Gold Glove Winners a Joke

By jason keen
Updated: November 11, 2009

It seems like every year the A.L. and N.L Gold Glove award winners are announced dozens of baseball analysts, commentators, and bloggers voice strong opposition regarding several selections. The inherent problem is that the only people that vote for the winners of this award are managers and coaches, and they cannot vote for players on their own team.

So coaches like Tonly LaRussa cannot vote for Yadier Molina who is hands down the best defensive catcher in the game. And coaches who have a personal vendetta against certain players or teams in general end up voting inaccurately. Or how about this scenario… the N.L. shortstop is a virtual coin flip between the Phillies Jimmy Rollins and the Rockies Troy Tulowitzki and both sides know this. Do you think Charlie Manual is going to vote for Tulowitzki or Jim Tracy is going to vote for Rollins? Doubtful.

gold glove award

The current system has more flaws than College Football’s BCS and causes injustice to players every year. Just ask Jason Giambi or Tino Martinez who in 1999 had fielding percentages of .995 but lost to Rafael Palmeiro who did post a .996 fielding percentage but played in only 28 games that year. The cause, Palmeiro won the previous two years.

I could also mention Roberto Alomar who won six consecutive gold gloves from 1991 to 1996 and then four consecutive from 1998 to 2001, 1997 being the only year he did not win. I wonder if this had something to do with spitting on an umpire in late September of 1996. Coaches penalized him the following season because they had already voted the current season. His .988 fielding percentage was better than his % in 1991, 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2000 and his 6 errors tied or was better than 1991, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001. Knoblach that year made 11 errors that year some of which landed in the front row because of errant throws.

And please do not let me forget players like Greg Maddux who won 18 consecutive awards. Surely there must have been at least one season in which one pitcher fielded better than Maddux. The Gold Glove is not an ESPY award voted by fans. When Hall of Fame voters look back at a players portfolio they do not look at ESPY awards or Web Gems, they look at offensive stats and Gold Gloves. Maybe coaching staffs should start taking this more seriously.

So without further ado, the 2009 winners are:

1B  Adrian Gonzalez
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Jimmy Rollins
OF Matt Kemp
OF Michael Bourn
OF Shane Victorino
C    Yodier Molina
P    Adam Wainwright

1B Adrian Gonzalez
Albert Pujols led the league in range factor, double plays, and assists. He had nearly 200 more chances and 100 more putouts than any other 1st baseman in the league. If you are not going to vote for the best all around defensive first baseman then at least vote for the one that made the least errors or had the highest fielding percentage, both of which went to Adam LaRoche. Just because Gonzalez won it last year doesn’t mean he deserved it this year. Gonzalez finished 6th in total chances, 7th in putouts, 7th in errors, 5th in double plays, 7th in fielding percentage, 10th in range factor, and 4th in zone rating. (0 for 1)

2B Orlando Hudson
While Orlando Hudson did deserve to win the award in 2006 and 2007 and probably 2008 if he were not injured for a large portion of the season, the past is the past. Hudson did not finish in the top 4 in range factor or zone rating and lost his spot late in the season to Ronnie Belliard. Again, if you are not going to give the award to the best all around fielder, which in this case is Chase Utley, then give it to the player with the highest fielding percentage or the least number of errors, both of which went to David Eckstein. While my opinion may be somewhat biased, Rob Neyer wrote about Utley, “He still doesn’t have a Gold Glove despite being arguably the league’s top defensive second baseman for five seasons running. And not over the last five seasons; I mean in each of the last five seasons.” (0 for 2)

3B Ryan Zimmerman
While Ryan Zimmerman made a few errors more than the average 3rd baseman, he also had the most total chances, most assists and most diving, bare-handed, “from the knees” plays in baseball. This award doesn’t always go to the player with the least errors or best fielding percentage. There are intangibles involved. Zimmerman has these intangibles. With that said I also would not have been mad if the award went to Kevin Kouzmanoff who made only 2 errors in 139 games. (1 for 3)

SS Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins made the least errors (6) and had the highest fielding percentage (.990) than any of his National League counterparts. And, while one could argue that Tulowitzki should have won in 2007 when he had a better fielding percentage(.987 to .985), more total chances (834 to 717), more double-plays (114 to 110) more put-outs (262 to 227), more assists (561 to 479) and an equal number of errors (11), you cant argue that this year. Sorry Troy, you are young and bound to win a few… just as soon as Rollins loses a step. (2 for 4)

P Adam Wainwright
I have no idea how one chooses who is the best fielding pitcher in his league. Apparenly, it is the pitcher with the best fielding percentage because he posted the league’s best. But, if you look at range Factor Wainwright ranks 9th. If you look at zone rating he ranks 34th, six behind teammate Chris Carpenter. Wainwright had 0 double plays behind teammates Ryan Franklin, Michell Boggs, Jason Motte, Trevor Miller, Todd Wellemeyer, Joel Pineiro, Chris Carpenter, Brad Thompson, and Kyle McClelan. His 19 assist were behind teammates Joel Pineiro (31) and Adam Wainwright (29). And, his 27 putouts were tied with teammate Joel Pineiro. So it looks like Wainwright was not only not the best in his league, he was not even the best on his team. (2 for 5)

C Yadier Molina
Molina is hands down the best catcher in major league baseball. He ranked 5th in Range Factor, 2nd in Zone Rating, 2nd in past balls, 2nd in Catchers Earned Run Average, and 2nd in Assists. His 8 pickoffs were five more than the second place finisher and his Stolen Bases Allowed was twice as good as the second place finisher. (3 for 6)

OF Matt Kemp, Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino
Where to start. I guess I am perfectly fine with these three players winning gold gloves. With that said, I would have been perfectly fine if Mike Cameron, Nyger Morgan and Jayson Werth had won. Since Steve Finley and Jim Edmonds announced retirement and Andrew Jones put on what seems like 40 pounds there is not one truly great defensive outfielder in the National League with the exception of Carlos Beltran, but he was injured for most of the season.

I know I am going to hear some backlash for what I am about to write but I think Bourn is the most deserving player of the three. Victorino did lead the NL center fielders with a .997 fielding percentage and was a close second in zone rating but misplayed a few balls throughout the season, one being a Derek Jeter fly ball in the World Series. Kemp ranked 3rd in fielding percentage, 6th in range factor, 6th in zone rating and led the league in assists and double plays.

Michael Bourn ranked 2nd in putouts, 2nd in total chances, 2nd in assists, and 2nd in range factor
but was 6th in fielding percentage and 9th in zone rating. I would have like to have seen Mike Cameron win the award as he had the best range factor, most total chances, most putouts and a few diving plays and home run snags. (3 for 6 and N/A)

As I have said before, the Gold Glove is not a meaningless award given by a little league coach at an awards ceremony. It is by far the most important part of a players defensive portfolio when getting looked at by potential Hall of Fame voters. Maybe since the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote on who gets into the Hall of Fame, they too should vote who wins the Gold Glove. I am sure they would be more than happy to oblige.

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