likely remember well. So, should we simply hand Paul the Gold Glove and be done with it? Wait a moment there. Because the more advanced numbers, as so often, tell a radically different story. The chart, please, nurse...

2022 Gold Glove Finalists, 1B

Player Rtot Rtot/yr Rdrs Rdrs/yr UZR UZR/150 Def OAA
Player Rtot Rtot/yr Rdrs Rdrs/yr UZR UZR/150 Def OAA
Walker 17 18 17 16 5.5 5.2 0.7 14
Goldschmidt 2 3 2 2 5.1 4.5 -13.3 -6
Olson 5 4 5 4 0.4 0.6 -9.4 2

Yeah, that paints a radically different picture, doesn’t it? There is some odd variation across the metrics: UZR likes Goldschmidt, mostly due to that very low error rate, while Def doesn’t care, and so is far less impressed. But with an average of 10.8, Walker is far and away better than Olson (0.2) or Goldy (-2.0). It is worth noting that Def is position adjusted, and first basemen receive a large penalty, so Christian’s 0.7 figure by that measure is actually very good. Indeed, Walker is the only 1B with 500 IP to be positive, a whopping seven runs better than the next best in the NL, Brandon Belt. But if there is any sabermetric justice, give it to Christian.

We’ve been banging that drum for a while. In July, Jack called Walker the favorite to win the award. The SnakePit isn’t alone: the following month Nick Piecoro of the Republic wrote Christian was having a “quietly dominant defensive season”. The only question is, whether it has been too quiet, and will be overshadowed by Goldy’s apparently unstoppable march towards becoming an MVP finalist.

Let’s go to the tape

With over eleven hundred outs, no shortage of clips to chose from here. But I particularly want you to appreciate Christian’s ability at handling balls hit to his right. As Sports Info Solutions noted in August, it’s an area where Walker is head and shoulders above the rest of his colleagues at first. As ever, tell us in the comments what you think are his strengths, and whether or not he’ll pick up the Gold Glove.


Who will win the NL Gold Glove at 1B

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Christian Walker
    (54 votes)
  • 18%
    Paul Goldschmidt
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    Matt Olson
    (0 votes)
66 votes total Vote Now