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Fielding Bible and Gold Gloves

Eight years ago, John Dewan and the good folks over at BIS video approached me about becoming a voter for a new award they were calling the “Fielding Bible Awards.” The name wasn’t very catchy but the idea was interesting. The idea, loosely, was that baseball defense deserved a more thoughtful award than the Gold Gloves.

Rawlings has been giving out the Gold Gloves out since 1957 — and there is no doubt that it has been a terrific award for baseball.The Gold Gloves have shined a light on many of the greatest fielders in baseball history: Mays; Maz; Clemente, Kaline; Bench; Brooksie; Ozzie and so on.

At the same time, though, the award has tended to slip a bit when not crowning an OBVIOUSLY great defender. It’s easy to know subjectively AND objectively that Ozzie Smith was a world class defender. 

But what about someone like Dave Winfield or Dale Murphy? They are two of my all-time favorite players, and I was thrilled that they won Gold Gloves because that secured their place in the temple of all-around baseball stars. But did they deserve them? Their defensive WARs would suggest: No. Their range factors would suggest: No. Winfield kept winning Gold Gloves into his mid-30s when, even those of us who loved the guy knew he was not too far away from being a DH. Murphy won Gold Gloves the five years when he was a superb hitter. In many ways, these two great player defined the award.

The Gold Glove voters (managers and coaches) would give awards:

1. To players who had an outstanding defensive characteristic like a good arm or a penchant for diving.
2. To players who hit.
3. To classy players who, in the cliche quotes, “played the game the right way.”
4. To players who had won Gold Gloves before.

The most egregious choice in Gold Glove history happened when Rafael Palmeiro won the first base Gold Glove in 1999, though he played 128 games as a DH and just 28 at first base. Palmeiro hit all the categories — he was very smooth looking, he hit, he had the gamer reputation and he had won the previous two years.

John has long been fascinated by defense in baseball, so he formed this company that compiles all this defensive data by watching and charting video of every play in every game. They dedicate themselves to studying and analyzing defense in baseball. And they wanted an award intended to reward the best defenders each season, whether or not they can hit, whether or not they have a great defensive reputation, whether or not they’ve won the award before.

This is a hard goal, I should say, and the Fielding Bible panel undoubtedly has its biases too. We might be too stat driven. We might fall for players who seem great in small sample sizes. But, all in all, I think the award has been a success and, in subtle ways, has also made the Gold Glove award better.

The first year there were ten Fielding Bible voters. This year, there were 12 — including Bill James, Brian Kenny, Dave Cameron, Doug Glanville, Hal Richman, Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer and Mark Simon. Tom Tango’s Fan Poll also got its own vote. I suspect you know who all these guys are; if not you can easily find out on the Internet. The other two voters were BIS employees — John Dewan himself and the BIS video scouts, the people who look at every game.

So, enough of my yakking, let’s take a look at this year’s Fielding Bible winners and Gold Glove winners and see how we all did.

* * *

First base

AL GG: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City.
NL GG: Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles
Fielding Bible: Adrian Gonzalez

Gonzales had a fantastic defensive year both by the statistics and by the eye-test and so was recognized by both groups. Meanwhile, I have to say that the Fielding Bible people were not impressed with Hosmer’s defense this year — he did not finish in the Top 10 among first baseman. I put him in my Top 10, but lower down. Hosmer is a pretty good case study for the difference between the Fielding Bible Awards and the Gold Glove. He is a guy who looks really smooth over at first, and he’s good at scooping balls out of the dirt, and he makes some nice diving plays, and he’s young and energetic and the sort of player you just want to give an award. But the defensive numbers consistently show him to be pretty average.

* * *

Second base

AL GG: Duston Pedroia, Boston
NL GG: DJ LeMahieu
Fielding Bible: Dustin Pedroia

We’re all definitely on the same page here. LeMahieu finished third in the Fielding Bible voting — Rob Neyer voted him the best defensive second baseman in the game. Pedroia and LeMahieu are both special defensively. I thought Ian Kinsler had a really good defensive year too, and I voted him No. 1 overall, followed by the two Gold Glove winners.

