The real Gold Glove winners are ... (cont.)
AL winner: Derek Jeter
Jeter's defense improved dramatically from where it has been in recent years, with his first positive Plus/Minus and UZR ratings of his career. He also led the league in fielding percentage, so he is not undeserving of his fourth Gold Glove as he may have been of his other three. But still, there were players out there who played have strong arguments, especially Elvis Andrus, the 21-year-old Rangers shortstop. Andrus finished second in the league in UZR and Plus/Minus and first in range factor per game (Jeter was last among the 10 qualifying players). Despite the subjective nature of errors, it is tough to overlook the fact that Andrus had more than twice as many errors (22) as Jeter (eight) and only one AL shortstop (Orlando Cabrera) had more.
NL winner: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
As in the AL, Rollins wasn't necessarily underwhelming this year, but he wasn't particularly overwhelming either. Like Jeter, he had the best fielding percentage in the league (.990) but that seems only to underscore the simplistic nature of the awards. Tulowitzki ranked second in the league in fielding percentage, putouts, total chances and assists, and third in double plays while finishing with a better zone rating than Rollins. What's more, Tulo finished fourth in the NL and eighth in the majors in Plus/Minus at +11.
AL winner: Evan Longoria, Rays
These two were awfully close. Their error totals (14 for Figgins, 13 for Longoria) were nearly identical, as were their fielding percentages, .970 for Longo, .968 for Figgins. Figgins led the league in assists, Longoria was second. Longoria was third, Figgins fourth, in putouts and range factor per nine. Figgins was second, Longoria third, in total chances. And according to Stats Inc., Figgins was slightly better in zone rating, leading the AL 3B at .840 compared to .831 for Longoria. The separation comes from this stat: Figgins absolutely blew away Longoria, and every other third basemen in the majors, on Plus/Minus, finishing +40. NL winner Ryan Zimmerman was second at +27, while Longoria had barely more than half, +21.
NL winner: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
Zimmerman not only led the league in Plus/Minus, his 18.1 UZR was an astonishing 10.1 higher than runner-up Casey Blake. For good measure, he also led the league in assists and ranked second in putouts.
AL winners: Adam Jones, Torii Hunter, Ichiro Suzuki
There may be no worse example of the Gold Glove charade than this, where awards are often given out based on past reputation or name recognition. Hunter, while still possessing a gift for highlight reel catches, finished with a negative UZR this year. Ichiro is known for his fearsome arm, but he had nearly as many errors (four) as assists (five). Jones did lead the AL in range factor and putouts per nine, but he also had a UZR of -4.7. Meanwhile, Gutierrez led all MLB outfielders in UZR (29.8), led all AL center fielders in plus/minus (331, more than double Curtis Granderson's total of 15), and finished first in total chances, putouts and expected outs. Crawford led all left fielders in Plus/Minus while finishing third in UZR, and DeJesus was fourth in UZR, second in assists (13) and didn't commit a single error all season.
NL winners: Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Matt Kemp
Nothing makes the Gold Gloves seem more arbitrary and ridiculous than the fact that year after year, they are awarded en masse to center fielders as though right and left fielders simply don't exist. It may have been put in place to benefit those players who frequently play multiple spots in the outfield, but if that's so, then who does Morgan complain to? Not only did Morgan produce the best UZR among all NL outfielders at 27.8, he managed to rank third in assists and range factor while committing just four assists. Even more amazingly, he ranked second in Plus/Minus in the league at both left field and center field. Not one or the other, both. He also saved more runs in left field (8) than any other player in the NL and more in center (15) than any player in the NL. It is simply stunning that he did not win a Gold Glove. The other snubs were less egregious but nonetheless notable. Cameron had the best UZR among all NL center fielders and the second-best range factor and handled the most chances, and Randy Winn didn't make a single error all season while posting a 16.5 UZR. Victorino, meanwhile, had a negative Runs Saved score, costing the Phillies six runs this year, and a negative Plus/Minus (-24, third worst in baseball), making him the only Gold Glover this season to rank in the bottom six in both of those categories in all of baseball.
AL winner: Mark Buehrle, White Sox
Hard to complain with a guy who led the league in total chances and assists and tied for first in double plays while making only one error winning the award. For good measure, he had the best Runs Saved score in baseball (saving 11 runs) and the best Plus/Minus (+9) as well.
NL winner: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Among his other miraculous feats, does Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan also teach his pitchers defense? Three of the top four NL pitchers in putouts were Cardinals, with Wainwright finishing tied for first with Pineiro. Wainwright also had a 1.000 fielding percentage and finished 16th in assists with 29, but Pineiro was probably the better choice. He finished fifth in total chances per nine, led all NL pitchers in Runs Saved and tied for sixth in the majors in Plus/Minus, all while committing just a single error.
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