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Article: Offseason Primer: Who Needs a First Baseman Anyways?

joe mauer tyler austin max kepler mitch garver brent rooker
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#41 Kelly Vance

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 06:33 PM

Keps runs too well to waste his defensive OF skills on first base. Austin can play most of the games with Sano and others spelling him.  We need a solid new IF stud at middle infield somewhere and a solid RBI/Homer guy for DH.  Plus pitchers

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#42 Mike Sixel

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 07:10 PM

Because they don't exist. At least not readily or publicly.


What doesn't exist?

Defense is calculated for first base. There just aren't that many opportunities to make plays others rarely do. The data is readily available.

I remain hopeful on Buxton and Sano.....but I'd not bet the franchise on them.


#43 ChrisKnutson

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 07:41 PM

Keps runs too well to waste his defensive OF skills on first base. Austin can play most of the games with Sano and others spelling him.  We need a solid new IF stud at middle infield somewhere and a solid RBI/Homer guy for DH.  Plus pitchers


I agree with you on Kepler, getting a new middle infielder, and adding more pitching, but in disagreement, I’d prefer that we move Sano to 1st, sign Nelson Cruz to DH, and then find a new 3rd basemen because I really don’t wanna see Austin starting on a regular basis at 1st unless someone gets hurt (likely Sano).

#44 USAFChief

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 07:54 PM

What doesn't exist?

Defense is calculated for first base. There just aren't that many opportunities to make plays others rarely do. The data is readily available.


Data is available.

"THE" data is open to interpretation. Some of us are pretty skeptical of publicly available defensive stats.
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#45 Tom Froemming

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 08:00 PM

Last season Joe Mauer had 20 scoops in 753 2/3 innings played at first base, per FanGraphs. That's basically one scoop per every four games he played there.

 

Copy/pasted this over from the comments of the Polanco article I recently wrote. Sorry to those who already saw it, but I feel like it's worth mentioning again.

 

Yes, you'd much rather have a good defensive player at first, but I'd certainly be willing to sacrifice on defense if it meant more offensive production. While first basemen are involved in a great number of plays throughout a game, the vast majority of them are routine.

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#46 Wizard11

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 08:02 PM

I like the idea of an impact player to help get this team going. Paul Goldschmidt is likely available and checks a lot of boxes. D-Backs need to rebuild their farm. I think we should help them with that endeavor.
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#47 Platoon

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 08:14 PM

Last season Joe Mauer had 20 scoops in 753 2/3 innings played at first base, per FanGraphs. That's basically one scoop per every four games he played there.
 
Copy/pasted this over from the comments of the Polanco article I recently wrote. Sorry to those who already saw it, but I feel like it's worth mentioning again.
 
Yes, you'd much rather have a good defensive player at first, but I'd certainly be willing to sacrifice on defense if it meant more offensive production. While first basemen are involved in a great number of plays throughout a game, the vast majority of them are routine.

I don't have any specific data to argue yours on the "scoops". But I wondered what a "scoop" is? Any ball in the dirt? And it just does not seem possible that the Twins IF only throw one ball every 4 games into the dirt? I am not saying the data is wrong, but that number seems extraordinary low.
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#48 Kelly Vance

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 08:25 PM

 

People that watch every play, and every throw and dig, year after year, disagree with you. This isn't random posters....

Wait a minute.... really? "People disagree with you?"  Sorry, but that is something that I would challenge. 

What people?  

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#49 Tom Froemming

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 08:53 PM

 

I don't have any specific data to argue yours on the "scoops". But I wondered what a "scoop" is? Any ball in the dirt? And it just does not seem possible that the Twins IF only throw one ball every 4 games into the dirt? I am not saying the data is wrong, but that number seems extraordinary low.

Correct, it's any throw that hits the dirt prior to reaching the first baseman. I get what you're saying, I think if you were to ask me to predict how many balls Mauer dug out of the dirt last season I'd probably have guessed double what their number is. But that data comes from Baseball Info Solutions, who assign someone to track that kind of stuff for every MLB game.