* * *

Third base

AL GG: Kyle Seager, Seattle
NL GG: Nolan Arenado, Colorado
Fielding Bible: Josh Donaldson, Oakland

Well, the Kyle Seager choice is a bit weird. It’s not a BAD choice — Seager is a very good defensive player. He finished a solid ninth in the Fielding Bible voting and was as high on some ballots as sixth. But I will say that I have no idea how he won the Gold Glove in a year when Donaldson was so ridiculously great at third base. This was a bit like giving the Oscar to Tommy Lee Jones for “The Fugitive” over Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List.” Tommy Lee Jones was fine. But Fiennes, man, that was the performance of a lifetime.

My guess is Seager won the award because had so few errors (8) compared to Donaldson (23) — error nonsense still plays in the minds of a lot of people around baseball. And, like Hosmer, Seager’s young and exciting and had a breakout type season — you want to give Gold Gloves to guys like that. But this is the first one I’m going to call a major disagreement: Fielding Bible voters, across the board, thought Donaldson was definitively better than Seager.

* * *


AL GG: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore
NL GG: Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta
Fielding Bible: Andrelton Simmons

Again: Same page. Simmons swept all 12 Fielding Bible voters, and Hardy finished third. Our big debate was over Jhonny Peralta, who I never liked all that much defensively before this year. But he really impressed me both by his sparkling numbers (he led the AL in Dewan’s runs saved; and had a 2.6 defensive WAR) and with the eye test I watched him play. Then, Bill James didn’t buy that at all — he he did not include Peralta in his Top 10.

It leads to the question: Can a guy just have a magical defensive year that is an outlier from the rest of his career? That certainly happens on the offensive side — Brady Anderson or Norm Cash or Davey Johnson or Rich Aurilia can just have a fantastic season out of nowhere. It certainly happens for pitchers. Could that have happened for Peralta on defense? I don’t know the answer but I suspect that, yes, it can.


AL Gold Glove: Alex Gordon, Kansas City
NL Gold Glove: Christian Yelich, Miami
Fielding Bible: Alex Gordon

Everybody’s in line here — Gordon finished first on every single voter’s ballot, and Yelich finished second on seven of the 12 ballots.

By the way, I think the Fielding Bible Award does get just a little bit of credit for the Gold Glove changing its outfield award so that it is now gives out awards to all three outfield positions. From 1961 to 2010, there were three Gold Gloves in each league given to nondescript “outfielders,” which meant that centerfielders dominated the award and strong-armed right fielders filled in most of the gaps. Left fielders after Yaz really didn’t have much chance to win a Gold Glove, which was silly.

* * *


AL Gold Glove: Adam Jones, Baltimore
NL Gold Glove: Juan Lagares, New York Mets
Fielding Bible: Juan Lagares

All right, here is where the argument gets hot. The Gold Glove voters have always loved Adam Jones — this is his fourth Gold Glove — and the Fielding Bible Award voters have never even liked him. He did not finish in the Fielding Bible Top 10 this year; as far as I can remember he never has finished in the Top 10. There are years Jones did not get any votes at all. This year, I had him in my Top 10, but not all that high.

Who’s right? I don’t think it comes down to right or wrong — it’s a matter of view. I know why the Gold Glove voters worship Jones. He looks spectacular in the outfield. He is smooth, he’s fast, he makes great catches, he doesn’t make many errors, he flashes a strong arm, and he’s just cool — you WANT to believe that he’s a player who can do everything.

I also know why Fielding Bible voters are averse to Jones — his defensive numbers are annually mediocre. The Dewan plus/minus system, which tries to measure how many plays a player makes against the league average, calculates that every single year since 2009 Jones has made FEWER plays than the average outfielder. His other defensive numbers are not very exciting either.

I’ll say this: In a league with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson and Leonys Martin it’s just hard for me to see how Jones can win the Gold Glove. I just think this is leftover from the old Gold Glove ways. Jones is a great hitter, he’s a star of and exciting team, he’s won Gold Gloves before. And Jackie Bradley Jr., hit .198. They just don’t give Gold Gloves to guys who hit .198 no matter how great they are defensively.

I should add this: I have spoken with smart Baltimore Orioles fans who say they watch Jones every day and the guy’s just ridiculously awesome so maybe I’m just missing it.

* * *

Right field

AL Gold Glove: Nick Markakis, Baltimore
NL Gold Glove: Jason Heyward, Atlanta
Fielding Bible: Jason Heyward

OK, I’ll grant that I might be missing it on Jones. But I’m not giving you Markakis. I’m just not giving it to you. The fact that Nick Markakis has now won two Gold Gloves is a complete mystery to me, the biggest mystery of this year.

