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As usual, the Gold Glove Awards this year did a pretty good job of rewarding good (and sometimes even great) defensive players. But, as usual, there were a few huge misses.
The Rawlings Gold Gloves were announced on television on Tuesday night, but you probably already knew that, as you were likely watching the Northern Illinois/Toledo game with all your buddies. It wasn't the most thrilling television ever produced, but it is kind of nice to watch a few highlights of the winners after they're announced. It's not like there was anything better on that was baseball-related.
Here are the Gold Glove Award winners for both the American League and the National League:
Molina is probably the least surprising of all of the Gold Gloves, as this is his fourth straight award, and he easily has the best defensive reputation in the league (among catchers who can hit, which is a prerequisite for the Gold Gloves.)
Wieters was the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, and his bat was supposed to be a little ahead of his glove, which said more about his bat than any lack of defensive reputation. This is about the point when Pirates fans start wondering what Daniel Moskos is up to lately.
A pair of left-handed pitchers took the award, though I have to plead ignorance with both of them. What do they do well? They probably fall off the mound in good position to field, pick up the bunts they need to pick up, and make accurate throws. It's not like they're diving all over the diamond like you could do with the pitchers in Baseball Stars with the old NES. That would be really cool, though.
Gordon, a converted third baseman, led baseball with 20 outfield assists this year, and he had a fantastic defensive year to go along with his career year offensively. It was a few years later than Royals fans might have hoped, but it's better than having him go full John Ford-Griffin.
Brett Gardner not winning is, in the words of Rob Neyer ... well, I can't type exactly what he said. He didn't agree with it, though.
Parra's competition was Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday, which says as much about the state of left-field defense as it does Parra. But Parra was a center fielder in the minors, and he could certainly handle the position in the majors, but he's blocked by Chris Young.
Ellsbury used to be a polarizing figure when it came to his defense, but he's had fantastic UZR for four of the last five seasons -- not just good, but fantastic. In 2011, he made 91 plays out of his zone according to FanGraphs, which made me look up David Ortiz's stats to see if he played any right field this year.
Ellsbury beat out Curtis Granderson, which set up a theme for the awards. When there were Yankees and Red Sox matched up, the Red Sox took the award. That's probably why their pitching was so stingy with the runs late in the year.
Kemp consistently has miserable UZRs, and the CF position is stacked in the National League, with Michael Bourn, Chris Young, and Shane Victorino all having great defensive reputations and numbers. But Kemp looks the part of the athletic center fielder, and he had the all-around fantastic year. If his UZR matched his reputation, he probably would have been a 534-WAR player this year.
The stats don't love the defense of either one, but Markakis has a reputation for a fantastic arm. Ethier has never had a good defensive reputation as far as I can tell, he played only 124 games because of knee problems, and he played right field like a guy who played only 124 games because of knee problems, at least to these untrained eyes.
The sad thing, though, is that he was almost certainly better defensively than Carlos Beltran, who was also one of the finalists this year, so the choice could have been worse.
How is this only the third time Beltre has won? I realize that Evan Longoria is pretty danged good, but Beltre is the closest thing to Brooks Robinson that we have in the game. Dude's good. Plus, he does stuff like this:
This is Polanco's third Gold Glove, but his first as a third baseman. Pablo Sandoval probably would have been a good choice as well, but this is likely just a sabbatical for Ryan Zimmerman, who will probably win the next ten if he stays healthy.
No Asdrubal Cabrera, who is the Derek Jeter (as far as the scouts/stats schism goes) of a new generation. Considering that Jeter won last year, though, he's probably still the Derek Jeter of his generation. Aybar is an upset here, especially over both Cabrera and J.J. Hardy, both of whom have a little bit more name-brand recognition when it comes to their defense.
Tulowitzki is as unsurprising as Molina. He's been the best shortstop in the NL since he came up. Tulowitzki, not Molina. Though I'd pay twice as much for tickets if someone could guarantee Molina a start at short.
Pedroia has amazing range for someone who covers only three feet of territory when he's completely outstretched on the ground, and he's a worthy winner. The folks on ESPN expressed mild surprise that it wasn't Cano, but it probably would have been Ian Kinsler if the voting were done after the playoffs.
Phillips is almost certainly the least-surprising choice. Okay, fine, he's at least tied with Tulo and Yadier, but he's a shortstop playing second base. It would have been interesting to see how he would have done if the Indians had kept him at short. It's not like they had anyone good playing there when Phillips came up.
If you go by UZR -- and I'm sure all the coaches and managers who voted on this stuff made sure to flip to FanGraphs on their iPads before they submitted their ballots -- the voters got this one exactly right. It's a little bit of an upset that Mark Teixeira didn't win, but it's not like Gonzalez had the reputation of being a clankmitt over there at first.
The actual leader in UZR/150 at first base, if you don't set an innings minimum? Omar Vizquel, who made two plays in three innings at first for a 96.0 UZR/150. If the Mariners really want to take this defense-first strategy seriously, ...
