Shortly after awards are announced, shortly after a baseball related story is revealed, baseball analysts and experts everwhere, the ones that are paid to do this for a living, are all over whatever the given topic be. So once again, I am left in the dust, left on “mop-up” duty. But nevertheless, I will address what has taken place the past two days.
The Gold Glove awards have become somewhat of a joke occurrence each year among the baseball writers whose opinions I value most. And after doing much research the past few years myself, and learning more so now to think for myself about the subject than ever, I agree for the most part. One thing that I feel needs to be said is that certain experts tend to value the results of these awards a lot more than I do, almost so much as an obsession. Fine for them. I care, and I do want the right players to be selected for whatever the given award happens to be. But I will not (cliche alert) lose any sleep over it.
The award should go to the best fielder, period. It should have absolutely nothing to do with what the player does in the clubhouse, in the batters box, at the night club, in which city he plays, etc. Best fielder, period. But we must also be aware that the player that earns the award must have played enough games at the position. A minimum amount of defensive innings, or maybe simply qualifying for the batting title would work as well.
The objective measure of fielding performance that I tend to rely on is John Dewan’s “Plus/Minus” system. It seems to be pretty consistent in choosing, not necessarily the “Right” candidate, but more so someone who is close to the “right” candidate. There seem to be a few questionable choices each year with my chosen metric, however who am I to judge? I for one completely understand that I do not see enough of a sampling of all defenders to make an accurate assessment on the quality of the glove work that they produce. The experts however that designed this metric do get to see enough, or so they tell us. And I also keep in mind that defensive metrics, although somewhat reliable, are not what offensive numbers are. They are not as accurate, and not as close to being definitive as my chosen offensive statistics appear to be.
The Gold Glove voters make some terrible choices sometimes. It isn’t as if they choose the wrong player every time, it is that they sometimes choose a player that has no business winning the award. Sometimes, too often perhaps, they seem to choose a player that should have one a few years previous, or a player that makes a great play in a large market, or even a player that is a poor defender, but has a great bat. It has made the award a joke, to some, and rightfully so.
So as most of us know, my one loyal reader and I, the Gold Glove awards were chosen for each league the past two days. So here are the winners, and a few sentences why they are worthy or not, based on my oh so humble opinion (But mostly Plus/Minus’ humble objective opinion).
Joe Mauer- Mauer is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game at the catching position. This is the one position where I will not rely on the Plus/Minus system, because I am pretty darn sure that they can not sum up everything that a catcher does defensively, nor did they even post the results on the website. One writer suggested that Jose Molina was the best defender. Ok, maybe he was, but he played in a total of 81 games. This is not “Anti-Yankee” bias, this is simple near-fact that a catcher who plays 54 fewer games than another cannot be as valuable, assuming that both parties are competent at what they are doing.
Yadier Molina- Ask me again when I watch him play more.
Carlos Pena- Dewan (Plus/Minus) has him as the fifth best defender at first base. Not going to complain, even if he wasn’t the best, he was rated the best among AL first baseman, so this is probably a fine choice. Mark Teixera was rated the best, but spent a lot of time in the NL.
Adrian Gonzalez- Maybe Pujols deserves to win this award again. Pujols is second in plus/minus and noted as one of the best at his position. But I haven’t exactly heard much about Adrian being a poor defender. May not be the best choice, and probably wasn’t the right choice, but could be worse.
Dustin Pedroia: Since I watch Pedroia a lot, I see that he is a very good defender. But even though I let my eyes tell me what they see, I am hesitant to make any rash judgements into what he is until I see the metrics. And the metrics backed up my thinking, which is what I enjoy. Pedroia was second in the AL in plus/minus, and the only player ahead of him played 31 fewer games at the position. Pedroia is a more than an acceptable choice, although Mark Ellis is good.
Brandon Phillips: Ok, two writers that I read frequently, Law and Neyer, believe Utley was the best defender, and I cannot disagree with them. but Phillips is still a solid choice. It isn’t as if he was terrible, plus/minus has him fourth in all of baseball, although Utley has a rather sizeable advantage over everyone. But the point is to get someone in there who is good, rather than “not good.”
Michael Young- Hilarious! Shouldn’t have won, this goes in the egregious category. But as one ESPN commentor said, the SS crop in the AL was very weak. Either they did not play enough games, or they didn’t field well enough. Still, this is a horrid decision, although Young is the kind of player we all like.
Jimmy Rollins- Rollins is a complete player. Not much better than the average hitter, but still better. And a good fielder. I doubt Rollins will ever end up his 2007 self again, but his defense was tops in Dewan’s metric at SS.
Adrian Beltre- Everyone knows Beltre’s glove work is the reason he may be worth what he earns.
David Wright- Wright is a great player, and gets a lot of crap for it in the New York media. Maybe not the best choice, but could be.
Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore, Ichiro Suzuki-
Hunter is good out there, but Carlos Gomez blew away the AL field in center, and according to Neyer was “the best OF on the planet.” The metrics show he most likely deserved an award, but did not get one. Eventually, his reputation will catch up with his defense.
Sizemore wasn’t at the top of the “omnipotent” plus/minus system. But I like to think that he knows what he is doing out there.
Ichiro is and has always been a good fielder, and I don’t see any evidence that he declined much this season. But he did only play 69 games in center, so one could make a case that there was a “full-time” CF that was more deserving.
Nate Mclouth, Shane Victorino, Carlos Beltran:
Mclouth was dead last among CF’s in all of baseball,
yet the voters chose him anyway. No one sees him play, no one knows how good his defense is. But the metrics say he was a putrid coverer of ground this season. I have a difficult time believing that this award is accurate.
Victorino- Metrics say that he is either worthy, or close to being worthy.
Beltran- Best +/- among all NL CF’s. I am on board.
Mike Mussina- Cool.
Greg Maddux- Awesome.