Markakis’ defensive numbers are blah. He hasn’t had a positive Defensive WAR or a positive Dewan Plus/Minus since 2008. And to me he LOOKS utterly mediocre with none of the grace of Adam Jones. Mark Simon did vote Markakis third and Bill James voted him sixth, so there must be something they’re seeing. I don’t see it. I didn’t see him as a Top 10 guy at all — and then I saw him in the playoffs and he seemed a real liability, which I will admit is probably just confirmation bias.

Anyway, even if you think Markakis is a good outfielder, I don’t see how you can give him a Gold Glove in a league with Josh Reddick and Daniel Nava and Kevin Kiermeyer, I just don’t get this one at all.

* * *


AL Gold Glove: Salvador Perez, Kansas City
NL Gold Glove: Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Fielding Bible: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee

Catcher is hard to judge. What are we looking for? Throwing out base stealers? Blocking the plate? Calling the game? Framing strikes? It’s a hard one. Everyone agrees Salvy and Yadi are superhuman. Lucroy had a magnificent defensive year too.

* * *


AL GG: Dallas Keuchel, Houston
NL GG: Zack Greinke, Los Angeles
Fielding Bible: Dallas Keuchel

I predicted back in his rookie year that Zack Greinke would someday win a Gold Glove. I get so few predictions right, I had to mention that.

* * *


Fielding Bible: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City

This was a new award for the Fielding Bible, and I like it a lot. It’s a concept the Gold Gloves people might want to consider. Lorenzo Cain was one of the great defenders in baseball any position. Everyone saw that in October. But he was not even a finalist for a Gold Glove, and while it’s easy to rip the Gold Gloves for that, the truth is that it was about how Cain was used. He played 723 innings in centerfield (Jones played almost twice as many) and he played another 388 innings in right. It’s hard to give him one award when his season is split up like that.

The multi-position award was actually inspired by Ben Zobrist, who for years now has put up Gold Glove quality defense at whatever position the Rays happened to put him at. I voted Zobrist No. 1 in this award because I thought he should win the inaugural version of it and then voted Cain No. 2 — but Cain deserved it. I think it probably should just be called the “Zobrist Award.” 

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64 Responses to Fielding Bible and Gold Gloves

  1. Andy says:

    I don’t know who you meant to write, but there is no way you meant to include Daniel Nava’s name with Kiermeyer and Reddick.

  2. Chip Lee says:

    Joe, could you write something about “error nonsense” or link us to it? We have long heard that 3B is hard, 1B should almost never have errors, and Honus Wagner played when infields were not groomed. Personally, I always thought Frank Thomas sufficiently outhit his errors while others marked him down

    • mensad says:

      I’ll second that request. I’d like to better understand error nonsense, and how much weight (if any) to give them when evaluating defensive ability. I don’t doubt Donaldson is an amazing fielder and deserving of the award this year, but 23 errors seems like a large number, which seems to imply that errors are at most a relatively small part of the evaluation process for the Fielding Bible voters.

    • Bpdelia says:

      Yeah we all understand that errors are less important than range but thats a BIIIG difference in errors.

      8 and 24? That’s a tremendous difference. Not including jeterian levels of statue like rangelessness it’s pretty tough to overcome making three times as many errors.

      And seager isn’t a statue out there.

      On that one i have to say a very good argument can be made.

      As for relying heavily on defensive war ratings exclusively.

      Jacoby Ellsbury suddenly became a before average center fielder this season according to uzr components. Continuing a tend trend of center fielders coming to the Yankees and immediately suddenly turning awful.

      Having watched him all year this was absurd. Ellsbury ranged from great to breath takingly awesome all season.

      I’m of the mind to think that people see UZR and think it’s an objective numerical assessment.

      But it’s also subjective because without hit/fx it comes down to people ranking plays.

      I’m leary of defensive war and Ellsbury this season is my new exhibit A.

      Note: before anyone accuses me of homerism i watch hundreds of games. Other teams. Legares is pretty clearly a cut above. As is JBJ.

      But there is just no way ellsbury is a scratch fielder or below.

  3. MCD says:

    “They just don’t give Gold Gloves to guys who hit .198 no matter how great they are defensively.”

    Unless they are Mark Belanger (lifetime .228 BA, 8 gold gloves).

