Atlanta Braves vs. NL East position by position: First Base.
This introduces the 2018 edition of an annual series to evaluate the Braves’ position players against those of the National League East. Today: first base.
The Atlanta Braves feature the best first baseman in their division. This isn’t a surprise, but the size of the gap might be. Some changes are coming in the division, though, but you can still expect this contest to continue to be… no contest.
Let’s take a look:
Mets – Adrian Gonzalez
Lucas Duda is gone and Dominic Smith is coming back… eventually. But this week brought a change. With the signing made official on the 18th, Adrian Gonzalez has now officially been a Met for longer than he was a member of the Braves… just over 48 hours.
But what will he bring to the Mets as their first try for first base?
Depending on who you believe… the answer might be ‘not much’:
Presumably, Gonzalez is only there to keep the base warm until Dominic Smith arrives… and sticks.
Smith’s 2017 attempt at the majors didn’t go particularly well (.198 average with a .658 OPS in 183 trips to the plate), but if you were to rank the NL first basemen by WAR (minimum 160 plate appearances) from 2017, you’d find Smith 26th out of 30 at a -0.6.
Frankly, it’s actually difficult to do that badly in a short stint like that (though Ryder Jones of the Giants bested even that with -1.2 fWAR in 164 PA).
But here’s another problem for the Mets: Gonzalez posted -1.1 fWAR for his 252 PA in 2017.
On the defensive side, the fangraphs numbers are a bit misleading. At first glance, you’d think that their negative scores (-5.7 for A-Gon; -4.1 for Smith) are terrible, but there is a context to be considered:
First off, there is some ‘cross-contamination’ going on – Buster Posey is listed among the NL first basemen, even though his primary position is still catcher. On top of that, the +5.8 total defensive score given him by fangraphs includes his catching work.
Second, fangraphs grades every first baseman (other than Posey) with a negative defensive rating. Yes – all of them.
This includes the Gold Glove and Fielding Bible award winner for 2017: Paul Goldschmidt… who posted -7.6… the 23rd worst among those on the chart. Beyond that, A-Gon had been a Gold Glove winner in the past. Sure – he’s lost a step or two… or three…but the glove still plays.
So let’s go back to an old-school idea and simply look at the errors committed by each player.
I’ll spoil some of the data that should be reviewed later just to save some trouble for all of us:
- Gonzalez: 2 in 501 innings
- Smith: 2 in 378 innings
- Justin Bour (Miami): 1 in 862 innings
- Rhys Hoskins (Philly): 3 in 203 innings
- Tommy Joseph (Philly): 8 in 1048 innings
- Carlos Santana (Philly): 5 in 1226 innings with Cleveland
- Freddie Freeman: 4 in 877 innings
- Ryan Zimmerman (Nats): 12 in 1162 innings
It’s only a year’s worth of data, but I don’t know that more years would necessarily change the error rates drastically.
So in reality, it is very likely that defense will be the strength of the game supplied by either Gonzalez or Smith.
Unfortunately for the Mets, that might be the best bright spot they will be able to come up with here… and that’s why this positional check ranks the Mets a (very distant)…