It may be surprising to hear, but St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is the best baserunning first baseman in baseball.
When you think of Paul Goldschmidt, you tend to think about home runs and him trotting round the bases after hitting a dinger. Goldy adds so much to the St. Louis Cardinals through his baserunning, giving him a real shout for being the best baserunning active first baseman in all of the MLB!
Phil Nevin, the former major leaguer for the San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers, is the current third base coach for the New York Yankees. Phil has great experience of the bases from his MLB past, and claimed on the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney, from May 27, 2020, that St. Louis Cardinals first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, is the best baserunning first baseman, stating:
"“To me, the best base runner in my opinion in baseball right now, and I had him for a few years in Arizona, is Paul Goldschmidt.”– Phil Nevin"
This isn’t the first time someone has praised Goldy for his baserunning. Dave McKay, the 36-year first base coach veteran for the Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, is quoted as saying the following when talking about Goldschmidt with The Arizona Republic newspaper in April 2017.
"“He’s as good as it gets.”– Dave McKay"
So let’s take a look at how well Goldy’s stats stack up against the competition:
Of all active first basemen in the majors right now, Goldy is by far the standout player based on FanGraphs’ baserunning metric, BsR. This metric is an all-encompassing baserunning statistic that turns stolen bases and being thrown out on the bases into runs above average, which is used for the baserunning component of fWAR. For more detail on this, check out the FanGraphs page here.
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Goldschmidt has a total of 25.4 BsR which is 12.6 more than his nearest rival Wil Myers (12.8). He also has two of the top five baserunning seasons by BsR of all active first basemen in the majors and only has one season in his career with negative runs created by his baserunning.
If we then look at the all-time first basemen list, Goldy has the highest BsR of all first basemen in the last 100 years. The only five players with superior baserunning stats (BsR) finished their careers in 1919 or before when the game was a lot different in the live-ball era.
Goldy is by no means a speedster. Looking at all players in the majors who have had a minimum of 100 opportunities over the last five years, Goldy ranks in the bottom half with a 27.1 ft/s sprint speed. This is around average, but a whole 2.7 ft/s slower than Harrison Bader who holds the St. Louis Cardinals’ title as the speediest base runner over this five year period with at least 100 opportunities.
Among first basemen with at least 25 opportunities, Goldys’ 27.1 ft/s average over the last five years is in the top quartile. On the Baseball Tonight podcast, Phil Nevin went into additional detail on Goldschmidts’ baserunning.
"“Goldy runs pretty well for a big guy, but he studies it and knows his angles to shorten those turns and maximize his speed when running”– Phil Nevin"
The St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman also holds the record for the highest career stolen base percentage (79.4%) of all time first basemen (from 1951 onwards when stolen base attempts were recorded). Noting this is players with at least 25 stolen base attempts where they’ve played first base for at least 60% of their plate appearances, check out the full list here.
If you look since 2011 when Goldschmidt joined the majors, he has swiped more bags (127) than any two other players combined! Here are the top five stolen-base totals for first basemen over this period (with at least 60% of their playing time spent at first):
- Paul Goldschmidt: 127
- Eric Hosmer: 67
- Anthony Rizzo: 57
- Joey Votto: 51
- Brandon Belt: 43
124 of these stolen bases came in Arizona, where Goldy currently holds the spot for the second-most stolen bases in franchise history (behind only Tony Womack who has 182) which is standout for a first baseman.
Goldschmidt currently stands as the only active first baseman with over 30 stolen bags in a season (32 in 2016). This sits 67th among all active position players (ahead of the likes of Dee Gordon in 2018 and every Mike Trout season since 2013) and is 5th highest all-time for first basemen.
During this exceptional baserunning season, in the penultimate game against the San Diego Padres, Goldy stole three bases in one game making him one of only three first baseman to have stolen three bases in a game in this century (along with Wil Myers in 2017 and Ryan Klesko in 2001).
Finally not only does Goldy have high skill levels at stealing bases, but he also excels at taking extra bases. The MLB average for 2019 was 40% based on the Baseball Reference extra bases taken metric (xBT%). xBT percentage looks at the percentage that a runner advances more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double, when possible.
Over his career to date, Goldy has a 45% xBT percentage which is higher than the likes of Trea Turner (43%) and Cody Bellinger (44%). In his 2019 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Goldschmidt had the third-highest xBT% (47%) among all Redbirds with at last ten or more bases taken.
It’s evident how seriously Goldy takes his baserunning and how much of a positive impact it has on his overall gameplay and its benefit to a team.
In 2019, after joining the St. Louis Cardinals, his stolen base total dropped dramatically to only three (though he was only caught stealing once), but his overall baserunning metric (3.2 BsR) was still up there with his best years and in the top three of all first basemen in the majors. This is likely due to changing coaches from his good friend Dave McKay and adapting to a new ballpark.
If the 2020 season does take place, there is no doubt Goldy will be continuing that baserunning efficiency and hopefully with an increase of bags stolen!