    Okay, I looked it up and the lowest BA by Belanger in a Gold Glove year was .206, but dang I was close.

    • DJ MC says:

      I’ve seen stats that put Belanger up as the best defensive player, at any position, ever. He also played on a great team (late-’60s, early-’70s Orioles) and received attention even at the time as a no-hit defensive wizard. So I think that is one of those exceptions that proves the rule.

      • I’ve seen #1-3 all time defensive players as Ozzie, Brooks, then Belanger. Earl Weaver was smart enough, without defensive metrics to figure out that Belanger was worth playing no matter what he hit. Belanger had a career dWar of 39. Brooks was also at 39. Ozzie was at 43. Amazing numbers.

    • denopac says:

      Unless they are Mark Belanger (lifetime .228 BA, 8 gold gloves).

      If you have to go back forty years to find a counterexample I’m not sure you’re refuting the point. There’s been a lot of baseball played since then.

    • John Leavy says:

      Jim Sundberg couldn’t hit, either- but he won his first of six Gold Gloves in 1976, when he batted .228

  4. the greater range you have, the more balls you get to, the more hard chances you take, the more errors will happen…

    so, error totals in and of themselves tell you just about nothing about a guy’s defensive ability, really.

    • Belloc says:

      That is a myth that does not occur. Official scorers apply whether the play could have been made with reasonable effort in determining whether to award a hit or error, and they almost always default to a hit if it is a close call. And the Elias Sports Bureau reviews every play and determines whether the official scorer’s call should stand.

      Errors matter. They are certain outs that are surrendered, so don’t pretend like they can’t influence the outcome of a game. What you are saying is the functional equivalent of saying that the number of walks a batter draws tells you nothing about his ability as a hitter.

      Fielding percentage doesn’t measure range, and thus it is a limited defensive metric. But it isn’t useless.

  5. jflegault says:

    Too bad you talked only about Adam Jones and not the guy who deserved the Fielding Bible Juan Lagares….

    • Not a word on Heyward either who’s a finalist for the Platinum award for best defensive player regardless of position…. Which Simmons won last year. Heyward lost weight a couple of years ago and it’s really helped with his range and durability. Kind of the opposite of Jeff Francoeur who kept gaining weight, albeit muscle, and kept getting slower and slower.

  6. Jay says:

    Bringing up Dyson in the CF debate is disgusting. Especially since he played less then half the innings that Jones did. Jones didn’t deserve the GG but seriously, lets talk about people that do deserve to be talked about and not the trendy people that apparently no one researches.

    • Dyson’s dWAR was 1.9, mainly in CF. Jones was .8. Obviously, that’s not the end all, but it does indicate that Dyson was, at the very least, in the argument…. If not demonstratively better. I’m not sure how innings played determines anything except that Jones is a far better hitter, who therefore is run out there every day. Dyson is offensively challenged, so he gets fewer innings. That says nothing about either’s defensive prowess.

    • DJ MC says:

      One of the best defensive players in the league doesn’t deserve to be talked about in a discussion of awards for the best defensive players in the league?

  7. MikeN says:

    That’s wierd. I figured the lower batting average makes you more likely to win a Gold Glove. Kind of like how the lower your shooting percentage, the more likely you are to be overrated for your defense in the NBA, like Bruce Bowen.

  8. MikeN says:

    How did JJ Hardy beat out Derek Jeter?

  9. cindyjnc says:

    Great post but would love to see an in depth articles on the guys who DID deserve the awards (guys like Lagares, Simmons, Heyward, Gordon, etc.)

  10. DJ MC says:

    As an Orioles fan who considers himself relatively intelligent, I can comment on Jones and Markakis a bit.

    Jones actually had a great defensive season–by the numbers–the year before he won his first Gold Glove, almost +6 by UZR. Then the numbers fell off of a cliff before he had another nice year by that stat in 2014. But I remember there being some indignation from Orioles fans at the time that he deserved the award, which, along with his offensive leap in 2009, brought him the attention he needed to win the award.

    I’ve never been a fan of his defense. In the past he had problems positioning himself well, he didn’t take very good routes to balls, and he had the annoying tendency to simply drop balls outright, which I consider the cardinal sin for an outfielder. He has become better at all three areas over time, which makes it easier to accept the fact that he will likely continue to win Gold Gloves for a little while.

