Gold Glove Award 2012 Results: Analyzing, Grading Every Vote Winner

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 30, 2012

Gold Glove Award 2012 Results: Analyzing, Grading Every Vote Winner

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    The World Series is over. For the next few weeks, 'twill be the season for free-agency rumors and awards announcements.

    On Tuesday night, the Gold Glove Award winners were announced. All of us now have a responsibility to yell at each other about who should have won what and why.

    Such is life when awards are being dished out based mainly on subjective evaluations. The Gold Gloves are voted on by managers and coaches who should know plenty about defense, but they oftentimes make it way too easy to ask if they're watching the same games we are. 

    So how'd they do this year? Are the Gold Glove selections right on, or are they once again a mixed bag?

    We shall take a look.

    Before we get going, a few quick notes.

    You're about to hear me talk a lot about "UZR" and "DRS" in the following slideshow. If you don't know what these acronyms stand for, UZR stands for Ultimate Zone Rating, and DRS stands for Defensive Runs Saved.

    There are no perfect defensive stats, but these two come pretty close. Both of them take many things into consideration and assign fielders numbered values in terms of how many "runs" they're worth above or below an average fielder. 

    For further reading, FanGraphs has comprehensive explanations available for both UZR and DRS. You don't need to memorize the definitions word-for-word, but it's worth it to at least have a general notion of what these stats are all about. They can tell us a heck of a lot more about the quality of individual fielders than their error totals and fielding percentages, which only tell us how many mistakes a given fielder made. 

    Right then, let's get started.

     

    Note: Advanced stats are, of course, courtesy of FanGraphs.

Catcher

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    American League Winner: Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles

    Make it two straight Gold Gloves for Matt Wieters, and this one is just as well-deserved as the first.

    Wieters cut down baserunners at an even better rate in 2012 than he did in 2011, throwing out 39 percent of would-be basestealers. He also rated very well in both rSB and RPP, stats that keep track of how good catchers are at throwing out baserunners and blocking pitches at the plate.

    In all, Wieters rated as the second-best defensive catcher in all of baseball behind Yadier Molina. No complaints can be made here. 

    Grade: A


    National League Winner: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

    Ho hum. Make it five straight Gold Gloves for Yadier Molina, and this one is just as well-deserved as all the others.

    Molina saved the Cardinals a ton of runs by throwing out 48 percent of the poor souls who tried to run on him. There are other catchers in the National League who do the little things just as well as Molina, but he's always going to have an edge on them because of his arm.

    As it is, Molina rated as the best defensive catcher in baseball this year by a comfortable margin. He's just as good as his reputation says he is.

    Grade: A

First Base

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    American League Winner: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

    Another Gold Glove for Mark Teixeira. By my count, he has 1,334 of them.

    By the actual count, he has five of them.

    Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez were the only two logical choices for the AL Gold Glove at first base, as both of them outpaced the rest of the field in UZR and DRS by a wide margin. Gonzalez posted a slightly higher UZR, but Teixeira had him beat in DRS.

    Gonzalez could have won the award, but my guess is that moving over to the National League in August nixed whatever chance he may have had.

    Still, you can't hate on Tex. He's one of the best there is.

    Grade: A


    National League Winner: Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals

    I'm pretty sure this is Adam LaRoche's first major league award—or honor of any kind, for that matter. The dude's never even made an All-Star team.

    Whatever the case may be, LaRoche earned his Gold Glove. He and Joey Votto topped the charts among NL first basemen in both UZR and DRS, with the closest pursuer being Yonder Alonso of the Padres. 

    Votto probably would have been the odds-on favorite to win the award had he not had to undergo knee surgery midway through the season, in which case he probably would have won it because of his reputation.

    His absence was LaRoche's gain.

    Grade: B+

Second Base

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    American League Winner: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

    This was definitely going to be a tough choice, as the AL Gold Glove at second base could have gone to Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia or Dustin Ackley. All three of them were quite good defensively in 2012.

    Cano, Pedroia and Ackley were grouped pretty tightly in terms of UZR and DRS by the end of the season. Cano was indeed the right choice in my book because his UZR was roughly the same as Pedroia's, and his plus-15 DRS led the way by a not-insignificant margin.

    It also helps that he hit a bit this season. Offensive numbers shouldn't count for these things, but they do. 

    Grade: A


    National League Winner: Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs

    No real surprise here. Darwin Barney must have scored a lot of points with that errorless streak of his, which is precisely the kind of thing that is going to grab the attention of managers and coaches around the league.

    Elsewhere, Barney blew away the field in DRS this year, leading all NL second basemen with a DRS of plus-28. He also led in UZR at 13.1.

    Brandon Phillips and Danny Espinosa were also strong contenders for this award, but Barney was the right choice.

    Grade: A

Third Base

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    American League Winner: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

    You could see this one coming a mile away. Adrian Beltre's reputation for being the best glove man in the business at the hot corner is a little overdone, but he's still really, really, really good.

    However, Beltre had some challengers for the Gold Glove this year. He finished second among AL third basemen in UZR behind Mike Moustakas and second in DRS behind Brett Lawrie.

    I personally think Moustakas could have won the award, but Beltre's case for it was more than strong enough.

    And yes, it helps that he hit a bit. His shiny reputation also helped him out.

    Grade: A-


    National League Winner: Chase Headley, San Diego Padres

    Chase Headley opened a lot of eyes this year, as people across the league rightfully recognized him as a guy who was finally coming into his own both offensively and defensively.

    In the case of Headley's defense, though, I think the voters may have fallen for a really good story. Headley posted a solid 6.0 UZR this year, but he also posted a not-so-solid negative-3.0 DRS.

