2015 Gold Glove Awards: 1st Base

Defense is one of the most difficult aspects of the game to judge.  Almost every talented athlete in the field makes multiple web gems in the year, so it’s hard to tell which one of them are really the best defenders.  Baseball writers often fail to make the extra effort to judge defense, and this resulted in guys like Derek Jeter getting gold gloves.  This is my effort to objectively rank the defensive efforts of the 2015 season.

Here are the statistics I used for 1st basemen and the explanation for why I chose each statistic:

Total Outs: This is a really basic statistic and shouldn’t be the deciding factor for gold glove voting.  My purpose for using the statistic is to resolve the quantity vs. quality issues.  Guys who played catcher a lot longer were more valuable overall than guys who might have played slightly better on a per inning basis, but played in considerably fewer games.

Double Plays: This is another simpler statistic, but they have a huge impact on the game. Double plays take out an active baserunner which can save multiple runs in the process.  Most players can turn routine double plays, but being a league leader in the category requires elite positioning and playmaking ability.  Since first baseman are on the receiving end (usually the easier job) for the majority of double plays, it’s not weighted as heavily as the other categories.

Range Factor: This is a simpler advanced statistic (weird phrasing but true when you think about it) that’s one of my favorites.  This statistic shows how many outs a player creates for every 9 innings played.  Better defensive players like Paul Goldschmidt simply make more plays than weaker ones like Ryan Howard.

Real zone rating: RZR is an advanced statistic that shows how well a player defends their territory.  It’s the percentage of balls feilded within a players’ zone + the number of balls fielded outside of their, divided by the total number of opportunities in their zone.  This is statistic ranks right up there for me along with range factor.

Without Further ado, here are my American League and National League gold glove picks for 1st Base.  I picked 10 finalists that I thought had a realistic chance of getting nominated at their positions and scored them based on the above criteria.  I’ll start with the AL gold glove.

1B (AL) TO DP RF RZR
E Hosmer 1362 121 9.05 0.825
J Mauer 1237 113 9.37 0.787
C Santana 1138 110 8.85 0.768
M Moreland 1039 109 9.52 0.75
M Cabrera 979 96 9.45 0.803
M Teixeira 945 76 9.31 0.787
C Carter 978 85 9.64 0.818
M Napoli 922 77 9.23 0.832
A Pujols 773 57 8.65 0.848
J Smoak 710 74 9.3 0.842
E Hosmer 1 0.5 8 4 13.5
J Mauer 2 1 4 7 14
C Santana 3 1.5 9 9 22.5
M Moreland 4 2 2 10 18
M Cabrera 5 2.5 3 6 16.5
M Teixeira 7 4.0 5 7 23
C Carter 6 3 1 5 15
M Napoli 8 3.5 7 3 21.5
A Pujols 9 5 10 1 25
J Smoak 10 4.5 6 2 22.5

Overall Observations: Eric Hosmer, the winner of the past 2 gold glove awards in the AL, was the best scorer for this year.  Mitch Moreland was second among 1st baseman in outs per inning, but still ranked last among the 10 candidates in real zone rating.  There doesn’t appear to be any truly elite 1st baseman in the AL defensively.

Curious Candidate: Chris Carter was the best performer among AL 1st baseman in the 2 advanced statistics I used.  Many baseball fans proabably don’t know who he is, let alone consider him to be an elite defender.  Regardless, he had a great year and definitely deserves some considration.

Top 3 Scorers: 1) Eric Hosmer – 13.5 points

2) Joe Mauer – 14 points

3) Chris Carter – 15 points

My Pick: Chris Carter, Houston Astros – This was a really tough pick for me between Hosmer & Carter.  Joe Mauer technically scored better than Chris Carter, but there was no difference between Mauer and Hosmer in advanced stats so Mauer wouldn’t get the nod over the defending champ.  Hosmer simply played more games first than any other AL catcher and dominated Carter in total outs.  I’m giving Carter the nod because of the sizeable 6 point gap in advanced statistics.  If Hosmer was closer in the latter 2 categories, I would have given him the nod.

1B (NL) TO DP RF RZR
A Rizzo 1456 102 9.16 0.771
P Goldschmidt 1501 129 9.78 0.841
J Votto 1351 122 8.83 0.778
A Gonzalez 1383 100 9.92 0.847
A Lind 1180 124 9.13 0.823
L Duda 1116 87 8.91 0.813
B Belt 1131 91 9.69 0.854
F Freeman 956 103 8.98 0.803
R Howard 937 75 8.81 0.728
P Alvarez 1034 98 10.27 0.759
A Rizzo 2 2.5 5 8 17.5
P Goldschmidt 1 0.5 3 3 7.5
J Votto 4 1.5 9 7 21.5
A Gonzalez 3 3.0 2 2 10
A Lind 5 1.0 6 4 16
L Duda 7 4.5 8 5 24.5
B Belt 6 4.0 4 1 15
F Freeman 9 2.0 7 6 24
R Howard 10 5.0 10 10 35
P Alvarez 8 3.5 1 9 21.5

Overall Observations: The National league also has better 1st baseman than the AL.  Adrian Gonzalez and Brandon Belt would both have the gold glove in the bag if they played in the other league.  Pedro Alvarez managed to get the most outs per inning, but really bad in every other category.  Ryan Howard has fallen really far.

Curious Candidate: I was at the Cubs-Brewers game for the “Rizzo Catch” which was absolutely amazing.  As a Cubs fan, I really wanted to see Rizzo be the best pick in the NL.  Though the guy’s got a great defensive highlight real, he unfortunately should be considered a middle of the pack guy for the gold glove award.

Top 3 Scorers: 1) Paul Goldschmidt – 7.5 points

2) Adrian Gonzalez – 10 points

3) Brandon Belt – 15 points

My Pick: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks – Even though the NL had better catchers, this was a much easier pick for me.  Goldschmidt scored extremely well in every category.  Adrian Gonzalez and Brandon Belt narrowly edged out Goldschmidt in the advanced stats, but it was extremely close and Goldschmidt’s overall production was good enough for me.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post.  Please let me know what you think of my writing + opinions, and feel free to leave your gold glove 1st base picks in the comments below.

By: Milap Mehta

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