First Baseman Scoops

August 23, 2011
Time and time again, announcers refer to a first baseman’s ability to save errant throws by scooping them out of the dirt, but the baseball community has had no way of objectively confirming commentators’ observations. 
 
Bill James devised an answer to this problem and related questions with the Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays systems. Baseball Info Solutions’ video scouts now track 28 categories of Good Fielding Plays (GFP) and 54 Defensive Misplays & Errors (DME), including GFP #7 "Handling Difficult Throw", which includes traditional first baseman scoops, and GFP #8 "Catches Wild Throw" which saves an overthrow but pulls the fielder off the base. Combining GFP #7 and #8, here are the leaders in Scoops GFP:
 
Scoops Leaders (2011)
First Baseman
Scoops
Carlos Pena
52
Freddie Freeman
37
Adam Lind
28
Mark Teixeira
27
Eric Hosmer
27
Daric Barton
27
Adrian Gonzalez
27
 
Carlos Pena has saved more bad throws for the Cubs than any other fielder this year, followed by rookie Freddie Freeman of the Braves. However, an observant Cubs fan would point out that Pena hasn’t prevented Starlin Castro from making 21 errors this year, 12 on errant throws. 
 
Fortunately, BIS’s video scouts also track DME #14 "Failing to Catch the Throw", for when the first baseman (or any fielder, for that matter) can’t come up with the catch. Pena, for example, has mishandled nine throws from fellow infielders- the third most in baseball. The average first baseman scoops about 4.5 throws for every mishandled throw, which translates to a "Scoop Percentage" of 82 percent. 
 
Mishandled Throws Leaders (2011)
First Baseman
Scoops
Mishandled
Throws
Scoop
Percentage
Prince Fielder
26
11
70%
Joey Votto
24
10
71%
Carlos Pena
52
9
85%
Lyle Overbay
19
8
70%
Derrek Lee
23
7
77%
Mark Trumbo
15
7
68%
 
 
Baseball Info Solutions’ R&D team has translated this scoops data, along with other Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays into the common currency of Runs Saved. Not only can we evaluate the best "pickers" at first base, but we can measure their impact on the team’s defense compared to the league average. Aubrey Huff, despite his struggles at the plate this year, has saved Giants pitchers over two runs by saving errant throws that other first basemen might have missed. 
 
Scoop Runs Saved Leaders (2011)
First Baseman
Scoops
Mishandled
Throws
Scoop
Percentage
Scoop Runs
Saved
Aubrey Huff
24
1
96%
2.1
Casey Kotchman
26
2
93%
2.1
Adrian Gonzalez
27
2
93%
1.7
Gaby Sanchez
25
2
93%
1.4
Daric Barton
27
3
90%
1.4
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (5 Comments, most recent shown first)

Chihuahua332
So was Girardi just trying to boost Texiera's scoop total by puting Posada at second base in the 9th inning of last night's blow out?
1:18 PM Aug 26th
 
greggborgeson
It seems to me that, unlike an outfielder's defensive stats, a these stats for a first baseman are highly dependent on the throwing skills of the infield, especially SS and 3B. If a team has two guys with accurate arms in those positions, a first baseman doesn't have the opportunity to be near the top in either of the categories mentioned...
12:32 PM Aug 24th
 
sansho1
Is there a way to see the full list?
10:51 PM Aug 23rd
 
rgregory1956
Whenver I see stats like this, it makes me just a little bit sad. It's too bad that Chadwick didn't think to count these types of things. Imagine what we'd know about what makes baseball tick, if only he had.
1:16 PM Aug 23rd
 
renny
This is a classic case of conventional wisdom being overcome by sabermetric research. That is, Huff is always put down as a positionless, bad fielder. His time with the Giants has contradicted that, but one doubts one's own sanity when "everyone knows" he can't field. So thanks for this affirmation that, at least in this regard, i am not crazy.
12:09 PM Aug 23rd
 
 
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