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Asher's 2007 Gold Glove Review
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
November 7, 2007
Major League Baseball’s Gold Glove system is an incredibly frustrating system. From Rafael Palmeiro’s win in 1999 when he played all but 15 games at designated hitter, to Derek Jeter’s repeated victories, to baseball’s refusal to give awards at each outfield position, the Gold Gloves serve as an annual reminder that we simply haven’t mastered appreciation of defense in baseball.
This year, rather than selecting my own Gold Glove winners before-hand (because selecting before hand is a form of prediction, and predicting an entirely unpredictable set of awards is frustrating), I decided to take a post hoc look at the choices made by baseball managers and coaches and issue grades. A review of the review, if you will.
Catcher – Russ Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
Pop Quiz – who was the best offensive catcher in the National League in 2007? Answer: Russ Martin. As is so often the case, the voters picked the best offensive player for a defensive award. But in this case, it was justified. Though he had the most errors of any catcher, he also caught the most innings and tied for third most double plays. Martin threw out the most baserunners in the majors this season, and had the third highest caught-stealing ratio. He also had the second lowest catcher’s era in baseball, which considering the fact that he caught the most innings of any catcher in baseball, is very impressive.
Grade – A
First Baseman – Derrek Lee, Chicago Cubs
Derrek Lee had a solid defensive season to be sure, but he was in the middle of the pack as far as fielding percentage, errors committed, range factor, and zone rating go. Meanwhile, Todd Helton led the league in range factor and finished second in zone rating, while Albert Pujols led the league in zone rating and double plays, and finished second in total plays and assists. Pujols and Helton each played first base better in 2007 than Lee did, and his selection is puzzling.
Grade – D-
Second Base – Orlando Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks
It was difficult to figure out why a team with bad hitting and mediocre pitching was able to win a competitive National League West. Orlando Hudson was a big part of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ success. The National League was weak on defense at second base this season, and Orlando Hudson and Chase Utley were the two best in the league overall. Both Hudson and Utley missed significant time, so the award was a toss-up, but Hudson was a good pick.
Grade – A
Third Base – David Wright, New York Mets
This is an absolutely classic example of voting for the superstar while ignoring that he is not the best defender at his position. Wright was arguably not in the top five defensive third basemen in the National League this season. Meanwhile, Pedro Feliz is clearly the best defensive third baseman in the National League, and had a stellar defensive season. Feliz’ notorious offensive woes make it easy to overlook him for any award, but leading the league in fielding percentage, zone rating, and THT’s revised zone rating should be hard to ignore.
Say this for Wright, he did lead the majors in plays out of the zone with 88, which was 17 more than the next highest total. Nevertheless, I would go with Feliz, and if Feliz didn’t win the Gold Glove, it should have been Ryan Zimmerman.
Grade – C-
Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
Two words – Troy Tulowitzki. It is difficult to find a statistic in which Tulowitzki did not lead the league in 2007. Further, Jimmy Rollins, while above average, was not one of the top three defensive shortstops in the NL this season. Rollins had his innings-played to his advantage – which we would expect from a guy who set a record for most at-bats and plate appearances in 2007. But Troy Tulowitzki is a transcendant defensive shortstop, and the award should have been his, hands down.
Even Omar Vizquel, at the age of one hundred and twenty-three, would have been a better pick than Rollins.
Grade – F
Outfield – Andruw Jones, Atlanta Braves; Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta Braves; Carlos Beltran, New York Mets; Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia Phillies
Congratulations to Jeff Francoeur for being the only non-centerfielder to win an outfield Gold Glove in 2007. It continues to boggle the mind that Gold Glove voters would rather honor the third best defensive centerfielder than find the best corner outfielder to win the award. Furthermore, anyone who has played the three outfield positions will tell you that centerfield is by far these easiest of the three – every thing is right in front of you. Gullible voters need to stop being blinded by the seemingly sensational plays that centerfielders regularly make, and start honoring corner outfielders. They are different positions, and deserve recognition.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about the outfield Gold Gloves is that Jim Edmonds did not win this year, which means the myth of Edmonds’ value may finally have run its course.
The four players who were selected are all very good defensive players. Jones, Rowand, and Beltran are clearly the elite National League centerfielders, and Francoeur is clearly a very good rightfielder. I would, however, take a moment to point out the fact that Washington Nationals rightfielder Austin Kearns had a wonderful season defensively, finishing first in revised zone rating, plays made, BIZ (whatever that means), and plays made outside the zone, and second in the league in fielding percentage, range factor, and zone rating. I am sure I would have taken him over Francoeur.
