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November 2, 2005
Watch the Leather
Handicapping the 2005 Gold Glove Awards
It's Gold Glove time in the majors, and once again we'll handicap the races using the BP fielding metrics.
On all of the tables below, the fielders will be rated by the familiar stat-stat-stat routine, only instead of AVG, OBP, and SLG, they will be Fielding Rate, Runs Above Replacement, and Runs Above Average (using the in-season, rather than the all-time, version). Since the awards are as much about reputation as performance, and since a reputation usually takes time to acquire, we'll break the stats out into 2005 only, 2004 and 2005 combined, and career. Asterisks (*) will designate the 2004 winner.
On to the awards!
National League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career Brad Ausmus, Hou 107-30-8 104-51-9 107-388-106 *Mike Matheny, SF 104-28-5 107-59-16 106-272-64 Yadier Molina, StL 117-38-18 114-48-21 114-48-21 Brian Schneider, Was 111-30-11 110-65-23 111-126-47The NL voters have an interesting decision on their hands. Mike Matheny may be the defending champ, and while he had a solid 2005 season it a) wasn't as good as the other three, and b) came for a disappointing San Francisco team that didn't make the playoffs. Brian Schneider has the best two-year total of the group. Brad Ausmus has two awards already and the best career RAA of the contenders. Yadier Molina had the best 2005 season, and doesn't have the career numbers because he's only played a half season prior to this year. He did catch the team with the best record in the NL and he's got a Gold Glove family connection with the Molinas of Los Angeles of Anaheim. I think Molina should get the GG, I have the feeling that Ausmus will, and I wouldn't be put out if Schneider got it.
American League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career Rod Barajas, Tex 107-29-8 105-50-10 100- 71-2 Joe Mauer, Min 109-30-10 109-37-12 109-37-12 *Ivan Rodriguez, Det 108-30-9 102-48-5 111-520-183 Jose Molina, LAA 130-26-16 123-47-26 116-66-30Ivan Rodriguez is the defending GG winner, has more GGs than any catcher in history, and also has more career FRAA than any catcher in history. He bounced back from a sub-par 2004 to post a season squarely in the leader board, which should be all that is required to keep getting the award from the voters. Joe Mauer had a promising beginning despite his knee problems, Molina has been incredible in a mostly backup role, and Rod Barajas is a mostly average catcher who had a good year. I'd be shocked if it wasn't I-Rod. [Ed. Note: This article was submitted before the awards were announced. Clay is shocked.--JDE]
National League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career *Todd Helton, Col 114-28-19 115-61-43 110-201-124 Nick Johnson, Was 109-20-11 107-28-14 105-38-16 Derrek Lee, Chi 109-24-14 109-50-29 107-138-70 Lyle Overbay, Mil 111-24-15 108-43-25 110-59-36In the AL, I think Lee and Overbay could very easily be winners, but the competition is stiffer here thanks to Todd Helton. Helton is the defending champ, and makes a clean sweep of all three categories, even though Overbay and Lee have performed at legitimate GG levels--Helton's just been better, and his career total is rapidly moving up the all-time lists. Voters could be swayed by Lee's Triple Crown run in batting, and he did beat out Helton two years ago. Helton should win, but none of the four listed would be a disgrace to the award.
American League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career *Darin Erstad, LAA 109-23-12 109-43-14 105-61-25 Paul Konerko, Chi 107-20-10 102-23-5 99-50-(-8) Travis Lee, TB 114-21-14 113-22-14 107-115-59 Mark Teixeira, Tex 108-23-12 104-33-13 104-44-17Using the wrasslin' analogy that you have to clearly beat the champ to get the belt, I think Erstad will pick up his second GG at first base. His main competition should come from Travis Lee, who barely played in 2004 but had the best 2005 season and has the best career numbers. Teixeira has potential to pick up one in another year or two. How Konerko got on the list I'm not sure; the fielding routine had a mania for all things White Sox, and I think Konerko is winding up with some credit that rightfully belongs elsewhere on the team.