    Any Orioles fan that refers to his defense as “ridiculously awesome”, though, probably should be investigated over their use of the “smart” label.

    As for Markakis, he was an extremely good defensive player for a long time. He had good range (he could play a reasonable centerfield as a young player) and a fantastic arm, and never screwed up–he has averaged two errors a season over his nine-year career. His problem now is that his athleticism is fading as he passes 30 (he turns 31 in two weeks). So his range is plummeting. He still has that arm, as he tied for seventh in the majors this season in outfielder assists. And he hasn’t made an error since 2012. It’s that range that hurts him.

    Of course, it also gives him a chance at making more “spectacular” plays, which give him attention, as he has to dive for balls he didn’t need to only a few seasons ago.

    I do wonder, though, if Markakis would have won if Machado and Wieters were on the ballot. Chances are that one or both would have been awarded Gold Gloves, so the voters may have been less likely to vote for a fifth Oriole, and Markakis is the logical one to drop off.

    • jaredhollick says:

      As a non-Orioles fan, I’ll also add that I’ve always thought of Markakis as a really smart fielder. He always seems to generally just know where to be. I was at a game a few years ago where the ball got over Jones’ head and Markakis caught it as it bounced off the wall. It wasn’t particularly flashy, he didn’t need to dive, but his ability to read the ball and position himself well was impressive. That’s just one play, of course. But a few plays like that combined with the strong arm; the gold gloves are at least understandable if not deserved.

  11. AaronB4Mizzou says:

    On Jhonny Peralta: didn’t know what to expect when the Cards got him last winter. I’d heard how bad he was in the field, etc. I figured he’d be below average, but would hit enough to make it work out.

    He really surprised me. He’s not flashy & he won’t make the Web Gem type of play at SS, but he’s solid as a rock there. He makes the plays he’s supposed to make. If he can get to it, he finishes the play off. So that, combined with his offense, makes him a really nice SS.

    Joe, you asked about having a career year on defense. I think part of Peralta’s season could be due to the Secret Weapon, Jose Oquendo. I think Oquendo is hands down the best teacher of fielding technique out there. He’s truly great at it. Who else could make Skip Schumacher a competent 2B? Oquendo learned from the best, the late great George Kissell.

  12. Brett Alan says:

    So, it’s YOUR fault that now they give a Gold Glove to a left fielder every year? That was a move I didn’t understand. Yes, technically it’s a different position, but, realistically, what skills do you need to play left fielder (apart from maybe at Fenway) that don’t also make you a great center or right fielder? It seems to me–and if I’m wrong, I’m sure people will take me to school–that CF is more about range, and RF is more about arm, and the fielders who aren’t that great at either end up in left. It seems to me that in almost every case, I’d want the second or third best CF in the league as my left fielder, defensively, over the best LF. Note that on your own list above of great fielders who have been spotlighted by the GGs, you mentioned three outfielders–Mays (a CF), Clemente, and Kaline (both RFs). If you could put those three players out there, wouldn’t you choose that with Kaline in left over any true left fielder of that time? To me, requiring that one of the three outfield GGs be a left fielder is a bit like picking the 7 best pitchers in baseball and insisting that one be a middle reliever–once in a while, it would force you to pick a guy who probably really deserves it (Barry Bonds for the former, 1996 Mariano Rivera for the latter) but more often would go to the best guy who wasn’t quite good enough to have a more important position.

    BTW, if Keuchel and LeMahieu are Gold Glove worthy, they should probably be on a team. B^)

    • Marshall says:

      I consider myself a pretty avid baseball fan, I had never heard of LeMahieu or Keuchel before the GG were announced. It’s funny that the one player Joe did not list a team for is one I don’t know.

      • KHAZAD says:

        I think this says more about you than it does LeMahieu or Kuechel. LeMahieu is a 4th year 2nd baseman for the Rockies. Keuchel pitched 200 innings with a sub 3 ERA and 12 wins for the Astros.

    • Chris Hill says:

      What skills do you need to play third base that you don’t also need at shortstop? Is there any shortstop out there who couldn’t play third, or second base? Or for that matter, first base? Left field is a position, as is first base. To me, pointing out that a centerfielder could play a good left field is a lot like pointing out that a shortstop could play amazing first base. We have good first basemen, we recognize them, we have good left fielders, too. Now we recognize them as well. I’m with Joe on this one…

      • jaybracken says:

        Well said, Chris. I like the addition of the “Zobrist” to handle multi-positional players, or possibly a wild-card type ‘this guy was #2 at his position but holy balls is he great” for any of those Mays/Mantle situations.

