That’s the only conclusion we can arrive at after looking at the 2012 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners. To see that Brendan Ryan, possibly the best defensive player in the game this season, is not a part of this list is extremely weak sauce. Many outlets use Sean Forman’s Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR); some use FANGRAPHS’ UZR rating (UZR). Some discount the Range Factor (RF/9) metric. We throw them all together is a delicious recipe of glove work goodness. We also utilize some traditional statistics in our Pitcher Defense formula such as Putouts, Assists and Errors as stand-ins for UZR. Let’s go over the winners vs OUR winners:
AL WINNER: MARK TEIXEIRA, NEW YORK YANKEES SABERLEADER: ADRIAN GONZALEZ, BOSTON RED SOX
We rated A-Gone about 6% better than Tex. I suppose the voters forgot Gonzo played in Boston until late August. Superior UZR and greater range vs Tex, but the Yanks first-sacker enjoyed larger dWAR. Ultimately, they were fairly close. Larger atrocities on this list. Won’t waste time here.
NL WINNER: ADAM LaROCHE, WASHINGTON NATIONALS SABERLEADER: YADIER ALONSO, SAN DIEGO PADRES
The Nats first baseman edges the Padres’ youngster in UZR & dWAR but Alonso enjoyed a bit better range. Another close one – a difference of less than 2%. Within the margin of error.
SECOND BASE: AL WINNER: ROBINSON CANO, NEW YORK YANKEES SABERLEADER: ROBINSON CANO, NEW YORK YANKEES
Dustin Pedroia won out on UZR and RF, but lost by a wide margin for RF/9. In a close race, Cano won the award. We agree.
NL WINNER: DARWIN BARNEY, CHICAGO CUBS SABERLEADER: DARWIN BARNEY, CHICAGO CUBS
This was never close. By our calculations, Barney bested his runner-up, Mark Ellis, by over 20%. We agree here as well.
SHORTSTOP: AL WINNER: JJ HARDY, BALTIMORE ORIOLES SABERLEADER: BRENDAN RYAN, SEATTLE MARINERS
If the Baseball Writers ever decided to create a Defensive Player of the Year award, most sabermetric experts, analysts and observers (looking at you, Colin) believe the voting should begin and end at the shortstop position. In any case, Brendan Ryan, in our view, was the runner-up for the overall award behind Matt Wieters. That said, Ryan was awesome this season. This is to take nothing away from the Orioles shortstop, who according to RF/9, while he beat Ryan for range factor, he was way behind the Mariners’ shortstop by a wide margin in UZR and dWAR. We have Ryan better by almost 20% over Hardy. The voters are simply paying waaay too much attention to offense here……
NL WINNER: JIMMY ROLLINS, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES SABERLEADER: CLINT BARMES, PITTSBURGH PIRATES
…And reputation here. Brandon Crawford, Zach Cozart, Starlin Castro all were superior to the Phillies’ veteran shortstop by our calculations. UZR, dWAR, RF/9, Rollins was behind all of them in every category with the exception of Castro for UZR rating. This is not even mentioning the Pirates’ Barmes, who had highest UZR by a wide margin, highest dWAR and ended 3rd in range. The Braves’ Audrelton Simmons is potentially a defensive star at the position, he simply didn’t play enough innings for us to compete here. Bad job, Rawlings.
THIRD BASE AL WINNER: ADRIAN BELTRE, TEXAS RANGERS SABERLEADER: MIKE MOUSTAKAS, KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Man alive, this is worse than the Rollins election. The Royals’ man at the hot corner was 1st in UZR, 2nd in dWAR to the Blue Jays’ Brett Lawrie and just ahead for RF/9. If you even wanted to throw a bone to Canada and hand over the precious metal to the Toronto third-sacker, I could understand that. Giving it to the MVP-caliber Beltre, as great of an all-around season as he enjoyed, is just not right.
NL WINNER: CHASE HEADLEY, SAN DIEGO PADRES SABERLEADER: DAVID WRIGHT, NEW YORK METS This smells very much like a concession to a player that busted out and had a tremendous season with the lowly Padres. Headley joined a long line of San Diego players like the legendary Nate Colbert, Dave Winfield in ’79, Brian Giles and early-stage A-Gone as players carrying anemic Padres lineups. While Headley’s RF/9 was a little better than the Mets’ franchise player, Wright owns the position with the top UZR & dWAR. Realize that Wright owns two awards already, would’ve been nice for him to be rewarded this time around, where the numbers indicate he played out of his mind.
