03 November 2004

MLB Awards Analysis- Gold Gloves

The AL and NL Gold Glove Award Winners were announced yesterday/ today. I'm going to look at who won, who I picked, and who I now feel (after a season and looking at all the numbers/ metrics/ etc.) should have won. I'll list each winner first, then who I picked earlier in the year, followed finally by the guy who should have won. In the "should have won" category, I'm going mostly on defensive Win Shares, ZR numbers, range factor numbers, a little fielding percentage, and a pinch of reputation. Got it? AL first.



  1. First Base

    Darin Erstad, Ana
    Darin Erstad, Ana
    Darin Erstad, Ana

    The top three defensive Win Shares first basemen were, in order, Mark Teixeira, Darin Erstad and Kevin Millar. Among the three, purely from observation, it would appear that Erstad is the most athletic (he is likely one of the four or five best defensive outfielders in baseball as well, but if they want to keep running Garrett Anderson out there...) and his FP, .997, is solid. Millar was very good this year at first, but he raises two issues:
    a) his zone rating is mediocre
    b) he played so much RF, he doesn't qualify
    c) we can't possibly consider Kevin Millar for a Gold Glove

    So that leaves Erstad and Teixeira, who the award comes down to. Tino Martinez had a decent year, and his ZR is great, but his RF puts him next to last among 1B, and his defensive Win Shares puts him 9th. Range factor doesn't favor Erstad either- but this maybe a result of Teixeira's staff being devoid of strikeout guys, while Erstad's is full of them. 1B is a tough one to call anyway, so I'm weighting the reputation of Erstad. I recognize a lot of these awards take the "story" into consideration, and his complete domination of the position after his complete domination of CF was impressive. Next year? Teixeira/ Mientkiewicz. This year, I can live with Erstad.

  2. Second Base

    Brett Boone, Sea
    Orlando Hudson, Tor
    Orlando Hudson, Tor

    Before we get to the more egregious election, let's start with a very stupid one in it's own right. Brett Boone, by none of the metrics I'm looking at, should even be whiffing this award. Last in ZR. Last in RF. Only better among eligible 2B to Alfonso Soriano in FP. Seventeenth in defensive Win Shares. Not only should Boone not have won, he should not even have been considered. Boone was getting by on two things here-
    a) reputation
    b) voters voting on name recognition/ offense

    There is no other way that Hudson, 1st in DWS, 3rd in ZR, 1st in RF and an absolute joy to watch play the position- doesn't win. It's only because he plays in Toronto, and apparently the voters simply don't know who he is, and he hasn't won before. People feign astonishment when they hear a guy winning a GG "x" amount of years in a row, when in reality, it's commonplace. A guy gets it once, and barring injury or collapse will often go on a roll. One of the worst selections in years. O-Dawg wuz robbed.

  3. Third Base

    Eric Chavez, Oak
    Eric Chavez, Oak
    Eric Chavez, Oak

    They got this one right. I will say, if they were to have given it to A-Rod this year (aka Slappy McBluelips), they would have had a strong case as well. Rodriguez was stellar there this year, and was healthier, thus his being first in DWS to Chavez's 3rd. That being said, not only am I positive Chavez is the best in the AL, not only am I positive that Chavez is better than Rolen... I am also positive he may be one of the three best defensive players in baseball, with Rolen and either Mike Cameron or Andruw Jones. Anyway, Chavez was 1st in RF, 1st in ZR and 2nd in FP. He was the only 3B in the AL to get a +3 RF. Eric Chavez is a genius 3B, no doubt.

  4. Shortstop

    Derek Jeter, NYY
    Julio Lugo, TBD
    Cristian Guzman, MIN

    Ugh. The parallels between Jeter's win on Tuesday and Bush's are mind boggling, but let's just say this- it's anathema to everything I understand about the world that both won on the same day. Let's put it this way: it is one of the Holy Tenets of SABR and BP and other such baseball institutions that Derek Jeter is not average... he's not below average... he's not bad... he's been the worst in the AL for the last 4 years at least, and I can prove it to you. It's even tangible.

    I will, of course, admit that Derek Jeter improved this year. He moved out of the basement in AL rankings for the above mentioned metrics for the first time in his career, and for that he should be commended. In fact, I do believe that he got better, and that getting totally healthy helped, and so did having a 3B with such increased range next to him. What I refuse to believe, however, was that Derek Jeter improved so drastically that he went from worst to first in one offseason. It just doesn't work that way, and more than a little of that can be attributed to statistical noise. But that's neither here nor there- here are the numbers.

    3rd in DWS
    6th in ZR
    8th in RF
    4th in FP

    Here are some SS that are, defensively better than Mr. Jeter in 2004 (Nomar, for example, is normally better, but certainly not this year with the injury- Pokey is leagues better, but didn't stay in the lineup, Cabrera was better but here for only 1/2 a season): Julio Lugo, Cristian Guzman, Bobby Crosby, Miguel Tejada, Jose Valentin. Carlos Guillen was borderline this year, and Jeter can thank Vizquel's being declared dead for winning his first award.