    David Wright did a lot better, finishing with a 15.4 UZR and a plus-16 DRS. I would have been in favor of him winning the award over Headley.

    But oh well. This is by no means the year's biggest robbery.

    Grade: C

Shortstop

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    American League Winner: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles

    J.J. Hardy is one of the best in the business at shortstop. He's got range, he's got good hands and he's got an absolute gun for an arm.

    But he stole this one. The Gold Glove award at shortstop in the AL should have gone to Brendan Ryan.

    Hardy rated well in terms of both UZR and DRS, but Ryan blew away the field with a 14.7 UZR and a plus-27 DRS. He was the Fielding Bible's pick for the top defensive shortstop in baseball, and he should have won a Gold Glove too.

    Best guess: He didn't win it because he only hit .194.

    Grade: C-


    National League Winner: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies

    Winning Gold Gloves used to be business as usual for Jimmy Rollins, as he won three in a row between 2007 and 2009.

    Exactly why he won a Gold Glove this year boggles the mind. Brandon Crawford and Clint Barmes both had excellent seasons as far as the advanced stats are concerned. Zack Cozart was also very good, and Ian Desmond deserves some recognition too.

    Rollins was merely average, posting a 4.4 UZR and a negative-8.0 DRS.

    But hey, he's Jimmy Rollins. That counts for something, right?

    Grade: D

Left Field

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    American League Winner: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

    Yet another repeat winner. This is Alex Gordon's second straight Gold Glove, and I'd say he earned it. He led all everyday AL left fielders in both UZR and DRS, and he led all major league left fielders in assists with 17.

    Desmond Jennings also had a great defensive season, but the fact that he doesn't have Gordon's arm definitely didn't help his cause.

    In Jennings' defense, no left fielder has Gordon's arm.

    Grade: A


    National League Winner: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

    This is Carlos Gonzalez's second Gold Glove, and he won it because he's a great hitter.

    That's the best explanation I can give you. CarGo finished dead last among everyday NL left fielders with both a negative-8.5 UZR and a negative-13 DRS. It's not like he had a ton of outfield assists either, as Alfonso Soriano and Jason Kubel both gunned down more runners than Gonzalez did.

    Honestly, Soriano would have been a better choice for the award. Goes to show that reputation counts for a lot with these things.

    Grade: F

Center Field

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    American League Winner: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

    This is Adam Jones' second career Gold Glove, and he had no business whatsoever winning it.

    Like, seriously, this is an utter outrage. Somebody needs to be publicly shamed and driven across the land by an angry mob for this.

    Among American League centerfielders, Jones finish second from the bottom with a negative-6.7 UZR and dead last in DRS at negative-16. He was barely better than Curtis Granderson, which is like saying that Jones was barely better than you and I were in center field.

    The award should have gone to Mike Trout, who led all AL centerfielders with at least 800 innings in the field in both UZR and DRS. Denard Span and Austin Jackson would have also been acceptable choices.

    Pretty much anybody but Jones, really.

    Grade: F-


    National League Winner: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Jones robbery was bad. This robbery isn't that much better.

    The NL Gold Glove in center field should have gone to Michael Bourn. He led all NL center fielders in both UZR and DRS by a very wide margin. Drew Stubbs and Carlos Gomez were the closest ones to him defensively, and they weren't all that close.

    For his part, McCutchen actually rated as a below-average fielder with a negative-6.9 UZR and a negative-5.0 DRS.

    But hey, he hit .327! And that's what really matters here.

    Grade: F-

Right Field

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    American League Winner: Josh Reddick, Oakland A's

    Phew. I was going to flip out if Josh Reddick didn't win a Gold Glove this year.

    Torii Hunter and Ichiro had brilliant seasons in right field, but Reddick topped the field in both UZR and DRS. He helped boost his numbers by cutting down 15 baserunners with his arm, second only to Jeff Francoeur among AL right fielders.

    Just think. For Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney, the A's got a guy who hit 30 homers and won a well-deserved Gold Glove. I guess that makes the Red Sox suckers.

    Grade: A+


    National League Winner: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves

    Jason Heyward put it all together this year—and not just at the plate. He was truly terrific in the field as well.

    Heyward crushed this year's field by leading all NL right fielders with a 22.9 UZR and a plus-20 DRS. He also totaled 11 outfield assists, which tied him for the lead among NL right fielders.

    It's scary to think Heyward is still only 23 years old. He has a few more Gold Gloves in his future, and probably a few other awards as well.

    Grade: A+

Pitcher

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    American League Winner: Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays, and Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

    Did Jeremy Hellickson and Jake Peavy actually deserve to both win Gold Gloves?

    Yeah. Sure. Why not?

    Honestly, it's hard to judge individual pitchers in regards to their fielding. We talk about certain pitchers being great athletes, but the truth is that there are more than just a couple of pitchers out there who can get off the mound and field a ground ball.

    For what it's worth, my choice here would have been Ricky Romero. He led all AL pitchers with a plus-6.0 DRS, and he also tied with Tommy Milone for the lead in rSB. 

    I'm guessing Romero didn't win because he didn't pitch better.

    Grade: Meh

     

    National League Winner: Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins

    Make it four in a row for Mark Buehrle. The only thing different about this Gold Glove is that it's his first as a National League player.

    And believe it or not, there's actually more than just reputation going on here. Buehrle really is an above-average defensive pitcher.

    This year, Buehrle led all major league starting pitchers with a plus-12 DRS. For a pitcher, that's just plain ridiculous.

    Shoot, that's pretty darn good for a shortstop, never mind a pitcher.

    Grade: A+

     

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