National League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career *Luis Castillo, Fla 108-27-9 106-55-15 98-156-(-17) Craig Counsell, Ari 109-35-13 109-35-13 109-101-34 Marcus Giles, Atl 106-32-9 108-55-18 109-125-41The BP metrics have always been kind to Atlanta second basemen, above and beyond their defensive reputations. I've always wondered if it was a Leo Mazzone thing, something about the way he gets his pitchers to work the hitters to generate lots of weak grounders to second, and maybe we'll get the chance to find out next year. Nobody stands clearly above the pack in the NL, and I expect the voters will take the easy way out and stick with the defending champ, Castillo (who had a better year this year than last). Counsell is a popular guy, though, and had the best 2005.
American League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career *Bret Boone, Sea/Min 97-11-(-3) 94-23-(-14) 102-332-41 Ron Belliard, Cle 110-37-14 102-53-7 100-124-(-1) Mark Ellis, Oak 109-29-10 109-29-10 102-61-6 Orlando Hudson, Tor 114-37-17 113-72-33 115-130-63 Brian Roberts, Bal 104-28-6 101-48-3 101-69-3We hope this is the year that the award stops going to Bret Boone, who shouldn't have come close to winning last year. The choice here is easy--Orlando Hudson is hands down the premier second baseman in the AL right now, and should have won last year in a walk. I think since Boone stopped hitting everyone is going to be able to see that he's done, and all the rest of the AL second basemen are journeymen fielders who had a really good year.
National League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career David Bell, Phi 107-25-11 106-45-18 104-104-31 Vinny Castilla, Was 106-20-8 107-44-18 104-213-53 Morgan Ensberg, Hou 105-22-8 98-20-(-4) 101-40-5 Mike Lowell, Fla 109-24-12 108-48-21 107-148-61 *Scott Rolen, StL 111-11-6 113-44-25 110-238-116Did Rolen play enough? The five-time defending champ only played 50-odd games at third this year, which might be reason enough to pass the torch to someone else. On the other hand, he was very good when he was in, still has a better two-year RAA than anyone else in the league, and is an all-time great on the career side. If you're going to give a Gold Glove to someone who only played 56 games, Rolen is exactly the kind who should get it. If they decide not to go with him, I think Ensberg can be ruled out as being a fluky good year. Bell, Castilla, and Lowell are all reasonable choices if you don't go with Rolen.
American League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career Adrian Beltre, Sea 106-24-9 107-51-21 99-91-(-11) *Eric Chavez, Oak 106-24-9 106-44-17 103-118-26 Joe Crede, Chi 109-24-11 101-29-3 100-48-2 Brandon Inge, Det 109-30-14 107-36-15 107-36-15It seems strange, that a converted catcher playing his first full year at third should have the top RAA in the league, but that is what Brandon Inge managed to accomplish. The statistics are tighter than I think real life will be. Chavez is a four-time winner who, for whatever reason, doesn't do as well in the BP fielding stats as his reputation in life would suggest. Statistically, you'd pick either Inge for this year, Beltre for the two-year total, Chavez for the career total, or Crede for the post-season performance. I think Chavez probably did enough to keep it.
National League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career Rafael Furcal, Atl 114-41-20 109-64-24 103-130-22 *Cesar Izturis, LA 109-24-9 103-46-8 102-86-9 Neifi Perez, Chi 115-35-18 112-48-21 109-243-92 Omar Vizquel, SF 108-32-11 104-52-10 102-401-54 Jack Wilson, Pit 111-38-16 109-72-28 105-132-32Izturis is another one who followed up his GG season with an even better statistical performance, but still isn't among the very top guys in the league. Furcal had a great year, but he's never done anything remotely like this before. Vizquel has a long and distinguished career, even if the stats don't make him the second coming of Ozzie Smith, and had a good year. Jack Wilson, poor guy, is stuck in Pittsburgh and can't attract the attention that GG typically requires. Neifi Perez, for all of his faults, is a terrific defensive shortstop, and did win the GG back in 2000. I think he should get it this year, but everybody has a viable case.
