Predicting Every NL Gold Glove Award Winner for 2012
It goes without saying that when the Gold Gloves are announced every year, there will be a group of people who decry the voter's choices, claiming that the whole thing is nothing more than a glorified popularity contest.
And maybe those critics are right.
Defense is a hard thing to evaluate and when you take some of the stats that sabermetrics brings us—stats that were supposed to make it easier to evaluate defense—you can easily wind up more confused than you were when you started.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
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If Gold Gloves were rings, Yadier Molina would be getting one for the thumb as he'll take home his fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award in 2012.
He's put any and all questions about his arm to bed by throwing out 44.8 percent of runners crazy enough to try and steal a base against him, and per FanGraphs, his 13 DRS gives him an eight-run lead over the five catchers who are tied for second place.
Among National League catchers, his 71 assists are second to only the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis and his .997 fielding percentage second to only the Braves' Brian McCann.
Also enjoying a career year at the plate, there isn't a more complete catcher in baseball today than Yadier Molina.
Others considered: Cincinnati's Ryan Hanigan, Atlanta's Brian McCann and Arizona's Miguel Montero.
First Base: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
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While he missed more than a month and a half of the season, Joey Votto qualifies for the Gold Glove Award, having played in his 70th game of the season well before the Reds played their 128th game of the season.
This will be Votto's second consecutive Gold Glove Award, having beaten out Albert Pujols who was going for his second in a row and third overall in 2011 while still a member of the Cardinals.
Per FanGraphs, Votto's 3.9 UZR and 6.1 UZR/150 lead all qualified National League first basemen and he is tied with the Giants' Brandon Belt for the lead in DRS with seven each. While his .994 fielding percentage is down from his .996 mark in 2011, it's still above the National League average.
Chances are, however, that this will be Votto's last Gold Glove Award for quite awhile. The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, who doesn't qualify for this year's award, has a 6.3 UZR, 18.0 UZR/150 and his .993 fielding percentage is right there with Votto.
Others Considered: San Diego's Yonder Alonso and San Francisco's Brandon Belt.
Second Base: Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs
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Back on April 17, in the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game between the Cubs and Marlins, Darwin Barney muffed a ground ball hit by Jose Reyes.
Since then, Barney has played more than 1,000 innings of error-free baseball, breaking Ryne Sandberg's 22-year-old franchise record of 90 consecutive games without an error on August 5 and then set a new National League mark on August 30, breaking David Eckstein's record of 123 games that he set as a member of the Padres in 2010.
Barney's 12.4 UZR, 18.1 UZR/150 (per FanGraphs) and .998 fielding percentage not only leads the National League by a wide margin, but they're tops in all of baseball.
The voting shouldn't be close as Barney is the runaway choice for the honor.
Others Considered: Arizona's Aaron Hill and Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips.
Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets
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A winner in 2007 and 2008, the Mets' David Wright will add another Gold Glove Award to his collection when the voting is over in 2012.
Wright's .970 fielding percentage and 10 errors on the season rank third among qualified National League third basemen, so it's understandable that you might be scratching your head on this choice.
But he has a commanding 13-to-4 lead over the Brewers' Aramis Ramirez in DRS and both his 10.2 UZR and 13.4 UZR/150 are higher than Ramirez' marks as well.
Others Considered: San Diego's Chase Headley and Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
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The Pirates' Clint Barmes deserves the award, but the Gold Glove will go to the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins, who won three in a row from 2007 through 2009.
Rollins leads National League shortstops with a .979 fielding percentage and his 11 errors on the season are the fewest among those who qualify for the award.
But it's Barmes who leads all National League shortstops in DSR, UZR and UZR/150, according to FanGraphs, with Rollins lagging behind multiple players in each category.
Nevertheless, Rollins is the "name" among National League shortstops, and he'll wind up with the fourth Gold Glove Award of his career.
Others Considered: Pittsburgh's Clint Barmes, Cincinnati's Zack Cozart and San Francisco's Brandon Crawford.
Left Field: Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
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I just can't see voters putting Alfonso Soriano on their ballots even though the Cubs' left fielder technically is the best defensive left fielder in the National League.
Instead the award will go to Prado, who's 10.9 UZR and 18.1 UZR/150 trails only Soriano according to FanGraphs. Prado also leads all National League left fielders in DRS with 11.
Others Considered: Arizona's Jason Kubel, Cincinnati's Ryan Ludwick and Chicago's Alfonso Soiano.
Center Field: Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves
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This is a tough one as the Cardinals' John Jay has yet to make an error on the season, but the Braves' Michael Bourn will walk away with the third Gold Glove Award of his career.
Bourn's .994 fielding percentage ranks third among National League center fielders, but he leads the group in putouts and total chances. Per FanGraphs, Bourn has commanding leads over the competition in UZR (21.0), UZR/150 (24.3) and DRS (24).
While Bourn's contributions on offense are noteworthy, his defense is a major reason why Bourn is going to be one of the most sought-after bats on this winter's free agent market.
Others Considered: St. Louis' Jon Jay and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen
Right Field: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
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That's right, I'm predicting a Braves' sweep of the Gold Gloves handed out to outfielders this season.
While it's true that Jason Heyward's fielding percentage of .983 ranks fourth among qualified right fielders, he leads the group in total chances, putouts and is tied with the Giants' Hunter Pence for the lead in assists with 11.
FanGraphs also gives Heyward the nod as the best defensive right fielder in the National League as he leads all qualified players in DSR, UZR and UZR/150.
Others Considered: St. Louis' Carlos Beltran, Los Angeles' Andre Ethier and Arizona's Justin Upton.
Pitcher: Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins
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As a member of the Chicago White Sox, Mark Buehrle won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards as the league's best fielding pitcher, and that streak will continue as he'll take home the hardware in his first season with the Miami Marlins in the National League.
Buehrle has turned five double plays, more than any other pitcher in the league, and his 45 assists are tops in the National League. According to FanGraphs, only Jake Westbrook of the St. Louis Cardinals has as many DRS as Buehrle.
Others Considered: Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw and St. Louis' Jake Westbrook.