 

I have not been able to audit that information myself/didn't track scoops, so that's the best I've got to go off of. I'll be working on some defensive stuff for a future installment of the 2018 highlights series I've been running. I know I've got a bunch of Mauer scoops in those, I'm interested in tallying them up.

 

After thinking about how few plays there are on the infield these days, however, that low frequency of scoops doesn't really surprise me all too much. I think on average there are only 10 or 11 ground balls hit per team per game and a couple of those are going to go for hits. That doesn't leave a whole lotta plays to be made in the first place.

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#50 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 09:20 PM

What doesn't exist?

Data on bounced throws to first base. We just don't have that data (we the public) other than that "scoops" column, which doesn't tell us much. Absent the stat cast data, maybe a "scoops missed" column is the next step.

#51 Tom Froemming

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 10:01 PM

 

Data on bounced throws to first base. We just don't have that data (we the public) other than that "scoops" column, which doesn't tell us much. Absent the stat cast data, maybe a "scoops missed" column is the next step.

Scoop runs saved is what you're looking for, it's essentially successful scoop percentage. I don't believe that's available online, though I could be wrong. I think it's in the Fielding Bible, which is available in print each year. Scoop runs saved is a component of Defensive Runs Saved, which is available at FanGraphs.

 

I'm not out to debate with anybody on whether or not Joe Mauer is a good defensive first baseman. He is. No doubt in my mind. And the metrics back that up, rating him a +3 in DRS last season, so above average. He didn't rank among the top guys in the league at the position, but a big part of that was because he only made 85 starts at first.

 

My question is how much more valuable is a good defensive player at first base compared to one that may be slightly below average? I'm not sure what the exact answer would be, but there's certainly a point in where a guy can provide enough with the bat to make up for any defensive shortcomings.

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#52 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 10:46 PM

Scoop runs saved is what you're looking for, it's essentially successful scoop percentage. I don't believe that's available online, though I could be wrong. I think it's in the Fielding Bible, which is available in print each year. Scoop runs saved is a component of Defensive Runs Saved, which is available at FanGraphs.
 
I'm not out to debate with anybody on whether or not Joe Mauer is a good defensive first baseman. He is. No doubt in my mind. And the metrics back that up, rating him a +3 in DRS last season, so above average. He didn't rank among the top guys in the league at the position, but a big part of that was because he only made 85 starts at first.
 
My question is how much more valuable is a good defensive player at first base compared to one that may be slightly below average? I'm not sure what the exact answer would be, but there's certainly a point in where a guy can provide enough with the bat to make up for any defensive shortcomings.

And I'm not arguing Mauer is irreplaceable at first base, or that a lot of offense at first base can't make up for subpar fielding there.

My belief is that first base defense matters. As far as scoop data, I think it would be interesting to see the speed of throws, spin of bounce, distance from bag, that sort of thing, and then be able to compare similar throws with how other first baseman picked those, before having all that scoop data interpreted or rolled into another stat category.

I think Mauer was one of the best, but maybe most good first baseman are pretty close. Don't know. I think moving Sano to first base is now under real consideration; he had throwing problems in the minors and to correct that I think he was instructed to throw low. And he throws hard. Mauer could pick his throws better than Morrison could.

I think scooping throws is both an underappreciated skill but also something a first baseman is never charged an error for failing to do. :)
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#53 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 18 October 2018 - 11:27 PM

They need a bat there. The team's failing this year was mostly on offense, a year prior to being one of the better offensive teams in baseball. I have no problems plugging Austin in and seeing if he can drop that K rate over time, but I think the team needs a big bopper. I'm on record saynig to get Nelson Cruz. I still would.

 

I'd probably go out and get Escobar too, which between him, Garver, and Cave, could probably give Austin days off against tough righties. I'd still want another 2B and CF though.


#54 ashburyjohn

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Posted 19 October 2018 - 06:48 AM

My belief is that first base defense matters.

Defense matters at every position. I appreciate a slick play at 1B as well as the next fan.

 

But there's a reason a lumbering DH-type is played at 1B - it's the best place to hide him. Guys like Kennys Vargas make scoops too. The differential between what Mauer can do on top of that is pretty small. And not every baserunner from a failed scoop turns into a run. And not every un-prevented run turns into a win.