    But in reality, Jeter can thank the play he made in July against the Red Sox for the award. He went diving at a ball, took five steps and felt it necessary to dive into the stands and hurting his face. It was a great play- one of the best of the year (though not even the best of the game- Pokey Reese's similar play was tougher because he had longer to go and it was a more shallow arc)- but I can't imagine anyone would give a guy an award on one play.

    Derek Jeter is a bad defensive player and a great offensive player. He plays hard, is probably the best baserunner in baseball, and I'd have him on my team any day (of course, not playing SS and at about 9 million fewer dollars a season). In 1999, either he or Pedro was the AL MVP.

    In no way, shape or form should he have beaten Cristian Guzman (or most AL SS) for a Gold Glove. Just like Pokey Reese doesn't deserve a Silver Slugger. (Guzman- 1st DWS). I probably overrated Lugo earlier in the year, which is why I changed that pick after seeing the numbers.

  5. Catcher

    Ivan Rodriguez, DET
    Bengi Molina ANA
    Henry Blanco, MIN

    I don't have a huge problem with the pick here, especially since it's so difficult to quantify the defense of a catcher. But, as much as one can, it looks like the numbers fall between Damian Miller and Henry Blanco. Let's see why:
    CERA (Catcher ERA)
    DM: 2nd HB: 3rd
    Range Factor
    DM: 9th HB: 3rd
    FP
    DM: 1st HB: 9th
    Passed Balls
    DM: 9th HB: 4th
    CS% (Caught Stealing %)
    DM: 2nd HB: 1st
    DWS
    DM: 1st HB: 6th

    It's close, but I gave the nod to Blanco, taking over for Mauer. Varitek deserves mention, but he throws NO ONE out and is pretty overrated in this department anyway. Molina is a solid choice, and certainly you can do worse than Ivan Rodriguez. Of course, it wouldn't have mattered if you could have done better, because they may as well vote on these things before the year starts. IRod was a shoo-in. If Toronto's Norm Cash plays full time next year, he wins this.

  6. Outfield Spot One

    Torii Hunter, MIN
    Torii Hunter, MIN
    Torii Hunter, MIN

    I have literally no problem with this guy getting Gold Gloves year after year. He's a fucking gas to watch, and it proves through- 3rd in DWS, which for purposes of outfield defense are far more valuable (RF and ZR are more specific and weighted in the IF). Hunter's a no-brainer.

  7. Outfield Spot Two

    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
    Johnny Damon, BOS

    Even I was surprised by this. Johnny Damon- poor arm and all- was the leader in the AL in defensive Win Shares, with an appropriate 18. Damon's arm may be sub par, but this actually makes sense. With Trot Nixon injured, Damon actually played a significant portion of this season surrounded by Kevin Millar and Manny Ramirez- and he ran everything in sight down. He had a terrific year, and he definitely deserves this, even over Ichiro who was 18th in defensive Win Shares. They're not the end-all-be-all, but DWS are very valuable in the OF evaluation, and just from observation Damon was brilliant. Ichiro's getting these things on the strength of his arm now, I'd suspect. Range is more valuable in the OF.

  8. Outfield Spot Three

    Vernon Wells, TOR
    Mark Kotsay, OAK
    Mark Kotsay, OAK

    I picked Kotsay a while back purely on observation, and it turns out I was actually right- Kotsay was #2 in DWS among AL OF, and made a league best 11 assists from CF. Wells wasn't a bad pick, just odd- this wasn't his year, it was last year. Wells was injured a lot of the season and looked a little sluggish. Not awful though, as he was 4th in DWS among AL OF, and made only one error.

  9. Pitcher

    Kenny Rogers, TEX
    Tim Wakefield, BOS
    Tim Wakefield, BOS

    It really is next to impossible to really get a grasp on this outside observation- that's why Kenny Rogers and Mike Mussina just win it ever year. Same with Maddux in the NL. So, to be contrarian, I picked Wakefield. A converted infielder, Wake was solid all year. Was he the best? Honestly, I have no idea. But he was the best I saw all year, so it works for me (Rogers and Mussina are both deserving, for the record).






  1. First Base

    Todd Helton, COL
    Derrek Lee, CHC
    Derrek Lee, CHC

    This is an absolute pick 'em. 1 and 2 in DWS (Helton/ Lee), 1 and 2 in FP (Helton/ Lee). Lee had a lot more work to do scooping throws in his infield, not to mention covering lost Todd Walker ground. Either is a good choice. I like Lee better. (For what it's worth, Albert Pujols is gonna win one someday. He's been great.)