OUTFIELD: AL WINNERS: ALEX GORDON (ROYALS), ADAM JONES( ORIOLES), JOSH REDDICK (A’S) SABERLEADERS: DENARD SPAN(TWINS), MIKE TROUT(ANGELS), CRAIG GENTRY(RANGERS)
OK. You want to say Gentry didn’t play enough, fine. You want to say SABERLEADERS recognizes outfielders in general as opposed to the each specific position, fair enough. Smarter, better outlets will cry foul for Trout. Adam Jones, we agree with. Denard Span should have gotten some love here. We had Alex Gordon & Josh Reddick 4th & 5th, respectively in our rankings. Not too much to argue with here, just would’ve been nice to see Span in the mix, since he did lead in dWAR and RF/9 – led the majors in RF/9, actually.
NL WINNERS: CARLOS GONZALEZ(ROCKIES), ANDREW McCUTCHEN(PIRATES),JASON HEYWARD(BRAVES) SABERELEADERS: MICHAEL BOURN(BRAVES), JASON HEYWARD(BRAVES), BRYCE HARPER(NATIONALS)
Whoever voted for Cargo & Cutch should have their ballot privileges revoked. Bourn is one of the top defensive players in the game, the sabermetric numbers proved that and I suppose the final free agent contract he signs sometime this winter will bear this out as well. Again, many observers will fight this fight. We agree with Heyward (who was a close second to Bourn in overall defense, according to us) and perhaps Harper statistical surge in the last months of the season weren’t enough to catch the eye of voters. Makes you wonder if this wasn’t a consolation prize for McCutchen to reward his magical season, which should sadly fall short come MVP voting time.
CATCHER: AL/NL WINNERS: MATT WIETERS(ORIOLES)/YADIER MOLINA(CARDINALS) SABERLEADER: MATT WIETERS(ORIOLES)/YADIER MOLINA (CARDINALS)
Granted, the SABERLEADERS was an experimental test of measuring the BBWAA award winners using sabermetrics, as well as creating new achievements (such as the Reliever of the Year Award). We’re still working on different elements and taking advice where we may need to make adjustments. Even though we were right on the money both here as well as the National League, we received some wonderful feedback, especially at catcher. Next season, we will be adjusting the catchers RF/9, for as someone in the forum for BaseballThinkFactory.org suggested (thanks, Eric!!), a catcher receives a putout when the pitcher records a strike. Therefore the RF/9 can generally be higher that for players that call games for power pitchers and staffs that record more Ks. Even normalizing and allowing for this, Wieters & Molina were the best catchers in the game, with a bit of love thrown to the Reds Ryan Hanigan, who was great as well.
PITCHER: AL & NL WINNER: JAKE PEAVY(WHITE SOX)/JEREMY HELLICKSON(RAYS) & MARK BUERHLE(MARLINS) SABERLEADER: ALEX COBB (RAYS)& JOSH JOHNSON(MARLINS)
Look, we all know it’s cute that pitchers get a Gold Glove, too, let’s put some thought into it. Hellickson (nor Peavy) were even among the top five in pitcher fielding, among saberstats. Since there’s no UZR for pitchers, our formula adds RF/9 to a group of fielding putouts & assists, while subtracting errors; this is divided by a collection of total batters faced, subtracting walks, home runs, sacrifice flies & strikeouts. From this, we named Alex Cobb of the Tampa Bay Rays as the best fielding pitcher in the American League. Mark Buerhle, the reigning AL Gold Glove champ, didn’t necessarily win on reputation, but he was behind his Marlins teammate Josh Johnson, Kris Medlen, & AJ Burnett. It was somewhat close, only 8% separate all five players, but in the end, we thought Josh Johnson deserved this.
In the next 50 days, we’re going to find out how far sabermetrics has infiltrated the ranks of the BBWAA. If the Gold Glove voting is any indication, there’s still a bit of a ways to go among the managers and coaches in Major League Baseball.
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