Want To Be Recognized As An Elite Defender? Become An Exceptional Hitter

The 2009 AL Gold Glove winners have been announced. Do you notice a pattern? If you don’t, perhaps my inclusion of each player’s 2009 OPS+ will give it away:

  • C – Joe Mauer (170)
  • 1B – Mark Teixeira (149)
  • 2B – Placido Polanco (88)
  • 3B – Evan Longoria (130)
  • SS – Derek Jeter (132)
  • OF – Ichiro Suzuki (127)
  • OF – Torii Hunter (126)
  • OF – Adam Jones (106)

As you can see, six of the eight winners are exceptional hitters. One is above average, and another is mediocre. Nevertheless, the voters would have you believe that not only are these players incredible offensive forces, they are elite defenders as well. Is this possible? Sure. Some guys have all the luck. Is this probable? Not at all, especially because we can quantify defensive ability better than ever before.

If Gold Gloves were awarded based solely on defensive merit (as is the stated purpose of the award), the recipients should have been:

  • C – Gerald Laird (64)
  • 1B – Kendry Morales (137)
  • 2B – Dustin Pedroia (110)
  • 3B – Evan Longoria (130)
  • SS – Elvis Andrus (82)
  • OF – Ichiro Suzuki (127)
  • OF – Franklin Gutierrez (103)
  • OF – Carl Crawford (113)

The more I think about Gold Glove voting, the more irritated I get. I can’t profess genuine surprise that the recipients are superior hitters; this has almost always been the case. What really gets me is that the voters sometimes appear to ignore defensive measurements altogether when choosing the best defenders. For example, Gerald Laird had as many errors as Joe Mauer in 2009 and threw out base-stealers at a much higher rate. Ah, but look at Mauer’s offensive numbers! He gets the award. Cy Young and MVP voting may be flawed, but at least the voters look at pitching and hitting statistics when making their selections – however useless those statistics might be. If Cy Young voting worked the same way Gold Glove voting does, selections would be based on how well the pitcher hits.

Gold Glove awards should go to the best defenders, period. Until that happens, I think I might have just convinced myself that this award is the biggest sham in sports.

 

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