      • Richard Aronson says:

        The ball reaches the hot corner faster, so distance covered in a very short time (great reflexes and first step) is important. I don’t know the exact numbers, but range in the first one second really matters. Shortstop you have more time for grounders (and are expected to cover more ground). Speed outranks quickness. Juan Uribe was a GG finalist at third base (and probably deserved it by most advanced metrics). He no longer has the range to play second base, let alone shortstop. Bill Russell was a longtime Dodgers shortstop who had the range for short but not the quickness for third. I don’t think Derek Jeter would make a good third baseman at all (no jokes, please). He’s cerebral, which works at shortstop, but third base is all about reflexes.

        • They are very different positions, with different responsibilities. Although I do think a good SS can play good 3B most times…. but not vice-versa. It would just be a matter of getting used to the ball coming off the bat differently, different throws & having much less time to react, making the barehand play against bunts/chipped balls, But most 3B do not have the foot speed or range to move to SS. Chipper Jones was deemed to not be a MLB SS when he came up, so was converted to 3rd, where he fought the position to a draw. He would have been awful at SS & there was never a consideration to leave him there when he made it to the bigs.

          My son made the move when another kid was picked over him at SS one year (I think mainly because the other kid was a better hitter). They were struggling with their current 3Bman and when he made an egregious error one game, they trotted my son out to 3B. First play ever at 3B he made a diving stop down the line & threw the player out. After that, he was the starting thirdbaseman. I asked him about the change and he said that the ball comes at you more quickly…. but, that’s about the only thing to adjust to.

          • On the Jeter comment, you might be right. I don’t think Jeter’s reflexes are terribly good. But I don’t want to judge him on the last several years, when he clearly wasn’t moving very well. Moved to 3B at a younger age, it may have been fine. I still can’t imagine that a ML SS couldn’t have played third.

          • Bono says:

            Of course, the ball looks very different coming into LF than into CF. CFs never have to deal with the aggressively slicing balls near the line that COFs do, not to mention playing balls off the side walls. Also, perhaps to a lesser extent, is the uniqueness of every field which requires that a player learn the caroms and distances of every field, especially his home field. This may matter more in parks like Fenway but it’s nonetheless a skill COFs have to have to play good defense. These skills may not be exclusive to COFs but we can’t say that LF is just smaller CF when we’re getting this specific.

  13. geoknows says:

    Everybody who won a Gold Glove is a finalist for the Platinum Glove, so it’s not like that makes Heyward more special than any of the other winners.

    That said, Heyward had a spectacular defensive season…but Simmons will wear the plaltinum again.

  14. DjangoZ says:

    Try reading this article by Joe, but imagine it all pertains to batting. For example, if this were about Adam Jones winning the AL MVP:

    “Who’s right? I don’t think it comes down to right or wrong — it’s a matter of view. I know why the MVP voters worship Jones. He looks spectacular at the plate. He is smooth, he’s fast, he makes great contact, he doesn’t make many strikeouts, he flashes power, and he’s just cool — you WANT to believe that he’s a player who can do everything.

    I also know why Hitting Bible voters are averse to Jones — his offensive numbers are annually mediocre.”

    We know that batting numbers are very meaningful, yet we still hesitate about defensive numbers. As if someone could make a reasonable argument for a player winning the MVP who hits .270, with fews walks, few HRs and an OPS of .700, because “he looks so good at the plate!”


    • Bpdelia says:

      That’s because the defense stats are shaky and unreliable and opaque. Often proprietary.

      Many of them rely on subjective ranking of plays as “easy” or “difficult “. Also because without hit/fx available a 90 mph line drive two steps to a second baseman’s left is in the same zone as a six hop grounder and is therefore counted the same. As ” likely to be made”.

      This but relies on the old “Eh…Welp it’ll probably all even out in the end right?”

      Except there is zero proof for that. Also the samples are miniscule. A center fielder failing to make two “highly likely” plays is screwed for the year. Fall down once on a broken patch of grass and your season is ruined.

      Every single time someone like me says “hmmmm something seems fishy with player x’s suddenly amazing/ dreadful rating on defense”

      We are answered “SIGH!!!! It takes 3 years for defense to stabilize! You’re dumb and probably think the earth is six thousand years old.”