  2. Second Base

    Luis Castillo, FLA
    Alex Cora, LAD
    Luis Castillo, FLA

    I was 100% wrong- I think the news of Castillo's hip problems were clouding my judgement- but it seems pretty clear cut for Luis- 3rd in DWS, 1st in ZR and 1st in FP. Cora had a decent year, not nearly the value I saw him having when I picked him a few months back. 5th in DWS, but low in both RF and ZR with a mediocre FP (fielding percentage, of course, is wildly overrated- but it helps with some positions more than others- 2B isn't definitely one of those, it may be, but it's worth at least looking at).

  3. Third Base

    Scott Rolen, STL
    Scott Rolen, STL
    Scott Rolen, STL


    Duh.

    Beltre played out of his head at 3B this year, and only was a tick better in a couple categories. I'd wait until I saw it happen again next year before even thinking about it. Rolen.

  4. Shortstop

    Cesar Izturis, LAD
    Alex Gonzalez, FLA
    Jack Wilson, PIT

    These are two very evenly matched (my pick and my original pick) as well, but Jack was just a bit better than my pick. He lead in DWS, lead in RF, third in ZR (Gonzalez 2nd), and he turned 129 double plays to Gonzalez's 99. Wilson by a hair (though Izturis- 3rd DWS, 1st ZR was great too).

    At the end of the day, Izturis and Gonzalez were 2 and 3 in DWS and 1 and 2 in ZR, close in RF, and had solid FP. They're both great. A-Gon turned 3 more DPs than Izturis though. Kinda funny the third best option is the one that wins it. It's all hype- they slobbed all over Izturis all year on Baseball Tonight.

    The fun question, of course, is who has the better middle infield- Florida or Los Angeles? Now that is a tough call. Let's go by combining their respective DWS.
    LAD (Izturis/ Cora)- 7.1 + 5.2 = 12.3
    FLA (Gonzalez/ Castillo)- 7.5 + 6.4 = 13.9

    Florida.

  5. Outfield Spot One

    Andruw Jones, ATL
    Andruw Jones, ATL
    Andruw Jones, ATL

    Easy. (1st in DWS)

  6. Outfield Spot Two

    Jim Edmonds, STL
    Jim Edmonds, STL
    Jim Edmonds, STL

    I think he's even more fun than Torii Hunter to watch. 2nd in DWS.

  7. Outfield Spot Three

    Steve Finley, LAD
    Mike Cameron, NYM
    Mike Cameron, NYM

    Steve Finley?! He was very great once- but he's now 38, slower, and not-as-great. As in 28th in the NL in DWS. As in not as good as 4th in NL DWS, Mike Cameron. Yes, I know Cameron made a lot of errors this year (8). Yes, I know you don't think he's better than Hunter/ Jones/ Edmonds. He may not be anymore- though those errors aren't indicative of that- but he very likely is still actually better than all three. He has been his entire career, and his first year in a new stadium/ league, I'll give him one year. I've always loved the fact that he's so clearly the range-iest CF in baseball, yet you nearly never see him dive- he always gets a remarkable break on the ball, always takes a great path, catches the ball. I remember reading an article about how NASA was studying his ability to catch a glimpse of the start of a parabola of a ball's flight path, to stop looking and run, and to know when and where to stop. That's pretty cool.

    Definitely better than Finley. Come on- just cos he's won like 5 before?!

  8. Catcher

    Mike Matheny, STL
    Mike Matheny, STL
    Brian Schneider, MON

    Brian Schneider threw out FIFTY PERCENT OF BASESTEALERS in 133 games this year. 50%!! His nearest competitor in the NL was Jason Kendall, at 36%. The AL's best was Henry Blanco, who was at 49%.

    Schneider was best in DWS, had a good CERA... in Montreal. Only 4 PB all year, 2 E and 1114 innings caught. He unseats Matheny, which is a shame, cos he's damn good himself. This was just too easy. Schneiders' DWS total is 10.6, compared to the 8.2 for second place, Matheny. Another great example of the rut the voters get into- how do you not reward a season like this from Schneider?

  9. Pitcher

    Greg Maddux, CHC
    Greg Maddux, CHC
    Greg Maddux, CHC

    This makes it an even 14. I know this works against my anti-rut speeches, but I really think he deserves it- Maddux works on his defense a lot, and his hitting- you have to respect a guy that is attentive to so many aspects of the game. This is likely why he hates the AL so much- he can't hit there. Well played, Greg. Kirk Rueter's pretty good too, for the record.




Fun stuff- I'll look at the Silver Sluggers tomorrow.

I think the Gold Glove is the most embarassingly awful major baseball award going today- too often it's voted on by popularity, by offense, by one stupid play- especially in years when there isn't a big name, glaringly obvious pick. This is why Boone wins, and I have to guess this is why Jeter wins. Otherwise, you have to worry about the sanity of the voters.

Get some voters that know about defense, know all the light hitting glove-men, and rehaul the voting system. That way, you don't get a Jeter in 04, a Boone in 04, a Palmeiro in 99 (won GG for 1B, played THIRTY NINE GAMES there all season).

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