Analyzing the 2007 Gold Glove Awards

by Keith Glab,
November 7, 2007

The 2007 Gold Glove Awards were announced Tuesday.  We can usually break up the winners into three categories: good picks, picks who aren't the best choice but aren't outrageous, and ridiculous picks.  Overall, the voting was the best we have seen in many, many years.  Here's how they line up as I see it.

Good Picks

AL - C Ivan Rodriguez, 1B Kevin Youkilis, 2B Placido Polanco, SS Orlando Cabrera, OF Ichiro Suzuki

I-Rod is an ageless wonder.  Victor Martinez may have had a slightly better CS%, but Rodriguez allowed 23 fewer stolen bases total.  Either one would have been a good pick, but for voters, Pudge was the obvious choice.

Neither Youkilis or Polanco committed an error all year long.  Aaron Hill would appear to have better range at second with his ridiculous 560 assists, but Polanco is no leadfoot, and an excellent choice.

Orlando Cabrera ranks as a good pick simply because he isn't Derek Jeter.  A better pick would have been Tony Pena Jr., who led all AL shortstops in both Relative Zone Rating and in Outs Out of Zone.  It's also worth mentioning that Michael Young has transformed himself from one of the league's worst defensive shortstops to one of the best (was he just acclimating himself to a new position, or is he just better away from Alfonso Soriano's influence?)

No major leaguer at any position made as many Outs Out of Zone as Ichiro did.  Not bad for his first crack at center field in the major leagues.

NL - C Russell Martin, OF Andruw Jones, OF Carlos Beltran, OF Aaron Rowand, OF Jeff Francoeur P Greg Maddux

Russell Martin absolutely deserves this Gold Glove Award, and he'd better enjoy it, because Yadier Molina is going to go on an I-Rod-like run if he can remain healthy.

Jones and Beltran each have superior range, Francoeur has a terrific arm, and Rowand is strong in both areas.  If, as Asher suggests, we have a separate Gold Glove Award for each outfield position, they should go to Francoeur, Jones, and Alfonso Soriano.  As it is, these are all great choices.

At age 41, Greg Maddux led all major league pitchers in assists.  You might assume that Maddux just wins the award year after year based on reputation and name recognition, but this old dog can still pick it.  

Acceptable Picks

AL - 3B Adrian Beltre, P Johan Santana, OF Torii Hunter, OF Grady Sizemore

Brandon Inge and Adrian Beltre are the two best defensive third baseman in baseball year after year.  Last season, Inge had a considerably better RZR and more assists.  Inge has always looked better visually to me, but in fairness, I see his Tigers play more often than I see Beltre's Mariners. 

Johan Santana also won this year's Fielding Bible Award as decided on by a panel of ten experts.  Santana only made 40 total plays this year, so I'm not sure how much evidence they're going on.  I imagine that I'd have gone with Jake Westbrook, who had 48 total chances despite missing a large portion of the season with injury.  He turned five double plays to Santana's one, and neither pitcher committed an error.  It's obviously important for sinkerballers to be able to field their own position, and Westbrook did so admirably.

Neither Hunter nor Sizemore is a bad selection for AL Gold Glove, again assuming that you don't mind three center fielders on your team.  The problem is that one of them clearly needs to be booted off in favor of Curtis Granderson, who was the Andruw Jones of the American League this year.  Alexis Rios was the strongest right fielder in the junior circuit, but there wasn't much to choose from among left fielders; I suppose I would take Emil "back-to-back" Brown in a surprise pick, as he played only 606 defensive innings and has a poor reputation.  He managed seven outfield assists and 37 OOZ in that limited time, however.

NL - 2B Orlando Hudson, 3B David Wright

I addressed O-Dog on

Pedro Feliz should be called the Secret Shield rather than the Secret Weapon, because it is his defense that is overlooked, and his offense that is overrated (by Bob Nightengale, at least).  Pedro has been the best third baseman in the National League ever since he settled into the position semi-regularly during the 2005 season. David Wright gave him a run for his money this year by getting to an inordinate 87 balls outside of the third base zone, but he didn't do nearly as well as Feliz inside of that zone, committing ten more errors than the San Francisco third baseman.

Ridiculous Picks

AL - None!

It's amazing how much more credible the Gold Glove Awards appear when Derek Jeter is out of the picture.

NL - 1B Derrek Lee, SS Jimmy Rollins

Derrek Lee does some good things at first base.  But instead of stretching for balls and taking advantage of his long limbs, he prefers to come off the bag early to fool umpires into calling the runner out.  Those long limbs allow him to make some highlight reel diving stabs, but that also make him a little unwieldy on the field. 

Moreover, Albert Pujols is one of the best defensive first basemen of our generation.  Consider that he started six times as many double plays as Lee, who takes a long time to get the ball out of his glove.  Consider that Pujols regularly doubles the number of first baseman scoops dug by the next best first sacker in all of baseball (regrettably, I don't have the 2007 numbers available).  It's not unheard of for such a dominant defensive performer to be overlooked, but it is for someone who also hits the ball like Pujols does.

I had assumed that Omar Vizquel would win the award at shortstop, because he combines a great reputation with surprisingly stellar stats, and not just for a 40-year old shortstop, but for any shortstop.  I would have been fine with that, even though rookie Troy Tulowitzki was clearly the best defensive shortstop in all of baseball last year.

But Jimmy Rollins?  He finished 9th in the NL in RZR, 3rd in OOZ, 3rd in fielding percentage, 3rd in double plays started, 6th in double plays turned, and although he was second in assists, he trailed Tulow by 82 in that category.  This is by far the worst pick of the year.  It's important to note that Gold Glove winners are voted on by managers and coaches, while the Baseball Writers Association of America handles the MVP Award duties, so Rollins may not necessarily be a shoe-in for that award just based on this clear misevaluation of his defensive contributions.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at