>Thursday Lunch: TSL’s Gold Glove Awards

Posted: November 11, 2010 in mlb
Tags: ,

>By Nick Gallaudet

If I were to tell you that a particular second baseman had the second best career fielding percentage at the position with at least 750 games played, how many Gold Gloves do you think he would have won? Three? Four? The correct answer is zero. Oakland A’s 2nd baseman, Mark Ellis, was snubbed yet again this year as the 2010 American League Gold Gloves were announced this week. As an A’s fan, this is a travesty, because Mark Ellis plays the most consistent 2nd base in Major League Baseball, but he rarely makes the flashy plays. That goes for the whole Oakland infield, none of which won a Gold Glove this year. I was certainly disappointed by the fact that none of the deserving Oakland candidates received the award, but the recipients were deserving, right? Not so fast. With the age of sabermetrics upon us, and the fact that there are now widely accepted statistics to quantify fielding, we should be in an age where reputation is not a deciding factor in who wins this supposedly prestigious award; but unfortunately that is not the reality. The Gold Glove awards are voted on by managers and coaches from the various teams, and that is a privilege they should be stripped of, because these voters most certainly do not do their due diligence when casting their votes, and it shows. No example is more damning than the fact that Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter received his fifth Gold Glove this year. That is simply inexcusable. Jeter’s Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR-widely considered one of the most telling defensive statistics…but I have no idea how they figure it out) was third worst among AL shortstops that qualified for the award. Not only that, but Jeter consistently ranked below the league average in almost every other defensive category, except fielding percentage, which demonstrates how misleading that stat can be.
The voters tend to be swayed by the fielding percentage stat, but that’s not the only thing. Reputation and the ability to hit are almost as important, it seems. A lot of the selections are previous winners, or really good hitters that can field a little bit, and that’s too bad. Reputation made a little sense when we didn’t have many ways to quantify defensive prowess, but now that we can compare actual numbers, the eye test is not sufficient in determining who the best fielder is. The most unfair trend, however, is the role hitting plays in the awarding of the Gloves. This is supposed to be based strictly on fielding, but when you look back through history, poor hitters rarely win the award. This year is no different, and a lot of poor hitters were skipped over while big boppers where given the award with less impressive defensive statistics.
The point is that I no longer respect the award. This unfortunate trend is not new, but with the wealth of stats we have at our disposal now, there is no excuse for this to be a popularity contest anymore. The voting needs to be taken away from the managers and coaches, since they clearly can’t handle the responsibility, and given to people who know what they’re evaluating. Now that we know the voting is flawed, I’m going to let you know who really should have won the Gold Gloves this year (and I swear I’m not going to let my homerism affect the picks, even though the A’s deserved about five Gold Gloves this year).
PITCHER-Who won: Mark Buehrle CWS (2nd Gold Glove)
Who should have won: Buehrle CWS
Pitcher is a position that has more than just fielding to take into consideration. Holding runners is a big part of being a pitcher, and no one was better than Buehrle this year. With 11 pickoffs and solid defense otherwise, Buehrle was a deserving recipient, but he probably won the award with his ridiculous Opening Day kick save/flip (that thanks to Bud Selig, we don’t have video of (Editor’s note: Evan defeated Bus Selig and found it)).
CATCHER-Who won: Joe Mauer MIN (3rd)
Who should have won: Matt Wieters BAL
Of all the positions, catcher is definitely the toughest to evaluate. Does the way he handles his pitching staff matter, or should it be based only on statistics? Joe Mauer is definitely a solid catcher, but he wasn’t far and away the best, and he did only start 107 games behind the plate this year. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters consistently ranked above Mauer and threw out 31% of base runners compared to Mauer’s 26%. While it’s not a travesty to award Mauer the award, Wieters was a little more deserving.
FIRST BASE-Who won: Mark Teixeira NYY (4th)
Who should have won: Daric Barton OAK
Daric Barton was the best defensive first baseman this year, period. Barton led nearly every defensive category, including UZR by 12 points (for perspective, Barton’s was 12.1, 2nd place was Lyle Overbay with .1, and Teixeira came in at -2.4). Voters may have been swayed by Barton’s ten errors, but he also led the league in total chances, getting to balls other first baseman couldn’t sniff. Teixeira has built a reputation of a great fielder, and deservedly so, but he was not the best fielding first baseman in the American League this year. He wasn’t even the second best. Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay consistently outperformed Teixeira as well.