American League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career Orlando Cabrera, LA 105-29-6 100-44-(-1) 106-211-60 *Derek Jeter, NY 105-31-7 102-52-5 91-169-(-134) Johnny Peralta, Cle 113-40-18 112-40-17 110-53-20 Juan Uribe, Chi 108-35-11 109-45-16 110-118-47As Castillo, as Izturis, so Jeter. This is the first time in his career that the BP system has given Derek Jeter a solidly above average mark, and I can't begin to tell you how much his last two seasons have made me go back and tear his first eight seasons apart. I just can't find any way to reconcile record low assist numbers with genuinely good shortstop play, no matter what assumptions and adjustments you try to work in. So, anyways, he's a defending champ, had a better year than last, but does that mean he keeps the award? Could be. Peralta had the best single-season numbers, but he's a rookie (well, no, not really; everyone forgets 2003). Cabrera came back from an off-year to post reasonably good numbers, although I'd probably pick Jeter if forced to choose between them. I think Uribe is probably the best fielder of the lot, and that he probably deserves some of the RAA that wound up in Konerko's column.
National League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career Jason Bay, Pit 104-18-6 103-28-9 103-30-10 Carlos Beltran, NY 104-23-6 104-48-12 103-150-28 Brady Clark, Mil 103-21-4 101-29-3 100-38-0 *Jim Edmonds, StL 115-34-19 111-62-30 106-257-82 Cliff Floyd, NY 110-24-14 105-28-12 99-68-(-8) *Andruw Jones, Atl 101-20-2 104-49-12 110-295-132 Willy Taveras, Hou 111-31-15 110-31-15 110-31-15Edmonds has won the award seven times already and is still going great guns--he's a lock for an eighth. Andruw Jones has won seven in a row and is likewise a lock for an eighth, even though the numbers say he lost a big step this year (and even 2004 was down from his previously historic performance levels). If I were picking, I'd probably give the third one to Willy Taveras, although I expect Carlos Beltran has the inside track. Actually, I'd go along with Beltran, if I was able to say for sure that what I suspect--that the program misappropriated runs for the Met outfield between Beltran and Floyd--was true.
American League Player, Team 2005 2004-05 Career *Torii Hunter, Min 101-14-1 100-28-0 100-112-3 Jacque Jones, Min 109-24-11 107-43-18 103-100-21 Scott Podsednik, Chi 107-20-9 100-28-(-2) 99-42-(-5) Aaron Rowand, Chi 105-27-7 103-43-8 103-71-14 *Ichiro Suzuki, Sea 107-25-11 104-39-11 104-98-32 *Vernon Wells, Tor 106-30-9 103-43-9 101-91-8No center fielder in the American League could manage to score 10 RAA this year, which throws the race for the three spots into a dreadful mess. Top RAA marks come from right field, where Suzuki and Jones both post deserving numbers--which means Suzuki, as a four-time defending champ, will get a fifth. Wells did have the top RAA in center field, and won the award last year, so he probably should hang on to it this year as well. Hunter's numbers have been down for several years, and while I think there's a good chance that he's too low and Jones is too high, I still find it easy to move him aside, in favor of Aaron Rowand.
What's the point of ranking them, since none of them have even 30 nine-inning games worth of action? Kenny Rogers and Mike Mussina have taken turns winning the AL GG for the past six years, but I think Rogers will keep it this year instead of giving it back…unless voters charge him for a huge error with the cameraman. Remember, though, that GG voting is done by the coaches, who I suspect will be just a little more forgiving about that than the media would be. Greg Maddux has won 14 of the last 15 awards. He and Rogers both appear in the top 10 for RAA by pitchers this year, so unless Tom Glavine or Jake Westbrook can pull a surprise, expect them to add to their trophy collection.