      Then those same people will talk about what an amazing defensive year a player had or even worse his season UZR/150!!! Which takes a tiny sample and extrapolates it out!

      Most offensive stats measure unequivocally and with great precision what actually happened.

      Defensive stats all rate ALL rate what objective observers believe should have happened.

      They simply aren’t comparable.

      And the fact that defensive WAR is still paid less on a $/war basis shows that the people who actually make these decisions aren’t comfortable with the infallibility of these numbers either.

      All that being said these numbers are a step in the right direction. Usually better than the eye test. Not always though

      And certainly not enough to put total faith in them.

  15. NevadaMark says:

    Yaz won 7 GGs. Didn’t he play left in his prime?

  16. Richard Aronson says:

    I think giving the Gold Glove to left fielders means the 10th-30th best outfielders in baseball will win a GG each year. I will concede that on some teams Gordon should play center, but on most he wouldn’t.

    • KHAZAD says:

      If you think Gordon is in the 10-30 range, you are mistaken. In the last 3 years, Gordon is behind only Heyward in defensive runs saved, and has saved more runs with his arm than any right fielder.

      You might have a stereotypical view of left fielders, but Gordon does not fit the profile. When he was moved to the outfield, the Royals moved him to left. They kept him there despite him showing that he had a right field arm, partially because of the fact that Moore’s pet project Francouer (who despite his many other flaws, did have an excellent arm) resided there at the time. I have been of the opinion that he should be moved to right, but the Royals like him where he is. It is where he has always played, and they don’t want to mess with success.

      Despite his lack of true center field speed, he would still be an upgrade defensively on many teams if he was played there, and he would be an upgrade in right field on any team that doesn’t have a right fielder named “Heyward”.

      I have been watching baseball for over 40 years, and when Gordon, Dyson, and Cain are all in the outfield, they are the best defensive outfield I have ever seen, and it is not close. If you put their names in a hat and moved them around to the different outfield positions, they would STILL be the best.

  17. Chief says:

    I think what people are missing about Markakis winning the gold glove is he was really the only full time RF in the AL this year. Markakis started 147 games in right, The next highest were Hunter at 128 and Bautista at 125. Reddick (99), Kiermaier (57) and Nava (57) each a started less than 100 games. Would it make sense to give the gold glover to Kiermaier when he only started about a third of the games even if he is a better fielder than Markakis?

    • Ian R. says:

      That’s pretty incredible – that out of 15 teams, only one gave a real full season’s worth of games to a right fielder. Still, it’s a little frustrating to give it to Markakis ‘by default’ as it were…

    • Simon says:

      This is the best explanation for this so far, thank you.

  18. Basso Profundo says:

    Great article, and, as usual, some really interesting comments. My take on some of them:
    1-Yes, most SS’s could be moved to 3B with no problem. In fact, that is what often happens when a Gold-Glover ages (such as Cal Ripken). However, as someone pointed out, even though SS is clearly the more difficult position, the skills needed are quite different at the two positions. Thus, occasionally, a counter-intuitive situation arises…the perfect example being A-Rod.

    A-Rod won 2 Gold Gloves as a SS, and likely deserved them both. His defensive numbers at that position were consistently outstanding. Yet when he was moved to the seemingly less-demanding position of 3rd base, he quickly proved to be an error-prone, thoroughly mediocre defender. Maybe he was fast-but-not-quick, as someone stated above.

    (Obviously, we could talk for hours about the hypocrisy of calling Jeter “a great leader/teammate/captain” for not doing the only sane thing, and moving to 2nd or 3rd base when A-Rod joined the team.)

    2-I have a pet peeve about people who say that Tinker-Evers- and/or Chance “only got into the Hall Of Fame because of a stupid poem.” Anyone who looks at the era in question will immediately identify Evers and Chance as giants of the era (certainly not on the level of Honus or Cobb or Lajoie, but way above average, and consistently fronting championship teams).

    Tinker gets left out of these discussions. Since someone above mentioned that the 3 fielders that the metrics identify as the greatest of all-time are Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, and Mark Belanger, I think it should be mentioned that Joe Tinker is 5th on that all-time list, just a fraction away from 4th (Ripken is 4th). He’s WAY above guys we are (deservedly) thought of as superstars of the leather: Mazeroski, Clemente, Marty Marion, Devon White, Andruw Jones, Mays, Pee Wee, Pudge, Beltre, Rizzuto, Yad Molina, etc.