SECOND BASE-Who won: Robinson Cano NYY (1st)
Who should have won-Mark Ellis OAK
I honestly would have accepted Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson as well, but Ellis deserves the recognition. Ellis made only three errors this year, and was 1st or 2nd in the majority of the defensive categories. Cano was a solid defensive second baseman, but, like Teixeira, his bat assisted in the winning of this award, and is just another example of offensive notoriety influencing a defensive award.
THIRD BASE- Who won: Evan Longoria TB (2nd)
Who should have won: Evan Longoria TB
This race was a lot closer than the other positions have been so far. There are four guys that had a legitimate chance at the award: Jose Lopez SEA, Adrian Beltre BOS, Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK, and Longoria. All four players were near the top of each statistic, but Longoria just barely stood out.
SHORTSTOP-Who won: Derek Jeter NYY (5th)
Who should have won: Alexei Ramirez CWS
First I want to say that I am insulted that Jeter won this award. I understand that it’s a sign of respect to a man whose legacy far outstrips his numbers, but is this the way to honor him? By devaluing an award? I find it insulting to the other winners…at least the ones that deserved the award. As far as who should have won, Ramirez just barely, and I mean BARELY, edged out Oakland’s Cliff Pennington for this one. Both shortstops were neck and neck in almost every category, but Ramirez’s higher UZR and five fewer errors earn him the award. It’s hard for me not to give it to Pennington, though, because some of the throws he makes are simply insane. I have never seen an arm on a shortstop like this guy.
OUTFIELD-Who won: Ichiro Suzuki SEA (10th), Carl Crawford TB (1st), Franklin Gutierrez SEA (1st)
Who should have won: Ichiro Suzuki SEA, Franklin Gutierrez SEA, Brett Gardner NYY
I have to be honest, there are a lot of ways this list could have shaped up, but I’ll take these three outfielders any day. White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre and Ranger Josh Hamilton nearly broke through, but the other three were just a little better. I can’t really complain about the voters’ decisions here, but Crawford wasn’t quite what he needed to be to earn the award this year.
PITCHER-Who won: Bronson Arroyo CIN (1st)
Who should have won: Tim Hudson ATL
Hudson topped most of the defensive categories, but I’m not totally against the selection of Arroyo. Arroyo didn’t make an error this year, and opponents only stole eight times against him, successful six of those times, but they were clearly afraid to run. I don’t put much stock in to pitching Gold Gloves anyway, the real award is obviously the Cy Young.
CATCHER-Who won: Yadier Molina STL (3rd)
Who should have won: Yadier Molina STL
Molina threw out almost 50% of base stealers this year, and only one other catcher, Colorado’s Miguel Olivo, threw out more than 34% while playing over 100 games. That alone is enough to sway my vote, but Olivo and Braves catcher Brian McCann were both solid this year.
FIRST BASE-Who won: Albert Pujols STL (2nd)
Who should have won: Ike Davis NYM
Pujols is like Teixeira in the American League. Both first baseman are solid defenders who have been spectacular in the past, but they just didn’t warrant the honor this year. Davis topped nearly every category and had the best UZR by almost five points. In a season with few bright spots for the Mets, Davis’ first Gold Glove should have made it a little better.
SECOND BASE-Who won: Brandon Phillips CIN (2nd)
Who should have won: Chase Utlety PHI
Utley’s failure to win a Gold Glove is just as perplexing as the case of Mark Ellis, if not more so. Utley has the bat to go with his glove, but he’s still not getting the credit. Utley was on the top of most statistical categories, but he lost to a slightly above average Phillips. Of all the choices, outside of Jeter, this selection is the most confusing to me.
THIRD BASE-Who won: Scott Rolen CIN (8th)
Who should have won: Chase Headley SD
Rolen is a classic example of voters sticking with tradition, and it’s disappointing. Rolen’s selection wasn’t as egregious as Jeter’s, but it was close. Headley, Casey Blake LAD, and Ryan Zimmerman WSH all deserved the award over Rolen, but Headley stood above the rest in almost every category in 2010.
SHORTSTOP-Who won: Troy Tulowitzki COL (1st)
Who should have won: Brendan Ryan STL
This was a two horse race, but unfortunately, the voters picked the wrong horse. Tulo certainly had a great season, but he was second behind Ryan in nearly every category, and third in UZR. Ryan was robbed, but the voters could have done worse than Tulo.
OUTFIELD-Who won: Michael Bourn HOU (2nd), Carlos Gonzalez COL (1st), Shane Victorino PHI (3rd)
Who should have won: Michael Bourn HOU, Angel Pagan NYM, Andres Torres SF
Michael Bourn deserved his Gold Glove without question, but there were four other players jockeying for the last 2 spots, and none of them were Gonzalez or Victorino, both of which rode their bat and reputation to the award. Pagan, Torres, Justin Upton ARI, and Jay Bruce CIN all had Gold Glove caliber years, but Pagan and Torres stood out because of their arm and range, respectively.
Stats from baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com


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