 

You need a whale of a lot of defense at 1B to even move the needle.

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#55 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 19 October 2018 - 08:24 AM

Defense matters at every position. I appreciate a slick play at 1B as well as the next fan.
 
But there's a reason a lumbering DH-type is played at 1B - it's the best place to hide him. Guys like Kennys Vargas make scoops too,. The differential between what Mauer can do on top of that is pretty small. And not every baserunner from a failed scoop turns into a run. And not every un-prevented run turns into a win.
 
You need a whale of a lot of defense at 1B to even move the needle.

maybe so, but it might be nice to have that granular data I was mentioning before we decide we can dismiss it. Otherwise it's just a hunch, as hunchy as my hunch or anyone else's :)

This scoop thing came to light right away in April 2018 in Yankee Stadium when Morrison missed a not too difficult short hop throw by Sano in the 9th, which eventually led to the Yankees winning the game. That one helped move the needle the wrong direction.

#56 nicksaviking

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Posted 19 October 2018 - 09:16 AM

 

Keps runs too well to waste his defensive OF skills on first base. Austin can play most of the games with Sano and others spelling him.  We need a solid new IF stud at middle infield somewhere and a solid RBI/Homer guy for DH.  Plus pitchers

 

I'd say that Target Field's small RF dimensions minimize the benefits of Kepler's speed. In fact, if a groundball pitcher like Gibson is on the mound, his added range covering the infield may be more beneficial than in RF.


#57 Sconnie

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Posted 19 October 2018 - 09:46 AM

 

Correct, it's any throw that hits the dirt prior to reaching the first baseman. I get what you're saying, I think if you were to ask me to predict how many balls Mauer dug out of the dirt last season I'd probably have guessed double what their number is. But that data comes from Baseball Info Solutions, who assign someone to track that kind of stuff for every MLB game.

 

I have not been able to audit that information myself/didn't track scoops, so that's the best I've got to go off of. I'll be working on some defensive stuff for a future installment of the 2018 highlights series I've been running. I know I've got a bunch of Mauer scoops in those, I'm interested in tallying them up.

 

After thinking about how few plays there are on the infield these days, however, that low frequency of scoops doesn't really surprise me all too much. I think on average there are only 10 or 11 ground balls hit per team per game and a couple of those are going to go for hits. That doesn't leave a whole lotta plays to be made in the first place.

 

seems like the "Scoop" definition could be a little narrow to answer the question asked. The quality of a first baseman's fielding play would be similar to that of a hockey goalie - how many thrown balls did the first baseman stop from getting past them? What was their "save percentage"? What is the WPA to the first baseman standing on their head? How many runs does save failures at first base cost you over a season?

 

Frequently errors get attributed to the 3B/SS/2B, but what we want to know is how often does the first baseman stop things from getting out of hand.

 

As Mike said, the data is out there, but the analysis is tricky.

 

Scoops may be a solid leading indicator. Much like OPS is a leading indicator to contribution to runs created, Scoops might be a leading indicator to runs prevented. I wish I had time to dig in....

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#58 Kelly Vance

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Posted 19 October 2018 - 09:59 AM

 

I'd say that Target Field's small RF dimensions minimize the benefits of Kepler's speed. In fact, if a groundball pitcher like Gibson is on the mound, his added range covering the infield may be more beneficial than in RF.

Doubt it


#59 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 19 October 2018 - 11:16 AM

When a first baseman can carry a Drew Butera like bat, and still carve out a long MLB career, then I'll believe that elite first base defense is much more valuable than average first base defense.

#60 Sarah

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Posted 19 October 2018 - 11:26 AM

 

I'd say that Target Field's small RF dimensions minimize the benefits of Kepler's speed. In fact, if a groundball pitcher like Gibson is on the mound, his added range covering the infield may be more beneficial than in RF.

 

Yes but he filled in at center field too when Buxton was injured and he is a good defensive outfielder in general. He has long, athletic strides that would be wasted at first base. Stop the madness! :-) 

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