Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gold Glove Review

I don't put much stock in Gold Glove awards (Fielding Bible Awards are where it's at). Too often they seem to go to flashy players who pass the eye test but are more style than substance, like a Dave Winfield. It also bothers me that many players win them simply because they won the award in the past (Was Greg Maddux really the best fielding National League hurler in 18 of his final 19 seasons? Probably not). They're popularity contests.

But it's tough to vote on these awards. Defense is so hard to quantify that not even advanced metrics have figured out how to measure it accurately. Sabermetrics have come a long way but have yet to produce a trustworthy, reliable stat to encompass a player's defensive contributions. UZR, Total Zone Runs and Range Factor are all helpful, but not quite as concrete as WAR or OPS or FIP. Accordingly, I try to cut the managers and coaches (aka the voters) some slack especially since they get to see some opponents only a handful of times over the course of a season. Generally speaking, as long as there's evidence that a recipient had an above average season with the leather, I won't argue. However, every year there are always a few head-scratching choices (Derek Jeter), and this season was no different in that regard.

AL-Did a pretty good job with one glaring exception

C Matt Wieters
Won his second consecutive award and was worthy both times. Has clearly surpassed Joe Mauer as the top defensive backstop in the Junior Circuit.

1B Mark Teixeira
That makes five Gold Gloves for Tex, whose defense remains as strong as ever.

2B Robinson Cano
New York's MVP candidate has polished his defense over the past several years and it's paid off with a pair of Gold Gloves. He now has the mental focus to complement his athletic grace and strong arm.

3B Adrian Beltre
At 33, Beltre's skills remained intact at the hot corner as he earned his fourth Gold Glove. Isn't the elite defender he was five years ago, but still very good. Good enough to overlook the fact that Brett Lawrie (2.4 dWAR) had a better season.

SS J.J. Hardy
Hardy had a rough year at the plate, but compensated for his struggles with top-notch defense at shortstop by leading the position in Fielding Percentage and Range Factor/Game. Shout-out to Brendan Ryan of the Seattle Mariners, who produced 3.6 dWAR this year but batted a measly .194/.277/.278. Ryan's been the slickest fielding shortstop in baseball over the past four seasons but has yet to win a Gold Glove.

LF Alex Gordon
Won his second consecutive award and was deserving both times. Gordon, who led the major league in doubles, does everything well and is one of the game's most underrated players in my opinion.

CF Adam Jones
Um, can someone please explain to me how Mike Trout didn't win? Because if anybody can make a case for why he doesn't deserve it, I'd love to hear it. The human highlight reel robbed four home runs, for Pete's sake, and according to Baseball-Reference his glove was worth 2.2 WAR by itself. Jones, on the other hand, was worth -1.3. Do the math.

RF Josh Reddick
Easy choice. Reddick has a cannon for an arm and was arguably the top defensive outfielder not named Mike Trout. Wouldn't be surprised if he wins a few more of these.

P Jake Peavy and Jeremy Hellickson
Really? You couldn't pick one?

NL-A few gimmes but a couple whiffs as well

C Yadier Molina
Has won five consecutive awards, something no NL catcher has done since Johnny Bench, and is still the best defensive receiver in the game. Buster Posey is good, too, but not this good.

1B Adam LaRoche
Never thought I would see LaRoche's name and Gold Glove in the same sentence, but he held his own in the field this year. If Joey Votto hadn't missed a third of the season, he probably would have won.

2B Darwin Barney
His .997 Fielding Percentage set a Cubs record and led all National Leaguers with 3.6 dWAR. Sounds like a Gold Glover to me.

3B Chase Headley
Headley was an interesting choice, but I can't see how he was chosen over David Wright. Or Ryan Zimmerman and David Freese, for that matter.

SS Jimmy Rollins
J-Roll won his fourth Gold Glove, but was average defensively. I think Jed Lowrie would have won had he been able to stay healthy, but the list of more deserving candidates includes Zack Cozart, Starlin Castro and Ruben Tejada.

LF Carlos Gonzalez
Nope. CarGo's shoddy D cost the Rockies nearly two wins this year. Martin Prado, who contributed almost two wins with his glove, got robbed. Ryan Braun would have been a better choice as well.

CF Andrew McCutchen
FanGraphs and Baseball-reference both rate him as a subpar centerfielder. He's fast, but so is Michael Bourn, who piled up three wins above replacement on defense this season and topped the bigs in Total Zone Runs.

RF Jason Heyward
Likely the first of many for the young star with Ken Griffey Jr. potential.

P Mark Buehrle
Four in a row for Buehrle, one of the few Marlins that played up to expectations this year.

1 comment:

  1. AL Pitcher Gold Glove:
    Who is the 'you' that you are referring to? It's not a matter of 'picking one'. There isn't someone going back and forth in his head trying to decide who should win and then just throws his arms up and says "I can't decide! I'll just give one GG to each guy!" It is a tabulated voting system. If two players end up with exactly the same number of votes, it is tie. Simple as that. There is no basis for being critical (such as writing 'Really?')