Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Real Gold Gloves

Anyone who follows baseball closely realizes that the players who win the gold gloves are often not the best fielders in the league. The voters simply don't seem to care very much about who they vote for, which is a shame, but luckily we can just ignore them and figure out who should have won ourselves. Here are the people that, based on the most advanced statistics available, probably should have won the awards. I am basing this mostly on this year's performance, but also factoring in performance in the past couple of years as well since fielding stats are more accurate with the larger sample size.

American League

C - Gerald Laird; HM - Joe Mauer
Not really a surprise here, Laird is an excellent athlete for a catcher, he's excellent at nabbing base-stealers and one of the best on the bunt.

1B - Kendry Morales; HM - Kevin Youkilis
First base is the hardest position to really get statistically, but Morales combines exceptional assist, putout and fielding % numbers. It would have been Youkilis if he'd spent the whole season at first, but I cannot justify giving him the award since he just didn't rack up enough innings.

2B - Dustin Pedroia; HM - Placido Polanco
Purely on this years statistics, Polanco was better this year and Ian Kinsler was about equal; however, Pedroia has been better over the last few seasons on the whole by a respectable amount and given the large amount of noise in fielding statistics I feel that Pedroia is the proper choice.

3B - Evan Longoria; HM - Chone Figgins/Adrian Beltre
All three of these guys are really superb fielders, but Longoria has been the best, both this year and combining the last two. If you have watched him play, it is impossible to miss his lightning reflexes and strong, accurate arm.

SS - Elvis Andrus; HM - Cesar Izturis
Izturis and Adam Everett actually were slightly better than Andrus on a rate basis, but because Andrus played basically 300 more innings at SS than either of them, I'm giving him the award. He has phenomenal range and makes very few mental mistakes, particularly for someone so young.

OF - Franklin Gutierrez, Ryan Sweeney, Carl Crawford; HM - B.J. Upton, Ichiro, David Dejesus
Gutierrez is probably the best defensive player in all of baseball. He essentially laps the field in terms of outfielders and the fact that he didn't win a real gold glove this year is criminally negligent. Ryan Sweeney goes completely unnoticed in Oakland but he has both great range and a fantastic arm, he's the only one in the same area code as Gutierrez on a rate basis. Crawford is really a centerfielder playing left, but he does it so much better than everyone else he gets the third glove.

P - Mark Buehrle; HM - Felix Hernandez
Buehrle's defense is one of the subtle reasons he has so much success despite not striking out many guys or having great stuff. Ground-ball inducing left-handers tend to be the best fielding pitchers partially out of opportunity but also often out of necessity.

National League

C - Yadier Molina; HM - Russ Martin
Anyone who has watched Molina play the catcher position realizes he just does it differently than everyone else. He makes every base-runner nervous and passive while being rock-solid in blocking pitches as well. His quick feet and rocket arm also make him one of the best at fielding bunts. He also is the most aggressive catcher at trying to get lead runners or throwing behind people and steals several outs that way over the course of the season.

1B - Albert Pujols; HM - Adrian Gonzalez
Forget complicated defensive metrics, Pujols led NL 1B's in assists by 49 and putouts by 84! He's not just the best hitter in baseball but probably the best all around player.

2B - Chase Utley; HM - Brandon Phillips
Perhaps the only player that could give Pujols a run at best all-around player is Utley. He has been the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball for several years now and somehow has not won a gold glove yet. I think it is mostly a stereo type thing; people see a slugging second baseman and automatically assume he is a stiff, completely ignoring the fact that he gets to more balls than anyone else out there.

3B - Ryan Zimmerman; HM - Kevin Kouzmanoff
Zimmerman really has no competition for this award, he is similar to Longoria. A great athlete with quick reflexes and a big arm who makes both the spectacular play and the routine one.

SS - JJ Hardy; HM - Ryan Theriot - Hardy, Theriot and Rafael Furcal were all pretty even this year but I'm giving the award to Hardy based on his track record the last few seasons. Hardy would have probably separated himself on his own if he wasn't bench for poor hitting late in the year anyway.

OF - Nyjer Morgan, Randy Winn, Mike Cameron; HM - Colby Rasmus, Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence
P - Ubaldo Jimenez; HM - Jason Marquis
Morgan is not only one of the fastest outfielders in the majors, but he also takes perfect routes, allowing him to take full advantage of his speed. Even if his hitting tumbles (which it probably will) he is still a valuable asset. Cameron and Winn are both getting up there in years and while they may have lost a step, they make up for it with intelligent positioning. Both are still at the top of the class in terms of range.

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