It is also worth noting that Matt Holliday was a dominant defensive leftfielder for the Rockies this season.
Grade – C-
Pitcher – Greg Maddux, San Diego Padres
Let me put it like this:
Each fielding position, other than pitcher, has one player per team competing for the Gold Glove each season. So, in the National League, there are generally 16 players vying for each award, assuming that each team has a player play a full season at each position, which is a big if.
However, most teams have three to five regular starting pitchers, which means anywhere from 45 to 75 players competing for the Gold Glove for pitcher.
How is it that, playing a position in which there are three to five times as many candidates for Gold Glove as any other position on the diamond, Greg Maddux has just won his 17th Gold Glove? Is he one of the most dominant defensive players in the history of professional sports? Or are the voters lazy, and unwilling to take voting for Gold Gloves seriously?
That said, Maddux finished second in the majors in total chances in 2007, despite not coming close to the league lead in innings pitched. He led the majors in assists, and finished tied for third in the majors in double plays.
Maybe the voters were doing their jobs afterall.
Grade – A
Catcher – Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers
Ivan Rodriguez wins the Gold Glove for the 13th time. I would have given it to Kenji Johjima, who threw out 40 of 86 potential basestealers, which was the best in the universe this season. Rodriguez had an ordinary season, and while there weren’t too many more deserving catchers in the American League, I think there was at least one.
Grade – B
First Baseman – Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
Youkilis was among the league leaders in zone rating this season and committed zero errors. Hard to argue with an everyday player who commits no errors. Other players had better overall numbers, but Youkilis was a decent choice.
Grade – B+
Second Base – Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers
Having said what I just said about Youkilis, it would be hard to argue with the selection of Polanco, who also committed no errors. But Polanco was ordinary in ranger factor and zone rating, double plays, assists, putouts, etc. He was second in the AL in revised zone rating, but third from the bottom in plays out of the zone.
Mark Ellis, Robinson Cano, and Aaron Hill very all outstanding second basemen this season, and any of them would have been a better choice than Polanco.
Grade – D-
Third Base – Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners
How many times has a non-catcher Gold Glove winner led his league in errors at his position? I dunno, but it happened this year with Beltre, who committed a league leading 18 errors at third base. He also finished last in the league in fielding percentage, indicating that innings played can’t be blamed for his high total. He finished near the bottom in revised zone rating, but led the AL with 64 plays out of the zone.
I would say Adrian Beltre was a dependable defensive third baseman this year, but there weren’t any obviously better third baseman – maybe Brandon Inge, maybe Mike Lowell – so we let it slide.
Grade – B
Shortstop – Orlando Cabrera, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Derek Jeter didn’t win this season, which is always a plus, given the voters' obsession with image, combined with their ability to ignore the fact that Jeter is a bad defensive player. There are lots of good defensive shortstops in the AL, and Cabrera was as good of choice as any. Tony F. Pena showed some real flashes this year, leading the AL in plays outside of zone, but also finishing third in errors committed. Watch for Pena in the future.
Grade – A-
Outfield – Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners; Torii Hunter, Minnesota Twins
I suppose I should save the railing against the All Centerfield Gold Glove Outfields, since I just spewed about it above. I should also save my condemnation of giving the award to the same players every year, since I also mentioned that above.
It does appear to me as though Curtis Granderson should have merited a position amongst the Top Three Defensive Centerfielders in the American League. He led the league in revised zone rating, finished second in assists and plays out of zone, and tied for the league lead in double plays.
I wish I could muster some outrage over leftfielders who were denied hardware this season, but apparently only six of them managed to play full seasons, and one of those was Manny Ramirez. In rightfield, Mark Teahan had a wonderful year, but I am not actually sure I think he is a better outfielder than Sizemore, Suzuki, or Hunter.
Maybe the all centerfield system isn’t that bad.
Grade – B
Pitcher – Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins
There were two players who deserved consideration for the AL Gold Glove for pitchers this year, and neither of them was Johan Santana.
Fausto Carmona and James Shields were consistently at the top of the league in your most common fielding categories. Santana is a big name and didn’t make an error this season (compared to only 2 by Carmona and 1 by Shields), so he gets the Gold Glove even though he did nothing to distinguish himself from some 35 other pitchers in the American League.
Grade – F
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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