One of the least popular awards among the stat-head community is the Gold Glove. While the award claims to reward the best fielder at each position in each league, many of the best fielders in baseball have been snubbed for multiple reasons.
With that in mind, I had to adopt a different mindset in predicting the winners for this year. It is very easy to look at statistics and simply pick the best fielder at each position. However, I've chosen to do a statistics-heavy, yet somewhat subjective projection of who will win.
Please take that information with you, and I hope you enjoy, hate or want to comment on my picks for this year's Gold Glovers.
Ricky Romero, Blue Jays
The only advanced fielding metric that exists for pitchers is Defensive Runs Saved. Since 2009, Romero has saved 14 runs, one of the best marks during that period in baseball. To date, he has not won a Gold Glove, but that is due in large part to my predicted NL winner.
He had a very solid .981 fielding percentage last year, and was hard to steal off of. He could definitely take home the hardware this year.
Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins
Watch the video. Enough said.
Oh yeah, and he's saved 36 runs during the last three years.
Matt Wieters, Orioles
One of the best young catchers in the game, Wieters has finally started to show some of his immense potential. Defensively, there may not be a backstop better in baseball. In 2011, Wieters allowed only one passed ball, allowed only 63 percent of runners to steal on him and showed that he is durable, catching 1,150 innings.
This year, there is no indication that Wieters will be any worse. He should continue to gun down runners with the best of them, and continue to be a plate-blocking beast.
Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks
Another talented young catcher, Montero has a cannon of an arm that allowed him to throw out an awesome 40 percent of base stealers last year. Although he had eight passed balls, Montero still showed that he has room to grow, which is scary considering he was four runs above average last year defensively.
This could be, and I believe it will be, the year that Montero breaks out defensively in an area besides throwing out base stealers.
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
Gonzalez will enter 2012 looking for a repeat, and a chance to win the Gold Glove two times in each league. It's pretty easy to see why Gonzalez is one of the best defensive first basemen in the game. He has extraordinary range, great awareness and he just flat out does not make errors. His .995 career fielding percentage is testament to his defensive prowess.
Unless he suddenly loses his grasp on baseball, I'd fully expect Gonzalez to bring home the hardware again at the end of the year.
Ike Davis, New York Mets
In 2010, Davis' only full season in the majors, he saved 13 runs, was 10 runs above average in the field and committed just nine errors, good for a .993 fielding percentage. After injury shortened his 2011 campaign, the Mets first baseman will be looking to establish himself this season not only offensively, but as one of the game's premier defensive players.
He has all the tools needed to be a great defensive first baseman. I believe that this year, he will be recognized for it with a Gold Glove.
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
The time has come to give Ben Zobrist his due. Aside from being one of baseball's most valuable players simply because of his versatility, Zobrist is unique in that he can play multiple defensive positions at a very high level. The last three years, Zobrist has been from anywhere between 10 and 22 runs above average defensively.
Last year, he saved 17 runs at second base, posting a 10.3 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) at that position. While Dustin Pedroia certainly was solid last year and will be again this year, Zobrist's defensive talents have gone unnoticed long enough.
Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
He's won three of the last four Gold Gloves, and rightfully so. Brandon Phillips is the best defensive second baseman in baseball. Whether you think it's his range, his arm or his overall athletic ability, the Reds second baseman is simply built to be a great defender. Last year in 148 games, he committed just six errors.
Along with the fact that Phillips was 12.5 runs above average last year on the field, this choice was relatively easy. I just can't see a second baseman in the NL with the ability to knock off BP.
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
While Adrian Beltre certainly has his merits, anyone who thinks that Evan Longoria is not the best defensive third baseman in baseball is delusional. There is no one— I repeat, no one — who makes the third-to-first throw while charging better then Longoria. He has range, lightning-fast reflexes and a cannon for an arm.
Longoria is a great example of why fielding percentage isn't the best statistic to look at: Longo's career percentage is a paltry .966. But in terms of UZR, Longoria has saved almost 55 runs during his four-year career. He will take back his Gold Glove from Beltre this season.
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
Oh, what's that Ryan? You got upset with my talk about Longoria?
Well, let's be fair here. Zimmerman is not Evan Longoria. That said, he is probably the third-best defensive third baseman in baseball, behind Longo and Adrian Beltre. He has a very similar skill set to Longoria in that he has a great arm, charges balls well and covers a lot of ground quickly.
