First Things First: Catch those throws
By MARK SIMON
There has been some acrobatic artistry on defense this MLB postseason, including some nifty work from first basemen in handling the throws from their teammates (who made nice plays of their own)
Something special by Adames, but pretty good by Ji-Man Choi too. We’re here to focus on the latter.
The ability to make a play like Choi’s is one of the components of Defensive Runs Saved, reflected at a site like FanGraphs as part of the rGFP value (GFP stands for “Good Fielding Plays”)
As it turns out, two of the best first basemen at making good plays on tough-to-handle throws are playing in the LCS.
Let’s start with Freddie Freeman of the Braves. Besides being a great hitter, Freeman is a great throw catcher. His defense has made him work. Over the last five seasons, Freeman has been given 108 Good Fielding Plays for handling throws, compared to 10 mishandled throws.
Two other first basemen have at least 100 Good Plays for throw-handling in that time – Eric Hosmer (128) and Paul Goldschmidt (104). But Hosmer has 19 mishandled throws and Goldschmidt has 18. That’s nearly twice as many as Freeman.
Among the 35 first basemen who have had the most combined Good Plays for throws and mishandled throws (a proxy for opportunities), Freeman has the second-highest success percentage. His 91.5% trails only Joe Mauer (69 scoops, 2 mishandles, 97%).
Here are two variations of what Freeman can do.
More recently, Choi, the Rays first baseman, has developed into someone similarly formidable to Freeman. In the last two seasons, he has 28 Good Plays and 3 mishandles for a success percentage just above 90%. That’s not quite atop the leaderboard (Freeman’s at 97% in that same span) but it’s a solid number.
Choi has wowed during the postseason with the splits he’s done, keeping his toe on the base in order to record outs. Whatever it takes is a phrase that takes on different meaning during the postseason, but these two have been impressive in doing what they’ve done to make their infielders better.