With the voting results of the 2013 MLB All-Star Game set to be announced July 6th, there is growing anticipation over who will win certain position battles. One of the more highly contested spots in this year's event is the role of starting first baseman for the National League.
There are two viable candidates who are well ahead of the competition: Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, and Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks. But while the two of them are clearly better than the rest, it's not as easy to determine who is most deserving of the starting spot among them.
According to Fan Graphs, Votto is the more efficient hitter of the two, boasting more hits, a higher batting average and on-base percentage. Goldschmidt, meanwhile, is the better power hitter, besting Votto in home runs, runs batted in and slugging percentage.
Looking at what the two produce offensively overall, it appears Votto's ability to get on base makes up for Goldschmidt's power. Votto's weighted runs created (wRC), which quantifies a player's total offensive value measured by runs, is 70, while Goldshmidt's is 65. However, other advanced stats favor Goldschmidt, such as WAR (3.3 to Votto's 3.2) and win probability (3.73 to Votto's 2.57).
Similar to their offensive stats, these two rank among the best at their position defensively at well. Both are in the top 10 in fielding percentage, but Goldschmidt's .996 ranks better than Votto's .987. The Arizona first baseman also has just three errors on the season, compared to Votto's 10.
While Votto's fielding may not look as solid as Goldschmidt's on paper, he exhibited his baseball IQ on a great fielding play earlier this week. In the seventh inning of Tuesday's game against the San Francisco Giants, Votto preserved Homer Bailey's no-hit bid, which he went on to complete.
With one out and San Francisco's Gregor Blanco on second base, Buster Posey hit a short looper to the right side of the infield. Votto caught it on a hop, but Bailey was slow getting off the mound to cover first base.
Recognizing Posey would beat him to the bag for the infield single, Votto turned and threw the ball to third to throw out Blanco, who was trying to advance on the play. It was scored as a fielder's choice, not crediting Posey with a hit.
As you can see, it's pretty difficult to distinguish who deserves the start based on the two first basemen's stats. I think a reasonable tiebraker is to consider their accomplishments in a larger context. As the Diamondbacks' official twitter account pointed out, Goldschmidt carries the Arizona offense:
While Votto has four teammates with 28 RBI or more, Goldschmidt has none. Votto is a key component of the Reds offense, which scores 4.34 runs per game, but just one of a few. Goldschmidt is the driving force behind the Diamondbacks offense, which scores 4.2 runs per game with less total firepower.
Is it totally fair to penalize Votto for having better teammates? Not necessarily. But in a battle this close, those kinds of details can make all the difference. Of course, as Bleacher Report's Benjamin Klein said, Goldschmidt may ultimately lose out because he lacks Votto's name recognition. The National League will be in good hands regardless of who starts, but for the sake of giving the right player his due, I'd give a slight edge to Goldschmidt.
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