For the first time in in history, the Gold Glove Awards are going to be televised. Finally, something that serves as a bridge for baseball nerds between the World Series and the harsh, cold offseason. It was scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. Pacific/10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Hold on, though! Turns out that the Gold Gloves were scheduled after the Northern Illinois/Toledo match-up, which was 49-47 with 12:00 left in the fourth quarter around the time the awards ceremony was going to start.
The awards are probably being given by a selection of talking heads inside a Bristol studio, but I'd like to picture a packed auditorium, deathly silent, with a nervous Omar Vizquel standing up at a podium in a wrinkled tuxedo, looking at the floor as everyone waits for the college football game to end.
I'm supposed to be writing about whatever's on ESPN2 right now, so this is a little awkward. I don't know anything about college football at all. Can't name a player on the teams that supposedly matter, like Alabama and LSU. But I have to do my best or I'll be fired. So here's what you should know about this game:
I hope this helps the people who are waiting for the Gold Glove Awards to be telecast to forget that they're waiting for the Gold Glove Awards to be telecast.
As Rob noted below, the Gold Gloves process is different this year, with a list of nominees coming out ahead of a televised awards ceremony tomorrow night on ESPN2. This allows us to laugh at more than just the awards that are handed out -- now we can laugh at the awards that were almost handed out. The nominees for the National League, with last year's winners starred:
Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers), Kyle Lohse (Cardinals)
At no point have I ever noticed the defense of any of these pitchers. Baseball needs another Jim Kaat or Greg Maddux so we can just fill in this category every year and not think about it.
Catchers: Yadier Molina* (Cardinals), Brian McCann (Braves), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)
Molina is the incumbent, and all the smart Vegas money is going on him. I can't imagine what McCann or Ruiz would have to do next season to wrest the award away from Molina, who already has three Gold Gloves.
First basemen: Joey Votto (Reds), Gaby Sanchez (Marlins), James Loney (Dodgers)
Last year's winner, Albert Pujols, didn't crack the top three. That's probably because of his missed time, but it's still a little odd. If you have to pick a favorite here, it'd be Votto because he's the best hitter.
Second basemen: Brandon Phillips* (Reds), Neil Walker (Pirates), Omar Infante (Marlins)
Phillips will win, but it's somewhat impressive that Walker, a converted catcher and third baseman, has done enough defensively to impress the coaches and managers around baseball to merit consideration. It's worth noting that his UZR/150 went from -17.1 in 2010 to -2.5 last year, so the eyes and the math are both impressed with how much he's improved.
Shortstops: Troy Tulowitzki* (Rockies), Ronny Cedeno (Pirates), Alex Gonzalez (Braves)
Tulowitzki is the likely winner, and the surprise here is that Cedeno was nominated. Scouts have long been divided on his defense, but just like Walker, his defensive stats jumped way up this year. It's probably not a coincidence that Walker and Cedeno improved dramatically in the same season that pitch-to-contact guys like Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Karstens all prevented runs from scoring more than they have in the past.
Third basemen: Placido Polanco (Phillies), Daniel Descalso (Cardinals), Pablo Sandoval (Giants)
Last year's winner, Scott Rolen, stunned the baseball world when he was injured, so there will a first-time Gold Glover at third base Polanco has won two in the past, but they were both for second base. Sandoval had a fantastic defensive year, both by ol'-fashioned eyeballin' and by advanced defensive metrics, which all agree that he lapped the rest of the field in the NL. He missed a month, though, which probably means Polanco is the favorite.
Descalso is by far the most random nominee, as he only started 61 games at third this year, and he doesn't hit as well as your typical Gold Glove winner.
Left fielders: Gerardo Parra (Diamondbacks), Ryan Braun (Brewers), Matt Holliday (Cardinals)
An outfield with Braun and Holliday roaming the corners would lead to a staff ERA of 7.04, but this is the first year that the outfield category is being broken up by position, and left field usually isn't the strongest bunch. Still, the inclusion of those two is hilarious. Last year's winner, Carlos Gonzalez, won the award when his competition was every center fielder in the National League. Now he can't beat out Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday? I'll assume that I missed a story about that narwhal bite that took off two of Gonzalez's toes last spring.
Center fielders: Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Shane Victorino* (Phillies), Chris Young (Diamondbacks)
Young almost certainly had the best defensive year among the three, but Victorino is the incumbent, and he's more of a known quantity. Kemp almost certainly has the biggest gap between what UZR indicates and what his reputation is, so he can certainly sneak away with the award too.
Right fielders: Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Carlos Beltran (Mets/Giants), Jay Bruce (Reds)
After years of negative UZRs, Ethier was in positive territory this year, and the coaches and managers noticed, whether they knew it or not. Carlos Beltran did not look especially comfortable in AT&T Park after coming over to the Giants, and the metrics backed that impression up (-12.6 UZR/150 as a Giant, -7.5 UZR/150 with the Mets). That leaves Bruce as the prohibitive favorite, and it comes at the expense of Justin Upton, who was almost certainly the best right fielder in the NL this year. It could have been a clean sweep for the Diamondbacks in the outfield, but Upton wasn't even nominated. Weird.