Where’s the Relevance of the Gold Glove Award?

Photo borrowed from the Bronx Baseball Daily via Google Images

Free agency has eliminated some of the luster around the post-season awards already. The post-season awards used to be the only thing a baseball fan had to look forward to this time of year. Now, they are competing with the news about the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Heck, even my hometown Astros are rumored to be in on that. The Gold Glove awards are the first set of awards to go out. Even without free agency, the Gold Glove awards have always been the least relevant. Not only do chicks dig the long ball, but guys dig giving awards to people who actually deserve them.

Managers and coaches vote for these awards and they see players a maximum of 18 times a season. This is just one reason why players tend to repeat as winners. Another big reason is what I would call the gap between traditional numbers and advanced numbers. Traditional coaches and managers still focus on errors and if they are really sophisticated, putouts, assists, and total chances. There has been an explosion in fielding analysis over the last decade. The most exciting of which is The Fielding Bible by John Dewan. Dewan rates players by the number of plays they should make. This depends on the balls hit in their zone and the probability that other players at that position would make the play. He has released two books on the subject and now has annual awards of his own. Below are the awards at each position based solely on his analysis. The winner of the Gold Glove Award will appear to the right. We will start with the American League

1B Daric Barton. . . . . . .+27 1B Mark Teixeira. . . . .-1
2B Orlando Hudson. . . .+22 2B Robinson Cano. . . .+7
3B Jose Lopez. . . . . . . . .+25 3B Evan Longoria. . . .+17
SS Alexei Ramirez. . . . . .+20 SS Derek Jeter. . . . . . .-17
LF Carl Crawford. . . .. ..+22 OF Ichiro Suzuki. . . . ..+15
CF Austin Jackson. . . . ..+33 OF Carl Crawford. . . ..+22
RF Ichiro Suzuki. . . . . . .+15 OF Franklin Guitterez.+20

To be perfectly fair to the voters, they only picked one truly bad fielder. Big Tex has been good in the past, but his selection highlights the problem. He was good in the past, but not good this season. Guitterez is another example of this even though he was still very good. Substitute Austin Jackson and these selections almost seem reasonable. Why they continue to select Jeter is anyone’s best guess. Novice fans will look back in ten or twenty years and think Jeter was a good defensive shortstop. He has only been above average on a couple of occasions. 2010 was not one of those occasions. You will notice that catchers were not included. The Fielding Bible system doesn’t rank them. Joe Mauer won this year in the American League. I am just assuming that a rigorous study of the position will point the fingers at someone else. Now, we can move onto the National League.

1B Albert Pujols. . . . . . . . ..+6 1B Albert Pujols. . . . . . .+6
2B Chase Utley. . . . . . . . .+16 2B Brandon Phillips. . . .+3
3B Chase Headley. . . . . ..+25 3B Scott Rolen. . . . . . . .+3
SS Brendan Ryan. . . . . . ..+31 SS Troy Tulowitzky. . ..+16
LF Matt Holliday. . . . . . . .+14 OF Michael Bourn. . . .+23
CF Michael Bourn. . . . . . .+23 OF Shane Victorino. . …+3
RF Jay Bruce. . . . . . . . . . ..+25 OF Carlos Gonzalez. . ….-5

Let’s give the voters for the NL some credit. They voted for only one below average fielder and that was Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez was above average in left field and he remained there all season he might have been a decent selection. The rest could generally be called good fielders, but they were the kind of fielders that coasted on reputation. Scott Rolen immediately comes to mind here. Troy Tulowitzky was legitimately second and missed a good chunk of time. In a full season he might have eclipsed Ryan, but I tend to doubt that. Yet, when you look at a year when the voters get about a third of the selections right and call it a good year it is time to put that baby to bed.

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