Photo: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire

We posted a Defensive Runs Saved leaderboard on both Twitter and Reddit yesterday and some people got very worked up when they saw that the first base leader was Joey Gallo of the Nationals.

In honor of Gallo’s 6 Defensive Runs Saved at that position, I have 6 thoughts on that number (and yes, we know Gallo got hurt, but this is intended to be instructive in how DRS works).

1- It’s a 38-game, just over 300-inning sample. That’s a small number of innings which means a few good plays or bad plays can skew the sample. Just because he has 6 Runs Saved in 300+ innings doesn’t mean you can project out to 1,200 innings and multiply those 6 Runs Saved by 4.

2- Just because Gallo has 6 Runs Saved and Christian Walker have 6 Runs Saved doesn’t mean the two rate as equals defensively. Walker’s track record of excellence runs thousands of innings. Gallo’s doesn’t. Equal in Runs Saved doesn’t necessarily mean equal in overall skill. 

3- That said, in these 316 innings, Gallo has done some things right. 


Gallo has 6 plays made, including this one, on batted balls with an out probability of less than 50%. These have come mostly on hard-hit balls, with this one below registering 105 MPH. 


A play like this one looks more impressive if you see it in person than on TV where the camera switch doesn’t come until after Gallo has made his initial move for the ball.

4- Gallo may have missed some balls, but by our calculations entering Tuesday he’d failed to make a play on only one with an out probability of 27% or higher (and that was on a ball that his second baseman got to). In other words, the balls that have gotten through have cost him a very small amount of Runs Saved because most first basemen aren’t fielding those balls. 

He’s 41-of-42 in making plays on balls with an out probability of at least 27%.

5- Evaluating first base defense is difficult because we have the tools to focus on range more than we do catching throws. Throw handling is a small component of Defensive Runs Saved. 

Our Video Scouts reward first basemen for “scoops” and throw handling on balls using a specific set of rules. 

Gallo has been credited with 7 of these, tied for 7th-most, which is pretty good considering he ranks 25th in innings played. The leaderboard can be found here. The net value of these is approximately 1 Run Saved.


6- Let’s not forget that there was a time when Gallo’s defense was highly valued, largely for his arm but he could make plays too. From 2020 to 2021, Gallo led all right fielders in Defensive Runs Saved.

Now he’s trying to put up those kind of numbers at another spot. He may not be hitting, but he’s still contributing.