    He was basically Belanger, only with 30 points more of OPS+.

  19. Joe R. says:

    Those Cub teams from 1904-1913 had the greatest W-L record of any team in history.

    Somebody there had to be doing something right.

  20. Bob W. says:

    I think the Peralta question has to do with range. Peralta can catch most anything near him, but he can’t get to nearly as many balls as a lot of other SS, maybe most of them. I heard that Miggy Cabrera was up for a Gold Glove this year – same thing. When he was at 3B and Peralta at SS the Tigers may have led the league in fewest errors on the left side of the infield – but that didn’t count the LARGE number of uncontested grounders that rolled into left field

  21. John Leavy says:

    Remember Henry Kissinger’s observation that squabbles in academia are extremely vicious because the stakes are so low? That comes to mind now.

    Stat Geek Who Lives in His Mom’s Basement loathes Innumerate Old Fart, and vice versa. Stat Geek regards Old Fart as a moron and Old Fart regards Stat Geek as an insufferable bore and prig who tries to take all the fun out of baseball. Stat Geek lives by numbers, and Old Fart relies on his own two eyes.

    So, naturally they always come to wildly different conclusions, right? WRONG! In At 7 out of 9 positions, the Geeks of the FIelding Bible reached the exact same conclusion as the Old Farts who voted for the Gold Gloves!

    And in reality, that’s USUALLY the case! Old Fart looks at antiquated stats like RBIs and batting average and home runs, and says “The most productive hitters of all time were Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.” Stat Geek sneers :A1 Everyone knows OPS+ is a better way of judging hitters, you idiot. The best hitters of all time were actually…. well, yeah, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.”

    Old Fart will tell you, “I’ve been watching baseball all my life, and the best defensive players of all time were Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson and Willie Mays.” Sta Geek snorts, “Ha- you probably don’t even know what Defensive WAR means! If you did, you’d know the best defensive players ever were…. yeah, Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson and Willie Mays.”

    Old Fart and Stat Geek argue vehemently about a mere handful of cases. And they argue violently precisely BECA– USE their true disagreements are so rare.

    • Karyn says:

      The only one here acting like an ass is you, pal.

      • John Leavy says:

        Wow- such eloquence. You sure refuted every point I made and put me in my place!

        • Karyn says:

          You didn’t make points; you just stumbled in here and accused everyone of insulting each other, apparently without even bothering to read the comments.

          • John Leavy says:

            Sigh… are you going to tell me that sabremetricians and old schoolers DON’T insult each other constantly? Both here and in all sorts of other forums?

            In this case, Joe didn’t insult the old schoolers- he’s generally far too polite to do that. But the very existence of the Fielding Bible awards tells you that there are serious stat lovers who look down on the Gold Gloves (sometimes with very valid reasons) and are trying to come up with a stat-based method of determining the best fielders.

            I point out that, whaddya know, in 7 out of 9 cases, the stat-oriented folks came up with exactly the same winners as the old schoolers.

          • Karyn says:

            Please read the comments here and let me know who was being insulting. You may notice that most folks here are fairly polite to each other. Your original post came off as condescending and, to me, an attempt to stir the pot.

            It’s quite possible to discuss the differences of opinion without being nasty to everyone.

    • Willie Mays was an excellent defensive players, but not Top 10 all time excellent…. If you,look at defensive metrics. But he’s got a great old black and white video of him making a great catch in the 1954 World Series. That’s important, because 90% of the people that saw him play in his prime, which was in the 1950s and early 1960s are dead. Willie himself is 83. So, the non dead eye test guy who saw Willie play, is really old, and recalling things that happened over 50 years ago. I don’t find that terribly convincing.

      • John Leavy says:

        And yet, if you look for the outfielder with the all-time highest defensive WAR, who’s right at the top of the list, just after Paul Blair? Hint: “Say Hey!”

        Meaning that, once again, the Stat Geek’s numbers bear out the Old Fart’s observations.

  22. Anthony says:

    Joe, not even a single sentence about Lagares? I am a Mets fan and watched a ton of his games…he is really something special in the field and again it would have been nice for you to write at least a sentence or two about him rather than focusing exclusively on Jones and the AL contenders in your CF write up.

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