His career UZR is just under 53 since 2006, when he got the starting job at third base in Washington. If healthy this year, he should be a huge defensive contributor and certainly good enough to win the Gold Glove.
Brendan Ryan, Seattle Mariners
If you're not familiar with the defensive wizardry of Brendan Ryan, familiarize yourself. The 30-year-old has been spectacular defensively, particularly the last two years. During both those seasons, he saved 45 runs accumulating a 19.1 UZR. The shortstop job in Seattle is all his, so he should have plenty of time in the field to showcase his abilities.
This has traditionally been Derek Jeter's award for no good reason, but a year after Erick Aybar won it for the Angels, Brendan Ryan will keep the award in the AL West.
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
It's hard to overstate how good Tulowitzki is at baseball. Everyone knows about his bat, but his glove is tremendous as well. He has won the NL Gold Glove for shortstop two years running, and should win it for a third time this year. He has saved 27 runs over the last two seasons with a combined 16.0 UZR.
Perhaps even more impressive is that Tulo committed just six errors in over 1,200 innings last year. He's about as rock-solid as they come defensively.
Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
Let's face it— this man is a beast. I used to think of him as the pesky bottom-of-the-order guy who always seemed to get on base. Now, he's a legitimate All Star. On the field, Gardner is a wizard. He makes up for his lack of a strong arm by charging fly balls ruthlessly and loading up to throw on the run. He has tremendous range, takes smooth paths to the ball and committed just five errors last year.
He has saved 39 runs the last two years as a left fielder, and during that time has posted a 50.9 UZR. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous. If he keeps that up, there will be no competition for the Gold Glove.
Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
This pick is highly contingent upon Gerardo Parra losing the starting job in Arizona to Jason Kubel. If Parra starts, he will undoubtedly repeat as a Gold Glover. However, that is not looking entirely likely at this point. Instead, I'll give it to Prado, an underrated defender who had a 5.1 UZR last year in left field. As he learns more how to play the position, he should continue to improve numbers-wise.
In left field, he only made three errors in 854 innings and showed good range and an accurate arm. He may not be the popular pick for this award, but he could very well deserve it.
Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers
This award has changed hands quite a bit recently, but I believe that this is Jackson's year. The Detroit speedster has posted a UZR of 13.1 in his two full seasons in the majors, and has saved 43 runs during those years. As he continues to mature and gain experience, those numbers should only increase.
He could be this year's breakout fielder. Expect to see him a lot on Web Gems, and expect his name to be on a Gold Glove at the end of the year.
Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres
If the defensive stud we saw in center field last year for San Diego really is Cameron Maybin, than he's in for a Gold Glove. Fresh off a new contract, Maybin will be one of the favorites for this award along with fellow NL West star Matt Kemp. Maybin has the edge, though, because of what he showed last year.
In just under 1,200 innings, he committed just five errors, saved 12 runs and had a UZR of 9.5. Though his arm wasn't stellar, his ability to cover ground is elite. I fully expect him to continue to improve, and knock Matt Kemp off his throne.
Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians
WHOA. Surprised? You shouldn't be. As awful as Choo's season was in 2011, he still has his magnificent 2010 campaign to point to. This guy could be an elite right fielder both at the plate and in the field. What will determine that is whether he has his head on straight this year. If he does, expect big things. He's got a great arm that was almost nine runs above average in 2010.
That year, he committed just four errors in almost 1,250 innings. Although that was two seasons ago, I'm giving Choo the benefit of the doubt that last year was a pure fluke. I think Choo could definitely surprise and steal the Gold Glove from Nick Markakis.
Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Is this the year that Jason Heyward puts it all together? Offensively, maybe. Defensively, he already has. Heyward is a top-notch defender in right field and will be part of baseball's best defensive outfield with Martin Prado and Michael Bourn. In his two MLB seasons, Heyward has a UZR of 12.8 with 25 runs saved.
His athleticism plays well into his defensive game, as Heyward is quite adept at chasing down fly balls. His arm is strong, but the accuracy is not quite there yet. If he is able to pinpoint some of his throws, that could put Heyward over the top. If that's the case, he will win an NL Gold Glove.