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Archived Stat of the Week

 

First Baseman Scoops

August 22, 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 track 28 categories of Good Fielding Plays (GFP) and 54 categories of 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)
Player, Team Scoops
Carlos Pena, ChC 52
Freddie Freeman, Atl 37
Adam Lind, Tor 28
Mark Teixeira, NYY 27
Eric Hosmer, KC 27
Daric Barton, Oak 27
Adrian Gonzalez, Bos 27

The Cubs' Carlos Pena has saved more bad throws than any other fielder this year, followed by rookie Freddie Freeman of the Braves. However, an observant Cubs fan would point out that Pena is working with the sensational, but erratic 21-year-old shortstop, Starlin Castro. Castro has made 21 errors this year, 12 on errant throws. While Pena has scooped a lot of bad throws from Castro, should he have scooped more, or is his performance truly above average for a first baseman?

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)
Player, Team Scoops Mishandled Throws Scoop Percentage
Prince Fielder, Mil 26 11 70%
Joey Votto, Cin 24 10 71%
Carlos Pena, ChC 52 9 85%
Lyle Overbay, Pit/Ari 19 8 70%
Derrek Lee, Bal/Pit 23 7 77%
Mark Trumbo, LAA 15 7 68%

Pena has an 85% Scoop Percentage. That's above average, but not among the elite first basemen in 2011. 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 a near-perfect Scoop Percentage of 96% and has saved Giants pitchers about two runs so far this year by saving errant throws that other first basemen might have missed.

Scoop Runs Saved Leaders (2011)
Player, Team Scoops Mishandled Throws Scoop Percentage Scoop Runs Saved
Aubrey Huff, SF 24 1 96% 2.1
Casey Kotchman, TB 26 2 93% 2.1
Adrian Gonzalez, Bos 27 2 93% 1.7
Gaby Sanchez, Fla 25 2 93% 1.4
Daric Barton, Oak 27 3 90% 1.4

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